An Everlasting Meal: How to Boil Water (or What Making Stock has to do with Marriage)

Tonight, I am supposed to share about further things I have gleaned from An Everlasting Meal or at least something to that effect.  After all, last week I told you I would. Well, I forgot that my husband would still be out of town. And that we--that I--was still honoring our little pact of not reading it without the other.

He arrives home tomorrow.

That being said, I do have something to share as it relates to Ms. Adler's first chapter, "How to Boil Water". I can share that I did try to boil water (in the past, I've just done it without trying) and that I completely forgot to "season" it.

I know because the Gent asked me upon hearing that I made stock, "So did you 'season' the water with olive oil and salt?"

"Shoot..."  I only remembered as he was asking.  You're supposed to season the water to your tasting and then go from less starchy to starchiest produce.  (Apparently, cabbage cooked in boiled, seasoned water is amazing and carrots cooked in cabbage-cooked-season-boiled-water (if I have that right) is even more amazing.)

The two things I recalled from the first chapter were, as I mentioned last week, one pot of water can go very far and that I can add pretty much anything and everything to make stock--not as in adding all the different kinds of vegetables together (though perhaps Ms. Adler may either advocate for that or set restrictions), but as in adding the different parts of those vegetables that are usually thrown out, like onion skin or carrot tops.  Or ends of kale or celery.

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In the past, I've made stock by what's been in season and from the seemingly "good" part of the produce.  Through this, I have cultivated a love for making stock--using bones of fish (including the head) or an array of various onions simmering for 12 hours with a little bit of thyme.   But those have all been from the beautiful part of the vegetable (the fish doesn't count here), not the totality of the vegetable.  I am learning that including both the good and the ugly--just like in marriage--may just be the secret ingredient.  Tamar Adler seemed to think so with the stock, and a friend (who is a therapist) also seemed to say so with marriage.  For my wedding shower four years ago, I received many pieces of advice, one from this friend who said, "include both the good and ugly--that is what affirms the union" instead of just the pleasant aspects or striving to just have the pleasant aspects be the definition for "marriage".  Four years into the fermentation of that advice, I feel that I am beginning to appreciate it and find new richness and insight from it.  Unknowingly, I think I've thought marriage is supposed to be about the good parts of both persons simmering together, fusing into one new dimension of taste.  But I am beginning to experience things differently:  seeing that perhaps the secret to marriage is affirming and including--loving (who would have thought)--both the good and the ugly, the dry onion skin and the bitter carrot top.  Those are what make the stock.  I am beginning to see that those are what make a marriage.  (And with this comes an augmented understanding of love:  love is accepting.  I think some people may get scared around accepting because it may connote condoning which actually is not what accepting is at all.  Just a raw thought here--perhaps that is why God can love us, because he accepts us.)

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However, I wouldn't know quite yet if adding the scraps separate stock from stock because, well, I think I somehow created burnt stock.  Due to my fridge being about a half to a third of the size of a normal fridge--and the freezer, is well about the size of one normal shelf halved--I needed to boil the stock down so I could keep it all.  (Also, I had heard chefs do something like this to increase the flavor...)  Unfortunately, I think the manner in which this was done--with care at some points and a disengagement at other points--produced burnt-tasting stock.  Or more plainly, burnt stock if such a thing can exist.  (Unless, it was compacted earthiness from using all parts of the produce.)  My hunch is that it was in my method:  in full disclosure, I cooked it over a period of two days...  I boiled it when I was home and turned it off when I wasn't.  Those two days, I was home and gone a lot.  More than I originally anticipated.  After confirming that the stock was definitely burnt with a second taste test, I pitched it, sadly.  But here is to accepting that perhaps this is what making stock is all about:  the process of learning which inevitably will include the good and the ugly.

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xo