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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


When things get squirrelly, go with Coke

As I sit here eating my mild carnitas tacos, I reminisce of a day not too long ago. It was Christmas 2014. The air was crisp, and I was outside sitting on the front porch enjoying my spoils of war. The dog was prancing around the yard in an effort to find a suitable toilet when she came to a complete standstill.
As soon as she did, and before I saw that which had grabbed her attention, I heard a deliberate and ominous “flawp, flawp, flawp!” I looked up just in time to see a monstrous hawk swooping onto the branch of the tree that was nine feet away from me and nine feet up, which Pythagoras tells us put a mere 12.7 feet between me and this magnificent beast. If you’ve never been this close to a mature hawk, suffice it to say I could feel her talons and her piercing glare. I cannot lie; it was a touch unnerving.
In her talons was a squirrel, no longer of the living, and I’m not sure whether the raptor lost her grip or whether it was a Christmas gift, but the squirrel flopped to the ground. I looked at the hawk. The hawk leered back at me. It seemed like hours. The dog sat motionless, not even barking.
And as soon as it started the hawk flew away, leaving me a gift of squirrel on this glorious winter’s day. I grabbed the squirrel carefully as I was concerned that the hawk would think that I was stealing its meal, and carried it to the side yard, all the while staring at the bird now 30 feet above me in a different tree. That evil eye will never leave my soul. All she had to do was look at me to tell me quite candidly that the prey was hers and that I had better leave the damn thing at the base of the tree. I complied.
Still the dog didn’t move.
The hawk flew around for a while, and once she was assured that I was not planning a surprise attack, she swooped down and reclaimed her own spoils. It was not a gift after all.
Despite the fact that I still feel jilted by what I thought was a hawk’s friendship and gift, I still want to give you the greatest gift known to man; a gift that has plagued millions over generations. This gift is the answer to the age-old question: “Coke or Pepsi?”
To me, it seems like it shouldn’t even be a contest, but it must be addressed, so arduous are the arguments for both sides. As I’m not one to offer up suspense, I’ll give you my answer. Pepsi with super spicy foods, and Coke for absolutely everything else under the sun. In other words, Coke is your go-to and Pepsi is just a backup for when things really get heated up; a support actor.
And there you have it; an empty-handed gift such as the dead squirrel that I was convinced was mine in a moment of Christmas cheer (maybe “cheer” isn’t the word for it). I’m happy to help. Now go eat something spicy. Or not.

Carnitas Tacos
Serves 4
12 Corn tortillas
1 lb. Carnitas (recipe follows)
2 c. Guacamole (recipe follows)
1 c. Pico de Gallo
1 c. Crema fresca
Lettuce, optional
Cheese, optional

Hot sauce of your choice
Assemble tacos
Serve tacos
Eat aforementioned tacos

Makes a pound
1 lb. pork shoulder, trimmed and cubed
1/2 Red onion
8 cloves peeled garlic
1 c. Sour orange juice
Juice and zest of 2 limes
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cracked black pepper
1 tsp. Dried thyme
1 tsp. Cumin

Place ingredients in a Dutch oven or other pan with a lid.
Top off with water until just at the top of the pork.
Bring to a high simmer (just under a full boil), and then lower it to a nice simmer, skimming the scum from the top of the liquid.
Cook for as long as it takes to make the pork tender and easy to shred; 1.5-2 hours should do it.
When the pork is done, remove but make sure not to break it up, and strain the liquid. Place the liquid back in the pan and reduce to a nice, viscous glaze.
Combine the pork and the glaze, making sure to keep the pieces as large as possible and set aside until ready to use.
A true carnitas has a bit of a bite to it, so I like to heat some oil in a pan and fry the larger pieces of carnitas so that they have a crispy outside. Then, when you shred them, the pork on the inside is nice and tender.
Your carnitas is ready to go. That’s all there is to it.

Yields about 2 cups
2 Avocado, soft and not brown
1/4 c. Red onion, finely minced
1/4 c. Fresh cilantro, finely minced
1/4 c. Fresh tomato, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
1 Jalapeno, finely diced
1 garlic clove, smashed

Mash the avocado to the consistency of your liking, and then fold in all other ingredients. Season to taste.