Monday, January 23, 2012

Carrots, Market Bags, and Stolen Treasures

Bark--a guest post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

I read an article in a local paper the other day titled "How to Get Your Dog to Listen." Seriously? Have humans run out of other family members to write about?

According to this article, the first step is to say your dog's name.

FYI: We hound dogs don't feel any compulsion to respond to incoming messages. People have too much to say. TMI--apparently someone didn't get the email about this. And how exactly can you hold a biscuit in front of your eyes and maintain eye contact? Let me just say when you learn to get the biscuit when we point to the biscuit jar, we'll think about responding when you call our names.

Cross-species communication--all we canines hear is the human side of it.

That brings me to the subject of the day--carrots.

Management mentioned carrot season is ending soon, and those fill-in carrots from California are edible but they just aren't the same as local fare.

So I was thinking about carrots as I sniffed around for recipes. I pulled a cookbook from a discard pile and I figured it had to be some kind of mistake because the book hadn't been used enough to even pick up food scents. I pawed through the book, and found this simple carrot salad recipe. It was perfect so I left the book open for Management to find.

The lady arrived home first and picked up the book, as expected. She perused the recipe and I knew what was coming next--carrot salad. Humans think they're unique but they can be embarrassingly predictable.

I was over-the-top crazy to find 3 bunches of carrots in the market bag this week. "What to take a picture?" the lady asked. I was on my picture-taking bench in a flash.

If you love carrots as much as I do, put your order in now because carrot season at Northwest markets is winding down. And if you aren't a fan, you'd best work on it because everyone could use a few more veggies on the plate. Nash's carrots will only be around for a few more weeks, and unless we're making a special trip to the Ballard Market, which seems to have a bigger produce selection in winter, I put in my order.

The U-District farmers' market the sign says "please" and "thank you," but the message is definitely not pleasant for the canine community.

My dog park buddies rib me when I wax on about carrots, but seriously what's a dog to do in a vegetarian home? Get with the program, that's what. No spare bones at our table, unless you count celery or carrot bones.

Speaking of carrots, I'll share a story about stolen treasures.

I mentioned in my last post that I'd been adopted into this home with three dogs, two certified geezers. The aging alpha bitch passed away within days of my arrival, that left three of us: bassets, plus Gino the cat.
  • Abe (certified geezer with one blue eye)
  • Badger (Tom's dog or the girl)
  • Me (Finn, the Cooking Assistant and Dog Picker)
  • Gino, the former barn cat
Abe, slipped reluctantly into the alpha role, giving me the cold shoulder from day one.

The best days were when old Abe ignored me, but more than once he nipped me from behind, and one time when I helped myself to his food, he bit me extremely hard, even drew blood. I never whined about him to Management because I wanted to learn his tricks. I wanted what he had.

For one thing, Abe had his own easy chair that swiveled and rocked. On cold days, Management brought him warm blankets from the dryer. The word pampered comes to mind. He'd grown to be so lazy over the years that he rarely left the house except to bark at the pit bulls next door, to sleep in the sun, and to savor food finds that humans carelessly left within his reach.

I was shocked when I learned Management bought Abe's I've-got-a-bad heart routine. And sometimes he had a suspicious limp when he walked and I'd seen him run, so I didn't believe the limping either. And when I heard he'd had cancer and recovered, I figured he'd made that up, too. I once overheard Management once say, "Abe is one lucky dog."

The truth is, I wanted to be lucky, too.

Abe's con was brilliant. Feigning sleep in that overstuffed easy chair, as soon as everyone walked out the door, Abe waltzed into the kitchen like the compulsive-obsessive that he was, he pushed his nose into every cupboard. Sometimes a door would magically pop open, but most doors were hooked with rubber bands. With so many unmoveable doors and pushing them day after day, you'd think he'd get discouraged, but not Abe. After he tested every cupboard twice, he stood on his hind legs, leaned on the counter and sniffed the air just like a bear. He stretched as high as he could, laid his head sideways, then licked until the entire front of the counters were spotless, as if Management had gone over them with a sponge. Mostly he came up with crumbs, but sometimes he got lucky.

Once he snagged a buttered roll; another time he made off with a package of blue cheese. And I can't tell you how many apples disappeared when Abe was around. Management often discovered empty packages in the back of Abe's crate. Sure he'd hang his head when scolded, we all did. Abe never gave up the search for food.

One day Management came in the front door and carelessly placed two produce-laden market bags on the floor. Then they walked quickly out the front door. In less than five seconds, Abe had poked his head into a bag and came out holding a bunch of carrots. He didn't waste time looking around for Management to return; he was headed out the back door just as young Badger grabbed a head of cauliflower from the bag.

Badger was making off with the entire head as Management rounded the corner. She was caught in the act with the cauliflower heavy in her jaws. Management confiscated it as I sneaked past the shouts of "Bad Dog!" You'd think it was really bad if you heard the shouts, but none of us took Management's obligatory objections to our daily food gathering seriously. Our job is to get food; their job apparently was to yell about it. I didn't feel bad for Badger, I just wanted to know what happened to the carrots.

Abe was still gnawing on carrot number one; his teeth weren't very good anymore and the other carrots in the bunch had been tossed aside. I didn't waste time, either. I grabbed the bunch, spirited them off behind a bush and thoroughly enjoyed munching down these stolen treasures. The only trace left was the tops that practically blended in with the grass.

Within a few short weeks, I'd learned the art of counter surfing and discovered market bags were produce gold mines. Occasional scoldings with the appropriate head hanging and paw wringing from the dog who was caught came with the territory. Apparently around here the idea was to convince humans they were the leaders.

But just who the leaders of the pack are depends on your point of view. (the story continues)

Did someone say carrots?

Three cheers because we hounds finally get our own bunch of market carrots. We've come a long way since old Abe set the course.

This salad was adapted from a recipe in the Nourishing Gourmet's book, Fresh Nourishing Salads for All Seasons which was mistakenly placed in a discard pile. In the book, the author mentions that these carrots lose some of their crunch if allowed to marinate too long. I wouldn't know about leaving food too long because that just doesn't happen when I'm around.

Simple Winter Carrot Salad
(Serves 4 to 6)

4 cups grated carrots (about 2 extra-large carrots)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar(or Rocksalmic from Rockridge Orchards)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon honey, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place shredded carrots in a bowl.

2. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey and olive oil in a small bowl. Gently mix in with carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Devra said...

This is truly wonderful.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks, it's a big challenge to fit it in between sniffing, relentless begging and licking.

Lorraine said...

I have finally truly tasted carrots this winter from several different farms. They are so sweet and crunchy, I can't believe I was happy with store bought carrots. We can learn a lot from these smart hound dogs! ;)

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Well said--we've increased the consumption of winter carrots at this house, that's for sure.

Mary said...

I really enjoyed your post and can't wait to try your carrot salad. This is my first visit to your blog, so I took some time to browse through your earlier posts. I'm so glad I did that. I really enjoy the food and recipes you share with your readers and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Miz Helen said...

Hi Finn,
I just love your post today, you and my Jaque AKA Garden Dog could sure put away some carrots, that is one of his favorite snacks. Tell Debra that her salad looks awesome! Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Woof! I usually go for whole carrots, but the human family loved this simple salad.

Joan said...

Hi Finn!
Thank you again for this post and for sneaking in on the Managements computer! I agree with you, Rocksalmic Rocks from RockRidge Orchards. But I must put in that you simply will adore Red Barn Organic Farm's carrots at Ballard next year. Best carrots ever if I do say so myself...but then I'm sister is the owner/operator/grower. She's done this winter but check back next!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Oh Joan I have been begging to go to the Ballard Market now for eons. I look forward to sampling Red Barn Carrots next season.

Miz Helen said...

Congratulations Finn!
Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Hope you have a great week end and enjoy your new Red Plate!
Come Back Soon,
Miz Helen and Jaque