I made some vegetable stock today, my first stock as a widow.
Don’t think that you’re now reading a blog in which I tell you what I ate for lunch. This stock was some kind of milestone, small but significant, nonetheless.
I bought a pressure cooker, at the gentle recommendation of a friend who has been Keeping an Eye on Us. She has been so good to us and keeps abreast of my progress. I think she was worried about my Google Calender of daily meals. She wants me to spend less time in the kitchen, less time planning, more time living, or just resting. She showed me her pressure cooker when she had us over for dinner. She just threw together that absolutely delicious stew she served us. I’ve always been afraid of pressure cookers, but they’re perfectly safe now. I’d heard that, and it was confirmed when I saw it in operation at her house. So I bought a pressure cooker. I made the most delicious chick peas this weekend. I planned another recipe for tonight. There was nothing for me to prep, because I could throw it all together in the late afternoon. So in the morning, with no prepping to do, I decided to make stock out of the veggies in the bottom of the refrigerator. I pulled out celery for which I once had such hope, softening carrots purchased from the Beet Lady, some onions that were languishing. In the time it took me to tidy up the kitchen, stock happened in the pressure cooker. I poured it into two mason jars and stood back and took a look. It’s been so long since I’ve made stock.
This was vindicating, because I’ve stopped composting. When my mom stayed with us during that horrible time last year, she recommended that I take a break from composting. That was good advice. It’s simplifying. And, after the visits from Geoffrey and Thom, I shouldn’t have food scraps in my yard these days. I know that it was the right thing to do, for now, but I’ve felt guilty about throwing away scraps, and about chucking the never-used celery and carrots and mushrooms and greens that wilted away on those weeks when I haven’t been able to get my act together.
And while I’m confessing, there was also a pineapple, purchased on a Friday when I was struck by a fleeting optimism. A few weeks later, the whole thing was sent to the landfill. I’m ashamed to write that.
This morning, I took said sad veggies out of the fridge. They were still destined for the garbage can, but at least I extracted some nutrients and flavor out of them first.
The dinner wasn’t so bad–a knock-off of Boston Baked Beans pressure cooked in said stock, from a recipe that came with the pressure cooker, alongside some millet (cooked (in minutes!) in the pressure cooker before I did the beans) mixed with Swiss Chard. Because I want to make life worth living for these kids, I sauteed the millet and chard with a dose of local butter. It was pretty tasty. The beans cooked unevenly because they were so old–I found them in the back of the pantry and they probably date back to when my husband was still with us, heck, he probably bought them–but the kids ate the meal gamely, delivered some compliments and, given a restocking of the pantry, suggested it was a worthwhile recipe to revisit.
Encouraged by the kids’ decent reaction, I ordered a couple of pressure cooker cookbooks from Amazon. See, my son visits that nice friend who is Keeping an Eye on Us quite a bit. He stayed with them when daughter and I took the ashes to East Hampton, they include him in strategy game nights, and I think he has a crush on my friend, or admires her, or he just really, really prefers her cooking. So I got a Madhur Jaffrey pressure cooker cookbook, so I can serve some reliable some Indian dishes. I don’t mind if he likes our friend’s cooking more. We’re lucky to have her. He’s lucky to have her in his life. And no wonder he seeks out her cooking. For months, I have been cooking like a sad person. Even when I thought I felt okay, my meals–overcooked or undercooked or underseasoned or oddly textured–have betrayed deep sadness. If I can’t rely on my own spirit to infuse my cooking, at least I can follow a recipe and serve that kid some decent food in his own home.
So that’s all to say, that this stock wasn’t the same old stock. It’s the kind of stock I make now, the product of our new appliances, deepened friendships, compromises, and trying all over again. And, apparently, I make stock now. Takes, like, 6 minutes.