Steak

It’s Sunday and it’s grilling season, which means that it’s steak season. In the FamilyTrivium household, we probably eat steak once per week during grilling season. Sometimes we dry age it, sometimes we marinate it, and some times we just use a dry rub. Typically, we’ll have sirloin, but sometimes we’ll spring for strip steak or ribeye. There are so many choices.

Defined
With so many reliable dictionaries out there you wouldn’t think we’d need to turn to Wikipedia for a comprehensive definition:

a cut of meat sliced perpendicular to the muscle fibers, potentially including a bone.

The unqualified use of the word, generally, refers to beef steak. It’s origin is thought to be  Old Norse steik, or “roast meat,” in the middle of the 15th Century.

Cuts
Steak comes in a variety of different cuts, from different parts of the beef.

Mr. FamilyTrivium’s favorite is the Ribeye, also known as the Beauty, the Delmonico, or the Spencer according to the Beef Checkoff. He has been known to say “Ribeye is like the bacon of steak.” This is how much he loves the Ribeye.

Mrs. FamilyTrivium prefers the lean Strip steak, which the Beef Checkoff says is also known as the Club, the Top Loin, the Kansas City, and the New York Strip. In our experience, it can also be known as the [Insert name of restaurant or the city or state in which the restaurant is located] Strip. It’s not as if there aren’t already enough different cuts of steak that each one needs to have multiple aliases.

The younger members of the FamilyTrivium household seem to always end up ordering some non-steak item even when eating at a steakhouse. We know. However, those who aren’t too proud to beg often do so from Mrs. FamilyTrivium’s plate which sometimes comes out with a Strip steak, and other times with with some variety of a Sirloin, which has too many different names for too many different variations to list here. If Mr. FamilyTrivium orders a Sirloin, there is usually none left to beg for. If Mr. Family Trivium springs for the Ribeye, there is definitely none left to beg for. When the steak is coming off the grill on our patio, the youngsters do usually eat sirloin.

Do you have a favorite steak or steakhouse? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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John Muir

Going to the woods is going home.
– John Muir

Here at FamilyTrivium.com, we love to spend time outdoorscamping, hiking, just being. In talking about backpacking and gear, we’ve mentioned the thru-hike – a multiple month backpacking trip. Surely, this must be a new phenomenon? Not so much.

Perhaps the first thru-hike was completed by John Muir when he walked from Indiana to Florida. He shares his journey in his book, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. This book was published in 1916, two years after Muir’s death, and some 48 years after the completion of his walk which he started in September of 1867.

Who is John Muir?
Bio.com puts it most succinctly:

Naturalist, writer and advocate of U.S. forest conservation, John Muir founded the Sierra Club and helped establish Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.

There is certainly much more to his story, but John Muir is a man who inspires a love of the wild with his actions and words: his actions of working to preserve wild places and his words such as those at the top of this post.

There are many places to find a recounting of the life of John Muir. We like the one incorporated into PBS’s series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. It tells the story of the National Parks, but also John Muir, as he is so instrumental in their existence, referred to by many as “the Father of the National Parks.” It is also filled with many soul-stirring quotes from his writings.

The mountains are calling and I must go.
– John Muir

Rain Gear

The next item in our look at the Ten Essentials is rain gear. It is item 4 on the Boy Scout list, falls under item 4 (extra clothing) on the classic Mountaineers list, and, on the updated mountaineers list could count under item 3 (insulation a.k.a. extra clothing) or, as we’ll touch upon, item 10 (emergency shelter). We will take a look at the two most popular options.

Raincoat
Defined at Dictionary.com as “a waterproof or water-repellent coat worn as protection against rain,” raincoat is an Americanism from between 1820 and 1830 combining “rain” and coat.” Many backpackers will add a matching pair of rain pants to keep their lower body dry during extended periods of hiking in the rain.

Poncho
Defined at Dictionary.com as “a blanketlike cloak with a hole in the center to admit the head,originating in South America, now often worn as a raincoat” poncho comes from American Spanish or Araucanian between 1710 and 1720.

In a pinch, a standard poncho can be used as an emergency shelter. Several companies have started offering large ponchos which are intended to be used full-time as a lightweight shelter. There are certainly pros and cons to this approach, but it is a function-stacking option.

In the FamilyTrivium household, we tend to prefer relatively lightweight rain jackets composed of a woven synthetic fabric backed by a waterproof breathable membrane. These are offered with a variety of features from a variety of manufacturers at  variety of costs from a variety of merchants. Yes, there is quite a bit of variety.

Right now, Mr. FamilyTrivium is sporting a Paradox brand jacket that he picked up from Costco for very little money. It isn’t the lightest weight, but it’s the lightest one he’s ever owned and has the features he requires – most importantly: the characteristic of keeping him dry.

The youngest member of the household is using a Campmor brand kids jacket that was purchased from that merchant for, probably, a little more money than what Mr. FamilyTrivium’s jacket cost, but it still represents good quality and a great overall value. Part of keeping kids happy in the outdoors is keeping them comfortable and rain gear is one component in accomplishing this mission.

If you would like to share your preference on rain gear, please feel free to sound off in the comments.

Battery

Recently, Tesla introduced a new product called the Powerwall. It is basically a battery for your house. Critics see it as another expensive toy for green fanatics. Enthusiasts say it will be game changing. We’re not here to be on either side of an argument, but to learn more about what exactly a battery is and how it has evolved.

The word it self has evolved over time as can be seen from its definition on the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1530s, “action of battering,” from Middle French batterie, from Old French baterie (12c.) “beating, thrashing, assault,” from batre “beat,” from Latin battuere “beat” (see batter(v.)).

Meaning shifted in Middle French from “bombardment” (“heavy blows” upon city walls or fortresses) to “unit of artillery” (a sense recorded in English from 1550s). Extension to “electrical cell” (1748, first used by Ben Franklin) is perhaps from the artillery sense via notion of “discharges” of electricity. In Middle English, bateri meant only “forged metal ware.” In obsolete baseball jargon battery was the word for “pitcher and catcher” considered as a unit (1867, originally only the pitcher).

To arrive at our current common usage of the word, we see that the shift began in the 1550s with reference to artillery, and coming full circle in 1748 through Franklin’s use, which was taken to analogize the discharge of electricity to the discharge of a gun (be it a large gun). In essence, where artillery ammunition is a store of energy used in a semi-controlled explosion to propel a projectile, the electric battery is a store of energy to be released in a controlled manner to perform work. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a battery as “a device that is placed inside a machine (such as a clock, toy, or car) to supply it with electricity.” In the clock, the work is moving the hands (or illuminating a display). In the car, the work is propelling the vehicle.

Overall, from the inception of the word in it’s earliest form, as literally beating something, to its current usage, as an electricity storage device, the word seems to have always denoted a conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy. To get to this point of simply understanding the history of the word, we feel that we’ve learned enough to leave the evolution of the electrical battery to a separate post (or posts). Look for these in the future. After all, us outdoor gear junkies must have batteries for our flashlights and headlamps!

Extra Clothing

Continuing down the Boy Scout list of Ten Essentials for outdoor activities, we now look at item 3: Extra Clothing. This shows up as item 4 on the Mountaineers classic list and item 3 on the updated Mountaineers list, as insulation. The Mountaineers updated list gets to the heart of the matter: insulation.

So as to not take for granted that everyone knows the definition of insulation, we turn to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which states that insulation is “a material or substance that is used to stop heat, electricity, or sound from going into or out of something.” In the case of outdoor clothing, it is the movement of heat that is being attempted to be restricted.

The extra clothing that you might include depends upon the season, though we always include an extra pair of socks appropriate for whatever season brings us out. With outdoor clothing, layers are encouraged to allow you to vary your amount of insulation with your amount of activity and with the ambient temperature. Some of these layers will end up, throughout the course of your outdoor activity, as the extra clothes in your ten essentials list. This system of layers is something that we can, and will, cover in a future post all its own.

Pickle

With all of our talk of barbecue, you’d think that the FamilyTrivium household must surely own a smoker. Well, we don’t. This is one of those things where we know our limitations, mostly of time, and leave the task to experts.

On the other hand, like many Americans, we do have a grill (three actually; four, counting the old one that doesn’t work that Mr. FamilyTrivium needs to get rid of; Five counting the camping grill). With grilling season in full swing and burgers and hot dogs frequently on the dinner menu, we’ve been going through jars of one of our favorite condiments: the pickle.

Dictionary.com offers several definitions, but their first is the one that refers to the item which our family calls a pickle:

a cucumber that has been preserved in brine, vinegar, or the like.

The word originated between 1400 and 1450 from Middle English pikkyll, Middle Dutch pekille, or Middle Low German pekel. Tori Avey has an article over at PBS.org about the history of pickles, in which she explains that the pickle was likely first made as early as 2030 BC in the Tigris Valley.

While probably a far cry from the original pickle from the Middle East, our favorite variety is the Bread and Butter pickle, specifically a “spicy” or “zesty” version. We love them with burgers. What is your favorite variety? Feel free to share in the comments.

Ham

We’ve been on a roll with barbecue and charcuterie lately, so we thought we’d press on while these delicious meats are on our mind. Our most recent, and possibly best, ham experience was at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue in Kansas City Missouri. While we’re all bacon fans in the FamilyTrivium Household, there is small faction of dissent who doesn’t eat ham. That ties ham with brisket for likability under our roof. Mr. FamilyTrivium has even been known to make ham bone broth from ham shanks.

One of those pieces of knowledge which seems to be regularly taken for granted, everyone seems to know what ham is, but not necessarily how to define it. At Dictionary.com, it is described as “a cut of meat from the heavy-muscled part of a hog’s rear quarter, between hip and hock, usually cured.” Originating before 1000, the word originates from Middle English hamme, or Old English hamm,  or “bend of the knee.”

The Nibble provides a multiple part ham buying article, with one piece focusing on ham history, that indicates that it is uncertain who cured the first ham, with different groups giving credit to the Chinese, the Gauls, and the Egyptians. In an article at Heritage Foods USA, Alexes McLaughlin informs us that the process of making ham was well documented in the Roman period by Cato the Elder’s 160 BCE work De Agri Cultura.

According to McLaughlin, for Americans, ham is the most popular cold cut for sandwiches. In our household, we’re not huge fans of ham sandwiches, though we do like ham by itself on the dinner (or lunch) plate and, in the form of prosciutto, it is an ingredient on Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite Jimmy John’s sandwich, the Vito. There have been rare occassions where Mr. FamilyTrivium was in the mood to use some leftover Easter ham and rolls to make ham and cheese sliders.

If you are a fan of ham, please share in the comments how you like it. Perhaps you prefer it right out of the oven and onto the Easter dinner table? Do you like it as an ingredient in soup? Is it best straight from the smoker? Do you prefer it as a grocery store cold cut between two slices of bread with cheese?

First-Aid Kit

Here, in our third post on the Ten Essentials, we look at item 2 on the Boy Scout list, item 6 on the Mountaineers classic list, and item 5 on the Mountaineers updated list: the first-aid kit, or FAK. In the FamilyTrivium household, we have several FAKs: one dedicated to the house, one dedicated to each vehicle, a basic version for each of our hiking bags, an “advanced” module for each adult to take on outdoor activities, and even pocket versions for walks in the neighborhood and trips to the store. We believe in always having one close at hand. You never know when one might come in handy.

We’ve established that we are big advocates of FAKs, but what exactly is a FAK? The Macmillan Dictionary defines the first aid kit as “a small box or bag with the things that you would need to treat someone if they were injured or suddenly became sick.”

Contents
While we definitely advocate carrying a FAK, there is no definitive standard as to what should be in one. A common philosophy is that it should contain items that you are most likely to need and, as importantly, actually know how to use. For example, a young person’s first aid kit may only contain adhesive bandages and antibiotic ointment – essentially the contents of the aforementioned pocket version. Persons mature enough to handle medications might add over-the-counter pain relievers, an antihistamine, and an antidiarrheal medication. The aforementioned “advanced” module might add a CPR mask, compression bandages and a hemostatic agent.

As we’ve said before, we value knowledge over stuff, with an understanding that some stuff is good. First-aid kits are good stuff, but the knowledge to use the items they contain is as important. As you expand your first-aid knowledge, you can expand your kit. With that in mind, we will likely revisit this topic in future posts. In the mean time, we hope you’ll find some time to get out and enjoy some nature, but stay safe and be prepared.

Brisket

For all but one member of the FamilyTrivium household, our favorite barbecue is smoked brisket. If we eat barbecue, at least half of us will have it on our plates. There was a moment of apprehension, on the part of Mrs. FamilyTrivium, when we walked into Arthur Bryant’s and “brisket” wasn’t on the menu – Mr. FamilyTrivium quickly reassured her that the “beef” was the “brisket.” Was he right? Well, of course, but what exactly is brisket?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary succinctly defines brisket as “the breast or lower chest of a quadruped animal; also :  a cut of beef from the brisket.” Dictionary.com dates the word to between 1300 and 1350 from Middle English “brusket” or Old Norse “brjōsk” cartilage.

While our brief research didn’t find a definitive claim that Texas is the birthplace of smoked brisket, an article on it’s history at TexasMonthly BBQ would have you think that it is. Texas does seem to be the home of smoked brisket with the generic word “barbecue” typically referring to this specific cut. Newspaper advertisements from as early as 1910 show smoked brisket being offered in Texas grocery stores catering to customers on a Kosher diet.

Brisket is number one on the FamilyTrivium household’s barbecue list. If you’re a barbecue fan, where does it rank for you? Feel free to share in the comments.

Multitool

Here, we continue our examination of the items on the Ten Essentials list(s). In our last post in this series, we looked at the pocketknife from the Boy Scout list, along with how it fits into the Mountaineers lists. An alternative is the multitool.

We did not find a definition for the compound word “multitool” in standard dictionaries. There is an entry in Wikipedia that defines a “multi-tool” as “any one of a range of portable, versatile hand tools that combines several individual functions in a single unit.” The traditional Swiss Army knife certainly fits this example, but in our experience, the word is generally used to describe an implement such as that developed by Tim Leatherman in 1984, often incorporating needle-nosed pliers. Amidst the countless manufacturers of multitools, another well-known brand is Gerber.

While the FamilyTrivium household doesn’t have as many multitools as pocketknives, we have had a few throughout the years. As with pocketknives, Mr. FamilyTrivium does have a couple of favorites:

  1. The mid-sized Leatherman Sidekick sports a saw blade and a pocket clip
  2. The compact Leatherman Micra has scissors in place of the needle-nosed pliers. He’s had this one since he was a kid.

Please let us know, in the comments, if you have a favorite multitool.