Since you are such a fucking idiot that you did not realize that acorn squash are for eating and not just for festive centerpieces, here is a recipe. It is easy to make, and you can do most of the work ahead of time and bake it off when you want to eat.

Plan for half an acorn squash per person as a main dish, or the finished product can be cut up and served as a side. Some people will eat the stuffing and leave the squash, thinking it is merely a creative bowl. Consult Miss Manners to see if it is appropriate to admonish them for not eating their vegetables.

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash

1/2 pound loose sausage (if you know what we mean)

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

1 stalk of celery, diced

4-25 cloves of garlic, minced

2/3 cup pearled barley, rinsed

1 and 1/3 cup cooking liquid (see below)

Herbs and spices

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Halve the squash (cutting pole to pole), scoop out the seed and guts. Just like pumpkin seeds, you can roast and eat the seeds if you wish (we don't have time to do that shit today, but toss them in oil and salt, then roast at 350 for 20 minutes or so). Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish with a splash of water in the bottom, and stick in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, start to brown the sausage over medium heat. If you didn't know what we meant by "loose sausage" way up there in the ingredient list, it is the kind from which you make breakfast patties or sausage gravy or stuffed squash. We are using a wonderful regional brand called Gunnoe's Whole Hog Sausage. It is great. Use whatever is available in your market.

This is a part of the recipe where you have to make informed decisions and live with the consequences. The more premium brands of sausage (such as Gunnoe's and Jimmy Dean) are actually pretty lean, so they don't render out a lot of fat. Upon application of heat, some of the cheaper brands turn to a small pile of bone and organ pieces in a puddle of liquid pork grease. If your sausage is browning and the pan is still pretty dry, pour in a little oil or a pat of butter.

Now that you have partially browned meat and a reasonable amount of fat in the pan, add the onion, pepper, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and stir. Cook this for a few (5-10) minutes.

Add your choice of herbs and spices. We are using thyme, sage, mustard, coriander, and just a little bit of cumin.

Add the barley to the pan, and stir.

Add the cooking liquid. This is another recipe decision point. Water will work. Chicken (or pork) stock is better. We are using a top secret blend of beer and pork stock. Turn the heat way up, and stir, scraping the cooked on bits off the bottom of the pan.

Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Have you forgotten about that squash in the oven? CHECK ON IT! GET IT OUT OF THERE! Jesus Christ, are you trying to ruin dinner? Put the par-cooked squash cut side up in an oven-safe vessel deep enough that the halves are not poking up over the top. Poke the flesh of the squash with a fork here and there.

When the barley has been cooking about 10 minutes but is still quite too hard to eat, spoon that stuff right into the squash cavities. Cover the dish tightly (with aluminum foil if the dish doesn't have a tight-fitting lid), and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until both the squash and the barley are soft.

Garnish with toasted nuts, if you please.

There's probably too much stuffing, so either finish cooking the barley on the stove or put the rest in another casserole dish and cover and bake.

This one-dish meal is high in dietary fiber, which is very important as the War on Christmas approaches.

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