Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In a Stew

September... I feel the shift and turn. The slow tick of winding down. Or winding into. Into my time of year. Into the place where everything within me screams alive, while everything without dries, blows away, and eventually is shrouded. We slowly wander into the darkness and light a blazing fire against it. We hunker and huddle. Some sleep. Some of us thrive. For me, these are the long lazy days. These are the days of slowness, of an almost ethereal waiting. These are days when obfuscation is swept away with a brutally cold wind that leaves thoughts as clear as the barren branches.

For some, all of this is unbearable. For me, it is a time of wonder.

As we were hit with a cold, rainy front yesterday, I was thinking of making stew while I ate my breakfast. This is something that's best thought of early in the day, but normally, I can't imagine what I'll want for dinner until it's much closer to dinner time. As I considered the possibility, the thought flitted across my mind, "You can't rush a good stew." It stopped me. Simple profoundness often does.

There is nothing worse than an undercooked stew. It needs a long, slow heat to achieve greatness. Without that, you end up with tough, tasteless meat, and boring potatoes that haven't had time to lend their starchy goodness to the boring soupy stuff. With the long, slow heat comes tenderness, meat that falls apart, soft potatoes that have absorbed the other flavors in the stew and have given back their starchy goodness (sorry, but I like that phrase), a thickened broth that is nearly a living, breathing entity - giving back as much as it takes. Perhaps there are carrots. Bright orange, sweet, earthy bits that sing the song of the stew. The whole house is redolent with the scent. People come home to that scent and say, "What is that? I'm in love!" Add a good, fresh, homemade biscuit, and you've made magic.

But it takes slowing down. It takes time. It takes gentle heat for that true marriage to come alive.

So, into the darkness, I go... with a glowing fire and a sturdy cauldron. And welcome the coming Autumn with arms wide. Join me. There's plenty of room around the fire.

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