A Corned Beef and Criticism Update

A Corned Beef and Criticism Update March 25, 2011

12.5 hours after flying home, I haven’t yet fought with my daughter who always picks a fight when I travel, even though she’s taking another MCAS test today. My strategy thus far has involved employing her languages of love.

Unfortunately for me, everyone in my family likes all 5 languages of love Dr. Gary Chapman writes about in his book The 5 Love Languages:

  • quality time
  • gifts
  • words of affirmation
  • physical touch
  • service

I don’t really resonate with any of them (except maybe a little with words of affirmation, but because I’m Chinese I don’t know how to accept a compliment so praise makes me squirm—just realized I receive written affirmation a lot better for that reason!).

Years ago, when I helped lead an Asian-American Student leadership conference, we had a session on languages of love using a book (unfortunately out of print) that described about 16 love languages. The vast number of possible love languages was really helpful because some Asian-Americans assumed their parents didn’t love them because they showed no physical affection and expressed no verbal affection either. Looking through the list, they could see how providing for the loved one, giving gifts, and acts of service were also viable love languages, albeit not the ones seen often on American TV.

My preferred love languages according to that list were

  • Being on the same side
  • Emotional intimacy

Here’s my love language strategy thus far.

  • · Quality Time: I purposefully didn’t go to the gym this morning so I could be with her the morning of yet another MCAS test. (And also because I hurt my back during the trip and so can’t Zumba. Yes, my problem back survived shoveling about 7 gazillion tons of snow this winter only to be brought low by shoving my suitcase in the overhead compartment)
  • · Physical Touch: I woke my daughter by crawling into bed with her and hugging her, squeezing in time to my other daughter’s piano practice piece. I personally would find this incredibly annoying if someone did it to me, but different strokes for different folks.
  • · Service: I volunteered to make her an egg McMuffin for breakfast and executed a perfect one.
  • · Service Again: I made her peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich as requested.
  • · Words of Affirmation: I told her last night how great she did on a variety of things
  • · Gifts: I forgot to give her the bag of peanut M & Ms I picked up from the piñata at the Texas themed staff party. Unfortunately, because of the repeated hits the piñata took, it may actually turn out to be M & M peanut powder, as one of my colleagues found when she opened her bag.

Despite the acts of service I performed that are normally her responsibility not mine, things got dicey when she asked for yet another act of service—could I drive her to school because even though it’s March 25th, it’s 27 degrees outside. But I was still in my jammies and needed to help my son to school so I said no. He has 5 Sleeping Beauty shows this weekend after performing 4 shows in the past week, so is really dragging by now.

Of course this resulted in her accusing me of catering to my son because I apparently have inherited the Chinese disposition of preferring sons to daughters. When I pointed out that we catered to her during her shows, she started to argue how I had actually done nothing, but I somehow shut it down with a “Let’s not go there” sort of comment.

Whew! She’s out the door, I have 7 more hours to prepare for the onslaught this afternoon.

Now, onto corned beef. When I published my blog last night I thought I should probably include a recipe for corned beef hash, but I was too tired and also figured, what’s there to know? Take leftover corned beef, whatever you boiled with it, chop it up and fry it in a pan with a fried egg on top (those of you who’ve been reading awhile might be getting that I’m partial to fried eggs).

However, it occurred to me this morning that some other tips about corned beef might be helpful.

First, some words on corned beef. I don’t adore corned beef. It stinks up the house during its never-ending boil and one thing my growing up diet of Chinese food taught me is that vegetables taste better crisp than boiled and soggy. But Mama loves corned beef and cabbage, so every St. Patrick’s day we took a break from Chinese food so she could boil the red slab of meet for hours and hours, adding cabbage towards the end.

But then one day Mama remembered back to her college days, bought a can of corned beef hash, fried it up, and served it to us. Even though it looked and smelled like canned dog food, when I took a bite, I was sold forever. As were my siblings.

It took several tries of feeding my kids corned beef hash before they caught on to how delectable it is—the dog food look and smell didn’t help in the beginning. But now they’re corned beef hash fanatics and I have to restrict their intake because it’s really quite bad for you, even the reduced fat variety.

I started making my own corned beef for St. Patrick’s day because, like Mama, I like to get in the spirit of holidays whenever possible and the best part of making lots of corned beef is reuben sandwiches later. Cook’s Illustrated published an article on making the best “New England Boiled dinner” as it’s called here, where I learned that you can also add potatoes, parsnips, carrots and other vegetables to the boil.

They also recommend using “gray-cured” corned beef if you can find it (it’s a New England thing) because it’s not full of nitrates and tastes better. You can also make your own gray-cured corned beef if it’s not sold in your part of the country by brining a beef brisket, then rubbing spices over it (allspice, pepper, bay leaf, thyme and paprika). Gray-cured brisket comes unspiced, so you’re supposed to rub the spices on that as well. When I’m really lazy, I just throw all the spices into the water.

After many years of boiling my own New England Boiled dinner ala Cooks Illustrated, it dawned on me that if I chopped everything up, that would produce corned beef hash! (Duh, don’t know why it took so long to figure it out) So for the past 3 years, I’ve either chopped or food processed our leftovers and made hash for dinner with fried eggs on top.

These days, a 10 pound gray cured corned beef, 2 heads of cabbage, a bag of carrots, 2 bags of parsnips and a bag or 2 of red potatoes gets eaten up pretty fast. Between the traditional New England boiled dinner the first night, corned beef hash another night, Reubens for lunch or dinner another night, and my increasingly gigantic kids, our massive amount of boiled food runs out way too quickly.

What are your memories about corned beef or tips for avoiding fights with your kids?

Corned Beef and Corned Beef Hash Tips:

Note: Because Cooks Illustrated makes you pay for their recipes online and in magazine, I generally don’t publish their recipes unless I’ve modified them. For websites that give you recipes for free I don’t have a problem with passing them on.

1. Buy a bigger hunk of beef than you think you need. That bugger shrinks to less than half its original size.

2. For the actual New England boiled dinner, serve horseradish with the corned beef. Make a lot of cabbage because that’s the best (and healthiest) part

3. It’s much faster to use a food processor to chop everything, but then you end up with mush. It’s a tasty mush and my kids don’t mind it, but it’s mush nevertheless.

4. If you take the time to chop everything with a knife, the result is much more hashlike—better texture, but there’s a lot of chopping.

5. Butter with canola is a tasty mix to fry both the hash and eggs. A non-stick pan also makes the frying easier.


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