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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Remove the Foot and Eat Some Crow

February 19, 2007

Over the six-plus years I have written this column I have never missed a week. At 750 words each week, that’s roughly 253,500 words total, depending on how badly I am censored by my editors.

Over the course of that period, I have stirred up more controversy, frustrated more editors, upset more newspaper readers, and received more hate mail than any writer in the history of food-humor columns. Of course, it’s an extremely limited field, as I am the only Southern food-humor columnist I know.

Nevertheless, I have endured the wrath of many groups. The PETA organization sends e-mail frequently. They are easy targets, especially in this part of the country that hosts more hunters per capita than any other region. I have never been intentionally cruel to a domesticated animal, but my love for foie gras and veal has filled my inbox with some of the more hilarious hate mail a columnist could ever receive.

Vegetarians send e-mail quite frequently. But what they don’t understand is: I like vegetables, too. I just prefer that they taste more like meat.

Any time I make fun of Barbra Streisand, I receive a few snotty e-mails from New York and California. Granted, its’ a stretch to fit a criticism of Barbra Streisand into a food column, but whenever I can, fun ensues. They get especially upset when you misspell her name.

The Girl Scouts organization was on my case a few years ago. My daughter was a member and she tried to pull an advance-purchase cookie scam on me, I wrote about it, and Scout leaders from all over the country mobilized against me. The troop was disbanded, the den mother scolded, and my daughter left scouting and picked up tennis. I also wound up with a pantry full of unsold Girl Scout cookies. Though I wasn’t so upset about that— I ate them.

The Atkins Diet people must remain on full-alert 24-hours a day with teams of press clippers scanning the internet for journalists who dare contradict or make fun of the late doctor’s tortuous carbohydrate deprivation methods. They fill their e-mails with a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo and technical jargon. On the occasions that I do reply, I go into great detail extolling the joy and beauty of bread, rice, and potatoes.

I have upset owners and supporters of various restaurants and hotels, lovers of food, haters of food, little old ladies, and people who don’t even like food but have a major axe to grind.

People who eat opossum mobilized against me four years ago as did fans of chitterlings.

When I wrote of my then two-year-old son’s behavior in restaurants, I received letters condemning me, him, our doctors, his teachers, his sister and his mother for actions for which he wasn’t even responsible.

The most surprising aspect of these e-mails and telephone calls is they don’t bother me in the least. Not a bit. That has been a total shock to my wife, who knows me better than anyone. She was amazed when the first batch of hate mail arrived into the inbox six years ago. Knowing that I am normally sensitive to others feelings and their opinion of me, she was ready to come to my aid and comfort. For some reason, the initial group of letters and phone calls didn’t affect me. I actually found them amusing, wrote them off as a differing opinion from my own, and used the controversy to stir more creative energy to tackle more subjects.

The criticism and complaints have never affected me. That is, until last week. In a column I wrote about Easy Bake ovens, I made an off-handed remark and generalization (I won’t repeat it here for obvious reasons. Though, those who were offended know who they are). I later sent an e-mail to my editors in which I reworked the sentence, but it was too late for a few newspapers though several others had already deleted the sentence on their own.

I second guessed the sentence when I was writing the column, but it was early in the morning and I left it in anyway. That’s no excuse. I am a father who has been blessed with two wonderful children and I love all children. So, here it is, a first after 254,223 words, to those I offended last week: I am sorry. I truly am.

Now that I’m getting soft in my old age, I’ll have to admit that I kind of miss the Girl Scout cookies, too. I wonder if I could talk my daughter’s tennis coach into holding a bake sale.

Lamb Kabobs with Raspberry Mint Dipping Sauce

Skewer Soak

24 skewers-
1 cup water
1 /4 cup lemon juice
1 /4 cup red wine

soak for 3-4 hours before using

2 pounds leg of lamb, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 /4 cub lamb rub, recipe below
1 Tbl kosher salt
1 /4 cup olive oil

Skewer the lamb onto the soaked skewers, leaving a space at one end so that they can be easily picked up.

Season the meat on all sides with lamb rub and refrigerate for three to four hours.

Preheat oven to 375

Over high heat, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the kabobs with the kosher salt, and sear six kabobs at a time. Once all kabobs are evenly seared, place on a baking sheet and finish cooking in oven. Although, at this point, kabobs can be held in refrigerator for several hours before baking.

Bake five to seven minutes to medium (a little longer if the kabobs have been refrigerated).

Serve with raspberry mint dipping sauce.

Yield 24 skewers

Raspberry-Mint Sauce

In addition to the lamb application, it is a perfect accompaniment with pork and turkey.

1 Tbl olive oil
1 /2 cup shallots, minced
1 Tbl garlic, minced
1 tsp creole seasoning
1 /4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 /2 cup sherry
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf

1 cup mint jelly
1 /2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp creole mustard
1 Tbl fresh mint, chopped

In a small sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and cook shallots 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and seasonings, and cook 3-4 more minutes, stirring often. Do not let garlic brown. Deglaze with sherry and reduce by half.

Stir in raspberries, chicken broth and bay leaf and simmer 15-20 minutes, until reduced by half. Stir in mint jelly and cook three minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and fresh mint.

Serve at room temperature.

Lamb Rub

Works on venison, too.

2 Tbl lemon pepper
1 Tbl dry oregano
1 Tbl dry basil
1 Tbl black pepper, fresh ground
1 Tbl brown sugar
1 Tbl garlic salt
1 /2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dry ground rosemary
1 Tbl paprika
1 Tbl onion powder

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container

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