Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Returning with the story of a bone.

It has been a very, very long time…

The lack of postings does not mean there has been nothing worth posting about. On the contrary, it simply implies that life has gotten complicated, in ways both expected and unexpected. In late-July T reported to the Army War College in PA to commence his yearlong program. This involves weekday geo-bachelor/bachelorette-dom, weekly commutes up and down on the weekend and a serious crimp in our blog writing and Sunday supper routine.

Instead of cooking semi-elaborate meals on Sunday afternoon to be lingered over in the evening, I now somewhat frantically try to prepare multiple meals for T to take up to school for the week. A Sunday supper is usually made, but he often eats it on Monday night and I’ll eat it alone after he leaves.

Shortly after he started his program of study, I witnessed a milestone.


The day after this momentous event, I got sick. And except for a 10 or so day respite when I was out of town, I have been sick ever since. Initially it was the flu. Now it has morphed into severe, asthma-inducing allergies, brought on perhaps by the fact that since late-August, we have seen the sun only briefly and have had instead rain, rain and more rain, which means mold and mildew clinging to every available surface. In other words no fun. If this is what the 40s have in store for me, I say no thanks.

However, those 10 days of respite were wonderful. They happily coincided with my much-anticipated trip to France and walking tour in Bordeaux. The tour was my birthday gift from T and it will have to go down as one of the best presents ever. T being occupied with his program at the War College, I went with a good friend and we had a blast. Apart from the 2.5 “girl’s days” in Paris, we had a week in Bordeaux walking through wine fields, visiting vineyards, eating amazing lunches out in open air, spending wonderful hours with people who started out as total strangers but ended up being wonderful friends and companions. The walk was incredible - energizing and relaxing all at once and I’ll be writing more about it in the future, I promise. For now you will have to be satisfied with this, ripe on the vine in the Pomerol.

Today I will regale you with a story about a bone. A lamb bone to be exact. Several months ago I braised a leg of lamb. Not wanting to waste the bone and thinking it would be good for soup, I wrapped it up and threw it in the freezer where it continually reminded us of its presence by rolling out and falling onto our toes whenever we opened the door. After months and months of this routine, and after multiple queries from T on whether I intended to use the damn thing or not (my excuse being it was a particularly miserable summer and we were in no mood for soup), it hit my big toe on a day that was mild with a hint of fall in the air. I figured it was fate and picked it up off the floor, took out my soup pot, threw it in with some water and thyme and let it go. Before I went to bed I put it into the fridge, skimmed off the congealed fat the next day and started it up again, adding more water as I went.

In the intervening day I bought a can of white beans and a piece of lamb shoulder. There was little meat on the bone and I figured it would be a good thing to have something more than essence of lamb in the soup.

As I strained the broth I browned the meat in the same soup pot, threw in a chopped onion, some garlic and a couple of chopped carrots then threw the bone back in and let it simmer until the shoulder piece was fork tender.

 I then took it out, shredded it, and then put it back in along with the can of white beans and a container of sautéed kale that had been frozen some weeks earlier. After the simple addition of more thyme, salt and pepper it was GTG (“good to go,” as they say in my line of work).

 Honestly, I can’t remember when I have had a more satisfying “made up” soup. I’m going to say that the time in deep freeze aged the bone well, because the broth was rich and delicious. The vegetables and beans made me feel as if I was eating healthy too. I ate it with a cold salad of beets in mustard vinaigrette and chopped papaya and lime for dessert. It was a great mid-week meal.

In fact, the soup was so good in fact that I think I need to braise another leg of lamb soon so I can make it again.

Happily, the cooler weather brings the return of two of life's simple joys: Football season and bread making time. I can't bear to turn the oven on in the Virginia summer heat, but now that it has cooled off, it is all this all the time.

Mei Ping too is enjoying the change in weather. She is lethargic and acts like a relatively normal dog during the warm months, but as soon as the seasons change and it cools off she recalls her Siberian Husky roots and becomes once again the manic freak of a dog that I know and love and there she is at my feet, jumping on my back, desperately seeking another walk, run or play session.

Anybody want a dog for the next six months?

Okay, back again soon. I've got my trip to France to tell you about, needlework updates, a write up on our poignant trip to Mann Gulch and then there will be multiple posts about World War One, as T has finally resolved to write his big research paper on British national strategy and their decision to enter the war in 1914 in defense of Belgium and France. Partially thanks to my influence perhaps. Thank goodness he decided against the paper on African insurgencies.

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