Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 12-Pound Man Of The House

It appears that I am now blogging-by-request, which I imagine is just like blogging-for-pay, except, well, I am not being paid.

The client, in this instance, would Darling Daughter. (And let’s be honest, she could well afford to compensate me. She has more cash than anyone else in the house.) DD has pointed out, with great distress, that I’ve blogged about everybody Chez Wiles – including our rescue dog Josie, who's only been with us for four months – except Lionel, our hefty 12-pound orange tabby cat.

My bad. It was clearly an oversight, as Lionel is unquestionably the most popular, most indulged, most demanding, best-fed, best-groomed and perhaps, best-looking, member of our household. (This last is absolutely true, but I say “perhaps” to avoid hurting the feelings of my own offspring, who are good-looking indeed.)

When the kids’ friends ring the front bell, I know what to expect. They barely blurt out a “Hello Mrs. Wiles” before looking past me, eyes darting anxiously and asking, “Where’s Lionel?” They know Lionel’s favorite foods – blue cheese, olives (green and black), salad dressing and shrimp. And they know how to get Lionel to come running – the sound of the crushed ice dispenser does it every time.

Self-proclaimed “dog people” routinely say, “You know, I don’t usually like cats, but Lionel is OK.“ Even our mailman, Mike, has a soft spot for Lionel and knows that, despite the cat’s protestations, Lionel is an indoor cat. Indeed, everyone who’s ever come to visit knows Lionel’s an indoor cat, because throughout day, I chant, "You’re an indoor cat, you’re an indoor cat, you’re an indoor cat," as I foil our feline’s ongoing escape efforts, snatching his scruff before he squeezes out a cracked door.

I have no delusions about Lionel's feelings for me. He may count on me for food and clean litter boxes. He may rely on me for brushing and stroking and a warm spot in bed. However, if I ever took a tumble down the stairs and were knocked out, I wouldn't be surprised to be missing few fingers when I regained consciousness. I’m not passing judgment. The cat's a hunter and I’d be fair game.

To look at Lionel, you’d never guess how much fight is in him. He’ll take on any challenger, regardless of size. I’ve never – not one time -- seen him turn and run – not from the dog, not from a 14-year old boy who once tried to position him on a ceiling fan, and not from the most nefarious of villains – the electric razor. This last, we can’t understand. We just know that the sound of an electric razor causes Lionel to rear up on his hind legs and prepare to strike, cobra-like, at the offensive facial hair remover. As you’d imagine, this is the best party trick going at the Wiles' house.

A cat with such a contentious disposition should have mangy fur, snaggle teeth, a torn ear, and perhaps, an eye patch. But Lionel, bless his heart, has limpid green eyes, a tiny, pale pink tongue, and unusually long and well-groomed fur touchable as mink. (OK. I’ve never actually felt mink, but I imagine it to be exceptionally soft. Am I right?)

Lionel doesn’t have the vocal prowess to make demands, either. His attitude – particularly the mane of fur surrounding his face – might lead you to expect a roar, but when irritated, disrupted, or simply needing attention, his pupils widen and darken, his mouth stretches open wide, and a pathetic, eunuch-like “mew” slips out. Occasionally, he even “chirps.” But we don't dare call him a "sissy." He prowls the house while we sleep. Taunting would be foolhardy.

Indeed, just to ensure my own good night's sleep tonight. I may have to slip a couple of shrimp his way. This casserole recipe for shrimp and grits is a good place to start. (And while it's cooking, I'm going to check DD's room for cash. I think she owes me.)

Shrimp & Grits Casserole
Great at breakfast, or for supper.

4 c. chicken broth
6 green onions, chopped
1 c. regular grits
1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded Jack cheese with peppers
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. small shrimp, peeled and cooked
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, drained

Bring chicken broth to a boil in large saucepan; stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in Monterey Jack cheese and 3/4 cup of cheddar. In a separate skillet, melt butter; add green onions, bell pepper and garlic. Saute five minutes, or until tender. Stir green onion mixture into grits. Add shrimp and tomatoes. Pour into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

Can be prepared the day ahead and refrigerated. Adjust cooking time (since grits will be cold) as needed. Serves 6-8.

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