Fonticulus Fides

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I completely forgot to blog yesterday, but I meant to write about our first "Home and School" meeting for St. Mary's School. This is something like a Parent-Teacher Association in public schools.

We've already figured out that the parents are an integral part of the education system at St. Mary's. Even if a parent tried to just drop their kids off in the morning and that's it, I don't think the school would let them get away with it. In fact, they give you a sign-up sheet with a lot of creative options as to how you can help. If you've got little ones at home or a day job and can't read to the younger grades or help on a field trip, you can make posters or stuff envelopes on your own time, or come in on Saturday to help take all the cans to the recycling center (the kids bring in cans every Friday, and they are traded for cash which is used to buy library books). Or take one long weekend during the summer to help paint a classroom.

This is a whole new experience for my husband and I, especially since neither one of us had parents who did anything at our schools at all, except sign report cards and go to an occasional parent-teacher conference.

We were both surprised to find out that the president of the school board this year is a rather famous former city councilman. He's famous because he was elected on a Democratic ticket, but while still in office, he "got religion" and switched to pro-life, casting his vote against continued city funding of the one-and-only local abortion clinic. At the time, we'd thought "getting religion" meant it was a fundamentalist kind of religion. We had no idea he'd "gotten" Catholic. Anyway, he got booted out of the city council by his district at the next election, but I guess the city's loss is the school's gain.

The meeting itself was short, being the first of the year. Father introduced the faculty and office staff, recognized the out-going board members and introduced the new ones. Then the parents were all free to have a look at the classrooms and meet the teachers, if they hadn't already done so.

Oh, and we ate, pot-luck. It's kind of funny to call it that now, because when I was a fundamentalist, such church-sponsored meals were called "pot-blessings." Anyway, everybody was supposed to bring a dish that reflected their family's ethnic heritage. I was really looking forward to this meal, because our school is very multi-cultural and I just love sampling foods from other countries, and now that my morning sickness is about over, I was ready for some culinary adventure. I was not at all disappointed. There were more things than I could put on my plate, but it was a fun mix of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Italian, Mexican, etc., etc., dishes. Actually, I was a little disappointed that there apparently was no Thai family represented -- I adore Thai food. One family brought sausage and sauerkraut, just like my German grandma used to make (although I didn't take a chance with my stomach on that this time). There were also the usual Nebraska farm-style offerings, like homemade mac and cheese and sweet-and-sour meatballs (not Asian -- they're made with grape jelly and ketchup out here). Plus a couple funny things like pizza from a carry-out shop and fried chicken from the deli counter.

I brought Irish Stew. It turned out really well and I was surprised that there weren't many leftovers. Here's the recipe if you are one of those recipe types out in St. Blog's...

Irish Beef Stew

1 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
4 lbs beef stewing meat, cubed (2")
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup water
4 cups beef stock
3 cups diced carrots
3 diced potatoes
2 large onions, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6-8 oz. Guinness Stout Ale
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a cast iron skillet, saute bacon until crisp. With slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving as much fat as you can in the pan. Mix the flour, salt and pepper, coat the beef pieces. Brown the meat in the bacon fat (I had to add a little olive oil in the end). Remove meat to paper towels to drain. Saute the garlic and onion in the remaining bacon fat until the onion starts to turn translucent. Deglaze the skillet with 1/2 cup water, scraping as much of the drippings up as you can. Transfer to stock pot, add bacon, beef and beef stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender. Add carrots, potatoes, onion, thyme, bay leaves and ale. Simmer 20-30 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Taste and correct seasoning if need be.

Tastes best if refrigerated overnight and heated up the next day! My recipe says it serves 10, but I think it's more like 16.


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