“John, a lily-gilder, decided to let the next round of meat cure. Fresh sausage was child’s play, as he saw it; he wanted the challenge of layering in this more sophisticated technique. I heard him grumble now and then about humidity and temperature concerns—both hard to control in our drafty 1906 house—but beyond that, I paid little mind. Until the beagle went missing. ” [more…]Continue reading
Approximately 47 seconds after I got the back porch painted — giving it a brand new start in life, a chance to reinvent itself from impenetrable junk repository into organized junk repository — The Beloved Husband stepped in.
“I’ll reorganize it,” TBH selflessly offered, sidestepping the long Honey-Do List I’d generously worked up for him. (We give and we give and we give. That’s what makes our marriage work.)
“Okay,” I said, “but don’t throw away any of my crap without telling me.”Freshening up the porch is one of several recent efforts to repair and refurbish the 103-year-old behemoth we call home. These undertakings are certainly in response to the global economic crisis: If we fall off the grid and have to convert our house into an urban homestead/fortress that we can’t venture out of except to harvest root vegetables from what was once a lawn, I want it to look nice. But also, it turns out that many of my dad’s adages are true…in this case: With assets come responsibility. The porch was beat, and I’d grown sick of looking at it every time I walked through from the back door to the kitchen. Several days after the tarps came up and the VOC’s had dissipated, I was picking adorable turkey figurines out of the trash bin and TBH had reconfigured the porch into a curing room.
Once he set up the metal hanging rods (repurposed trashpicked closetware courtesy of moi), TBH had no choice but to call in the Poet-Butcher, his partner in meat-curing crime. Off they went to Restaurant Depot, where they purchased 80 pounds of pork shoulder. Or was it butt?
Much bleaching of kitchen surfaces and soaking of intestinal casings later, here is the result. Every day, the perfume of butifarra, chorizo and garlic sausages grows stronger.
“What if they drip, the way they did in the guest room?” I asked. The porch was so shiny, so bright, so grease-free.“I’ll put pans under them.”
I stifled a whimper.
Meanwhile, the beagle assumed a new command post, forsaking her cushy bed for a fragrant promise, a savory dream.
As you’ll see on this blog, a recurring theme in my writing is food, glorious food. Certainly my latest book, Pig Candy, enlists food in its storytelling, but food as metaphor and subject also comes up in an essay about love; in a profile of chef Marcus Samuelsson; in the celebration of artisanal cidermaking; and as a central factor in a bittersweet essay about the search for family ties.
When I moved home to Philadelphia in 1996, after 18 years away, I lucked into buying a house two doors down from Claudia Raab, a talented, curious cook. She made a welcome dinner of fresh corn tamales, and at that instant, I didn’t feel so bad about having left Brooklyn behind.
Then I met my husband, John Howard, who is just as talented and curious. When we started dating, he was making artisanal hard cider — one of our first weekend getaways was Cider Day, an annual fall pleasure in western Massachusetts. Then Claudia (instantly approving of my choice in men) bought him a smoker at a yard sale for 25 bucks — he began to make smoked bacon by the slab. One batch used an apple syrup boiled down from the juice he bought at Clarkdale Farms, a family-run orchard that plays a big role in Cider Day. With all the apples around, John perfected his tarte tatine.
Claudia never runs short on grand schemes, and she pulled strings with her connections in the region’s Mennonite farming community to secure us a pig. Enter sausage-making, pancetta-making, and prosciutto-making. Enter preliminary discussions of building a smokehouse and curing room (when the guest room, used in the interim, started to smell a little too meaty). Also, enter Sebastian Agudelo, a poet and literature professor who actually was a professional chef for a while, but now just stuns his friends and neighbors with fine dining at home. I may be John’s lifemate, but Sebastian is his sausage soulmate.
More on food to come.