Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I am posting the 911 call from "Last Stop Bullets and Burgers," a shooting range/restaurant/tourist attraction in the far corner of NW Arizona, 60 miles from Las Vegas. There, on August 25th, a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot her "instructor" in the head after her parents payed for her to play with an Uzi.

I post it with some reservation. It's difficult to listen to Last Stop staff desperately trying to save 39-year-old Charles Vacca's life as they wait for emergency assistance to come to their remote section of the desert. Frustrating to hear their clear lack of preparation, training, or even forethought should something go wrong at the shooting range. Still, I think it is something we should hear as we continue to consider our country's relationship with guns.

Tape of the 911 call

Last Stop Bullets and Burgers is one of a growing number businesses cropping up in the fledgling "gun tourism" industry. Genghis Cohen (got to love the name) the owner of Machine Guns Vegas, another place inexperienced shooters can play with automatic weapons, says upwards of 90 percent of his customers are tourists. "People see guns as a big part of American culture, and they want to experience American culture," he told reporters after the shooting.

What visitors to Last Stop Burgers and Bullets get when they arrive by helicopter or a souped up Humvee from Las Vegas is a carnival-setting offering visitors a chance to shoot machine guns in a "Desert Storm atmosphere," with "bunkers, sniper classes, plus helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon." People, apparently lots of them, pay anywhere from $50.00 to $1800.00 for their, "All American Adventure." For a thousand bucks they can even have the "Ultimate Bachelor or Bachelorette Party."

What could possibly go wrong in that scenario?

Perhaps the same thing that went wrong after putting an Uzi in a nine year old's hands. And that little girl's parents are not anomalies, as we may like to think. Last Stop offers, "fun for the whole family" as shown in this video from Last Stop's own web site.

My question, as I watch this, is why? Why put that gun in that little boy's hands? What good comes from it? Fun? Yeah, sure. Thrill? That too, probably. But what lesson does that experience teach? I've worked on farms and ranches, and I know kids who've learned to use their mom and dad's rifle or shotgun early. For them, it is a tool, and they are taught to be responsible, careful, and to never treat those tools like toys. Ever. That, I get.

What they do at Last Stop—I do not get, and neither do I get parents that would somehow think putting a machine gun in their child's hands is a good idea. A part of me, the cynical dark part, thinks of Darwin, and says, 'what the hell? Let them play with guns.' But the bigger part of me understands that places like Bullets and Burgers are a symptom of disease we refuse to confront.

The owner of Last Stop Burgers and Bullets, Sam Scarmardo (another great name,) calls what happened at his shooting range "tragic." But, according to him, that does not mean he needs to change anything. Kids, from age eight, will still be allowed to shoot automatic weapons at his place.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

I took the first and last picture in October, 2014 while on my way to the Grand Canyon. I pulled over to take the photos but quickly got back in my car when I heard the report of a machine gun very, very close by. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Keema - Easy Indian Dish

Yesterday, on Facebook, after posting a picture of my garlic crusher - a castaway cobble from the streets of Antigua. I received several private messages asking me what I was cooking. So here you go, a step by step pictorial recipe of the traditional Indian dish called Keema.

It is easy, tasty, warm and comforting . You can use ground beef, lamb or turkey. My favorite is lamb because I prefer the taste over beef, and can get it locally grown, and hormone free. (I can with beef too, but not turkey.) I usually use about 4 pounds of meat so that I have leftovers for Elijah's lunch for the next few days

Here you go.

This is what you need:
4 pounds yellow onion
1/4 cup oil (coconut preferred)
two (or more) green chiles
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 heads of garlic
2 inches (1 inch radius) ginger
7 cloves
4-5 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
4 pounds meat (lamb, turkey or beef)
Up to 2 cups broth (chicken, beef or veg)
1/3 cup almond or cashew butter

Step one, clean about a a head and a half of garlic and peel about two inches (one inch wide of ginger)
I use a heavy stone to crush and skin my garlic. The stone is a cobble from the streets of Antigua. It is heavy and fits my hand nicely.

After you have skinned your garlic and ginger, chop it finely. I use a food processor for this step. You should end up with about a third of a cup of aromatics.

Now finely slice about 4 pounds of onions. Again, I use a food processor. My Breville slices them beautifully. After they are sliced, heat about a quarter cup of coconut oil to a nice deep pot, and once nice and hot, add the onions. You can use other oil, but I like the sweet flavor of this oil, and it is very healthy. Your goal is to cook the onions down and brown them. This takes a while - 30 to 40 minutes. So stick around and stir frequently so they do not burn

10 minutes later

Twenty minutes into cooking the onion add about a tablespoon of black mustard seed, 5 cardamom pods, 7 whole cloves and a two inch stick of cinnamon.

Keep cooking and stirring

While the onions are cooking dice two hot green chiles (use less or more to your taste) and add them to the onions.

Still, while the onions are cooking, peel and dice four fresh tomatoes. I peel tomatoes by cutting a shallow cross into the fruit's skin, then sinking the tomato in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then running cold water over the tomato. The flesh comes off easy.

By now your onions should be almost ready for spice. 

In one small bowl put about 3 Tablespoons of Turmeric (a wonder herb - great for reducing inflammation). In another bowl put 4 Tablespoons of ground cumin, 4 Tablespoons of ground cardamom, 1 Teaspoon (more or less) of ground cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.

Onions are finally done! Add the garlic ginger combo and cook for a minute or two.

Now add your spice to the mix. At this point the spice/onion/ginger/garlic mix will start sticking, so begin adding a bit of broth (veg, chicken or beef). Cook this mixture, adding broth as needed for about 3 minutes. 

Now add your meat and mix spices in well, then add your diced tomatoes. Cook for as long as you like (the longer the better) adding broth to keep the mixture moist. About a half hour before you are finished add about a third of a cup of almond or cashew butter, and two tablespoons of Garam Masala and salt and pepper to taste. 

You can add peas to the mixture, or diced potatoes or edamame. When serving I put cilantro on top, and make a mixture of yoghurt, diced cucumber and onion, salt and cayenne to top the dish with. I also like to serve this with tomato chutney and for those of you who are not wheat free, the Indian bread called Naan. 

Here is Elijah and Jack enjoying dinner.