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Monkeys, cucumbers, habaneros, and me.

There’s this experiment:

In this experiment:

  1. Monkey#1 completes a task, gets a cucumber slice.
  2. Monkey#2 completes a task, gets a sweet sweet GRAPE!  Importantly, Monkey#1 SEES this deal with Monkey#2 and the grape.
  3. Now Monkey#1 completes the task again, and gets a dull old cucumber slice again — NOT a tasty grape!  Aaaaand to no one’s surprise, Monkey#1 now HURLS the cucumber slice back at the experimenter.

One can say a lot about this experiment, and how this monkey business is paralleled in human nature, etc., and a lot of people are saying a lot of things here and there.  Whatever.

For me, there’s a personal lesson here, and it goes something like this: the path to happiness lies in enjoying the slice of cool fresh cucumber that I’ve got right here.  Fixating on what other people have that I do not, instead of focusing on the small happinesses right in front of me makes me an awfully dumb monkey.

Other people have more money, more prestige, more friends, more patents, more love, more chocolate, more LEDs, more time with their kids, more travel stamps in their passport, more habaneros in their garden.  If I fixate on that, all it does is sour my feelings for the good and marvelous things that I do have.  I’ve harvested a whopping six tiny little  habanero peppers from my plant this year, and I’m so proud of them you wouldn’t believe it.

Thinking further: I’m doubly dumb if I do what the first monkey did: throw away the cucumber that I have just because I didn’t get a grape!   If my neighbor harvests nine habaneros from her pepper plant, should I bitterly throw away the six I got from mine?  How does that make my life better in any way at all?  (Hint: It doesn’t.)  Can you imagine: you just won $1,000.  But then when you find out that your neighbor won $2,000, you turn around and tear up your $1,000 check. That’s of absolutely no benefit to you, no matter how envious you might feel of the extra money.

Now it is true that if I see my neighbor’s chili plant producing more than mine, I might ask her for tips, or I might wonder if she’s using the same sun that I’m using, or I might solemnly vow to treat my pepper plant better next season.  So there can be some good motivational value in seeing what I could do better next time.  But cursing out my neighbor for her success, or throwing out my own six perfectly awesome little chili peppers?  That’s behavior befitting a creature with a brain the size of a peach pit, a dumb little monkey.  But me?  I can do better. I bet you can do better, too. We all can.  We’re not mere monkeys.  We’re awesome people.

For the record, my garden this year has not only produced six habaneros, but also exactly one (1) cucumber, and I plan to enjoy that one little cucumber like crazy.

Update: the garden also produced one awesome tiny watermelon.

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Jerk Chicken, Sugar Reef Style++

This extremely tasty jerk chicken recipe comes from the awesome and sadly now-defunct Caribbean restaurant in New York City called Sugar Reef.  It appeared in the sadly now-out-of-print Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook. Despite all the sadness, this recipe still makes people very happy.

The original recipe called for half the quantities of dry spices (except salt) as these, and included the note to double them for a more authentic flavor. These quantities have already been doubled (except the salt), and it’s delicious and spicy.  If you wish, you can cut the dry ingredients (except salt) in half for a more mild flavor, but if you’re looking for a more mild flavor, then what the heck are you doing cooking jerk chicken?

I’d note that the heat of peppers can vary almost as much as peoples heat tolerances; carefully taste-test your peppers and adjust the quantity accordingly.

Dry Ingredients

  • 2T ground allspice
  • 2T ground thyme
  • 3t cayenne pepper
  • 3t ground black pepper
  • 3t ground sage
  • 1.5t ground nutmeg
  • 1.5t ground cinnamon
  • 2T salt
  • 4T garlic powder
  • 2T sugar

Liquid Ingredients

  • 0.25c olive oil
  • 0.25c soy sauce
  • 0.75c white vinegar
  • 0.5c orange juice
  • juice of one lime

Chunky Ingredients

  • 1c chopped white onion
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet, habanero, or other very hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped.  I’ve used more when the peppers have been too tame for my taste, and on at least one occasion, it still wasn’t enough for me.  But maybe that’s my problem.

Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed; 6-to-8oz ea, or at least that’s what the recipe said in the cookbook, and that’s what they served in the restaurant.  I’ve used boneless chicken thighs and been at least as happy, if not happier, with them.

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  • With a wire whisk, add the liquids.
  • Add the chunky ingredients and mix well.
  • Add the chicken breasts, cover, and marinate for at least one hour, longer if possible.
  • Preheat outdoor grill.
  • Grill chicken breasts for 6 minutes each side or until fully cooked. While grilling, baste with marinade.

Alternatively, instead of grilling the breasts (or thighs) whole, you can cut the chicken into large chunks, and grill it on skewers, turning them every couple of minutes.

The original recipe ended with “Heat the leftover marinade and serve on the side for dipping,” and while I’m skeptical about serving goo that’s had raw chicken sitting in it, I think if you “heat” it all the way to a boil first, it’s probably fine.

They also say that this recipe “serves 4”, but I’ve found that if you make up the specified amount of jerk marinade, you can easily marinate twice as much chicken in it.  Put the marinade and the chicken in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag for efficient marinating.

Enjoy!

-Mark