I have this theory that a nation feels most secure when it has one big threat, one big boogey man to focus on to take its collective mind off of all of the little ankle-biters out there. The word has always been a dangerous place: tsunamis, earthquakes, sabre-tooth tigers, the plague, kings with inferiority complexes about their geographical boundaries. You name it, there’s always something waiting out there to ruin your day.
But when you have one Big Problem to worry about, the rest all fade into the background. Hence, when the USA was squaring off against the Soviet empire, we had Happy Days, cars with fins, and the birth of rock and roll.
We need one big enemy, imaginary or not, to take up all of our attention, so we can enjoy the rest of our lives.
Therefore, I give you: The Global Bay Leaf Conspiracy
No one really knows what a bay leaf is. Has anyone ever actually seen a bay tree? Why isn’t there granola with bay seeds, or trail mix with bay nuts in it? Is anyone tapping a bay tree for bay syrup? Nope. Apparently, the only thing we use is the leaf. And that use appears to be the product of the Bay Leaf Cartel, who has, over the years, slipped the bay leaf into recipes hither and yon, to the point where we no longer question it.
Have you ever tasted a bit of soup and said, “not bad, but could use a little more bay leaf”? Or the opposite: “whoa! easy on the bay leaf next time!” Nope, never happened.
My extensive research (which consisted of typing “bay leaf conspiracy” into the google machine and reading the first hit) has shown that centuries ago, no recipes called for bay leaf. Generation by generation, it has crept into our cookbooks, one stew at a time, one sauce here, followed by a soup there … so slyly that we never noticed the intrusion.
But here’s the definitive evidence of a global bay leaf conspiracy: no member of the Illuminati lists “bay leaf exporter” on his resume or bio … which is exactly what you would expect if they were trying to hide the fact that they are pushing a pro-bay leaf agenda.
I’m not even going to get into their possible motivations. The point is, now that we have identified the bay leaf cartel as a group we need to watch, by building them up a national threat, we can bring peace of mind to our citizenry as we forget about the rest of our troubles. Next thing you know, men will wear fedoras with their business suits again, women will wear bobby socks with their poodle skirts, and we’ll all like Ike all over again.
And since we’re about to start boycotting bay leaves, we need to use what’s left in the cupboard. Here’s a start: Three* Bay Leaf Jambalaya.
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion (yellow or sweet), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 green bell pepper, cored/seeded/chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
3 Tbs Italian parsley, minced
Meats: 2-3 of the following
4 oz ham, cubed into ½ inch squares
Andouille sausage or kielbasa
6 oz chicken breast, diced (or, the meat from ½ a rotisserie chicken)
½-to-1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1-3 bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3/4 cup brown rice, uncooked
Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and then sauté the onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery until onion is translucent. (Or, use a combination of non-stick pans and stock pots.) Add parsley, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper, and stir for 2-3 minutes.
If using uncooked chicken, add it now and cook for 5-6 minutes. If using rotisserie chicken and other cooked or smoked meats, add them and stir until coated.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 1¾ cups cold water. Gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour rice into the Dutch oven and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid. Stir in shrimp and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Swear an oath against the evil bay leaf cartel. Season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt.
Freezes great for meals later in the week: