Handling temptation


Scout waits for me to give her the go-ahead to enjoy her favorite food: vegetarian sushi.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
James 1:12

When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought.
–Mary Baker Eddy

We took Scout along with us to a church picnic a couple of weeks ago. Scout is a very food-driven dog, and she’s amassed quite a repertoire of Stupid Pet Tricks that she can use to earn treats.

One of her tricks that gets a big response out of onlookers is something I call the Mine Game. I put her in a down-stay, and then I lay a treat on the ground in front of her and say “Mine!” in a very firm tone. Scout won’t touch the treat until I say, “OK — take it!”

It’s a cute trick to show other people, but the Mine Game also has some practical value: It establishes the owner as Alpha, it protects children (if the dog recognizes “Mine!” as a command, she’s less likely to bite an assertive toddler for yanking a toy out of her mouth), and it protects the dog from eating potentially harmful items, such as the bag of chocolate chips I spilled on the kitchen floor one afternoon a few years ago. (A quick “No! Down! Stay! Mine!” stopped Scout at the doorway and kept her from gorging herself on chocolate, which I’m told is toxic to dogs.)

Obeying this command is obviously very challenging for a little dog who really likes treats, so to reduce the temptation to disobey, Scout will turn her head away and avoid looking at the treat in front of her. If I push the treat closer to her, she just army-crawls backwards to get away from it.

Scout’s method of handling temptation is very different from most humans’ standard M.O.

We humans seem to have an affinity for flirting with disaster. Instead of trying to look away from the things that tempt us, we stare at our vices until we become obsessed with them. Instead of backing away from error, we dance as close to it as we possibly can. And then we wonder why we get ourselves in trouble.

Scout is wiser. Scout knows that if she yields to temptation, she’s going to get into trouble. Conversely, she knows that if she adheres to Principle by obeying her master’s commands, a blessing will eventually be forthcoming. It might not come as fast as she’d like, or in the exact way she’d like, but she knows that a blessing is coming sooner or later if she’s obedient, and she’s willing to wait for it.

No wonder people like her obedience demonstrations so much: In her feisty, funny, ornery-little-rat-terrier way, Scout is teaching her audience a valuable spiritual lesson.


Pickles and peppers

I still have cucumbers in the crisper, but I finally managed to put up eight pints of pickles — four laced with cayenne, and four laced with Chocolate habanero — and four jars of homemade hot sauce made from cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, sea salt, and a few Jamaican Yellow, Fish, and Aji Dulce peppers, with two unidentified peppers that I suspect are Nardellos thrown in for good measure.

The mystery plant was labeled as a Yellow Peter, but when it started setting fruit, it was clear that either something had cross-pollinated, or someone had mislabeled the plant, because these peppers were long, tapered, and looked suspiciously like a smallish Anaheim. Let’s just say that Yellow Peters have a distinctive look that bears absolutely no resemblance to a traditional hot pepper.

Whatever the mystery peppers are, they taste good and look pretty and should be a fine, if slightly mellow, addition to the hot sauce. The wild card in the mix is the Jamaican Yellow, which I haven’t really worked with before. These seem fairly mild, with a flavor that’s not terribly dramatic. Something about them reminded me vaguely of a pequin, except nowhere near as hot … which is interesting, since they have the same scientific name as the habanero and are rumored to be similarly spicy. (I suspect the hefty rains this season had something to do with the tame flavor. Drought seems to stimulate capsaicin production; moisture, not so much.)

I debated whether to use any Aji Dulce (a sweet variety that looks exactly like a habanero and lends itself equally well to cruel jokes or medium-spicy salsa) on the grounds that its flavor might not go well with cayenne, but despite the rain, my cayennes seem fairly potent, so I think the exotic fruitiness of the Aji Dulce will add a little complexity to the sauce without drowning out the friendly, slightly salty familiarity of the cayenne.

It’s pretty hard to beat a traditional Louisiana-style hot sauce. Interestingly, Mike Ditka’s version is just about the best I’ve had; I try to keep a bottle or two on hand and use it on just about everything I eat.

If the hot sauce and pickles turn out well, I’ll post recipes later.

My jars have stopped going “plink,” so I think I’ll check for any duds that need to go into the refrigerator, have a glass of water, and hit the sack. I’m exhausted.