In a ruin of an apartment, sitting on a rickety folding wooden chair, a laptop perched on two cases of wine, a man writes. He is there to get the feel of a new space. There is graffiti on the walls made by the four children who lived there previously. Hearts with A+K or K+ A inside, smiley faces, Batman logos, jesters, Hello Kitties, and rainbows; he has added a couple more smiley faces. It is a thing of his. He draws them whenever and wherever he can.
The gas convector is warming up the room nicely; still he has a blanket on his shoulders. From a window adorned with a sticker of Winnie the Pooh eating an apple and smiling at a picnic basket, he looks onto a clean courtyard with a low cinder block wall. Milne could draw smiles perfectly he thought; Dr. Seuss too. He smiles and thinks Pooh might have preferred a jar of Hunny. We are looking over his shoulder at the screen. He types badly, hunting and pecking and going back to correct mistakes.
“While not officially over, fall is moving on. Thanksgiving has passed. We have had our first days of frost, and 1 degree Celsius temperatures. In the country, we have dug up the beetroot and potatoes, and radishes and put them in the root cellar. The leaves are all but gone; I raked up the last Acacia leaves this morning; they blanketed my courtyard. Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any leaves? Yes sir, yes sir ten bags from trees. I cannot burn them because I am in the city center; but in Hungary one can still burn leaves and often the smell of my childhood comes back. Ray Bradbury wrote an essay on the smell of burning leaves and lost childhood moments and things children of the future may never know; I thought it was in Zen in the Art of Writing (here) but I cannot find it. It is somewhere, perhaps some one can help me find it? Yes, I am asking for help. I never do that.”
“I raked the leaves from the courtyard today while listening to a Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. I don’t really know all that much about this kind of music. It was heartrendingly beautiful, sadness and joy and soaring voices. I finished the leaf raking to a cry to the Savior. At least it sounded like that; German isn’t one of my languages. As I finished, the season’s first flakes of snow fell. They are now gone. It was cliche, but…”
“It is a good day for mulled wine and a rich beef stew, maybe a soup from the bones of the 14 kilo turkey we had yesterday. I made the stuffing and carved the bird. Next year my kitchen will be ready and preparing for feeding the masses will be easier. I don’t think my life could be better right now in the balance of things. I have everything I need, and am putting down things I think I want, but don’t really need. I have a roof, love, a dog, several projects percolating relating to music and food. They move slowly but I am fine with that. 慢慢来‘ (man man lai) is a favorite expression of mine. Loosely translated it means slowly slowly it will come. It bears the suggestion that time is the answer. Time will either reveal all, or at least your next step. There is no hurry, take it easy, no need to worry, let’s take this step by step. I am building my adult middle aged life. And yet, I am taken over by a feeling of sadness.”
“We are coming up on the one year anniversary of my friend Pierre Vanier’s senseless death, a suicide. You can read about him here. I found myself wondering if he was listening to music when he walked into the Danube, a Requiem perhaps, smiling as the cold waters took away his feelings and pain, as he slowly succumbed to the dark swift current. Was there a moment of regret and panic–that moment when some one jumps off a bridge and as their hands leave the railings they think, oh no, this was a bad idea? I don’t think he suffered from a moment of panic. He was in too much pain; there was too much alcohol, too many antidepressants and narcotics in his bloodstream. I miss his smile and laughter. But like the leaves on the ground, it is time to let him go. I am thankful for the short time we had together.”
Breaking Down (the Turkey)
- Roast your turkey as you see fit. I don’t stuff the cavities, I find it messes with the cooking time and all that. Carve it; I may have to do a carving entry with a link to a video one of these days (any interest? leave me a comment). Be generous leaving some meat on the bones. Pluck out the oysters and give yourself a treat. I call it the Chef’s Tax.
- Break down the bones and carcass into big chunks and simmer slowly with a garniture aromatique (carrot, celery, onion). I add leeks with their greens too. An entire head of unpeeled garlic or two never hurts either. This should all happen in a large stockpot, with cold water to start just covering all the ingredients. Cook until the bones are clean of meat; a few hours at least. Skim the frothy impurities (scum) that floats tot he top as it cooks. Let it cool. Remove bones and pick apart the meat with your hands. Reheat for soup. Give the bones to a big hungry dog; no lectures please.
- The next day, once you get towards the bottom of the soup, and it has thickened from reducing, add heavy cream, sauteed mushrooms, grated cheese, sherry, and gobs of fresh parsley. Cook pasta separately, mix it together and bake for 30 minutes for a lovely Tetrazzini. Optionally, you can broil it for the last 5 minutes with freshly grated cheeses. There really is no standard recipe.