Tuesday, August 30, 2016
In A Stew
It's a coolish, cloudy day here in the NW. I'm jumping one ahead of Mother Nature and am cooking up some beef stew. It would be better if the weather was about 10 degrees cooler, but I'm tired of variations on hot weather food - sandwiches, salads, and oh-hell-let's-just-have-cereal-I'm-too-hot-to-give-a-shit. We've even had ice cream for dinner in pursuit of eating anything not hot. And ice cream for dinner is great until you wake up the next morning, starving, and with your self-respect having taken refuge in some far away protective custody.
So, this evening it's stew - real food, real cooking. As I was assembling and cooking various ingredients, I played one of my favorite words in my head - my stew-cooking mantra, if you will. That word is gallimaufry.
gallimaufry: (gal-uh-maw-free) -noun
1. a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley
2. a ragout or stew
[Fr] A combination of galer - to amuse oneself, and mafrer - to gorge oneself.
Now, I don't know if you've ever had any real, curl your toes stew. I promise, it doesn't come out of a can or a microwave box. I'm talking about the kind of stew your grandma's grandma made. I'm talking about the kind where the cook has taken the time to dredge some sinewy, tough meat in flour, salt and pepper, and slowly browned it, leaving bits of luscious, meat-flavored flour in the bottom of the pan, only to be lifted and infused by the addition of chopped onion, garlic and celery, a hearty splash of good wine and water. The stew then simmers on very low heat for a good couple of hours, graced by a floating bouquet garni of fresh rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The sinew renders down, and the meat becomes as tender as a first kiss. But, it's not ready yet. It requires the addition of carrots and potatoes and another good 45 minutes of slow cooking.
It's served up to you in a big bowl with some good crusty bread. The fragrant steam caresses your olfactory senses like a lover's perfume. You dip a spoon in - and it's a big table spoon, because a little spoon would never do - trying to get a bit of meat, carrot and potato all at once. Lift to the mouth, and then, and then, oh... and then. It's like coming home. Your tongue and mouth are hit by the feel of it. Your palate explodes with overwhelming sensation. You can taste each distinct flavor, that piquant hint of wine, the deep dark meat and broth, the savory onion and garlic and spices, the sweet carrot and earthy potato - all of it coming together in one huge sigh-inducing melange of wonderful.
Heady stuff, that.
It's got me thinking about friendships. And how like a stew are my various friendships - each friendship as unique and different as the individuals themselves, yet each adding a necessary flavor to the overall deliciousness. I know at least one friend who is going to read this and message me something like, "Oh, so you think I'm just a lumpy old potato, huh?" And we'll laugh about that. However, we both know that the truth is, she's one of the rich, meaty bits. (She's going to give me hell about that too.)
Yesterday I had a conversation with another of those "meaty bits" friends. He asked me what's been rising to the surface in my life lately, what salient point of where and who I am right now has broken through. I had a hard time answering - he's good at tripping me up like that, the bastard. Now that I've had 24 hours to think about it, I'd have to say it's love. So much else has been stripped away, or maybe rendered down like the sinewy bits of meat. What remains is what I was born with: love. In particular, love of friends. There are friends, some unaware, some still close, some long gone, who have made such a tremendous difference in my life. They have, by turns, amused me, frustrated me, saddened me, humored me, inspired me, challenged me, and loved me just as I love them.
We are that gallimaufry - the hodgepodge, the jumble, the (perhaps to others, if not to each other) confused medley. Each of us are different, each of us brings our own flavor and contribution to something blow-your-hair-back beautiful. Not a day goes by that I don't crave that friendship. I hunger for it, just as I hunger for that stew burbling away on the stove.