Hello. Hi! I've missed you. And you. And you.
The Tart Lives. And she is beginning again. Life is giving me a "do-over" if you will... And I'm hopefully wise enough to recognize that these things don't come around very often; they sometimes don't happen for people at all. But, I am here, I am alive, and I am rebuilding happiness, purposefully. I don't have time to waste.
So, where have I been for the past three plus years? Deconstructing, it seems.
Towards the tail end of this blog, I was preparing myself for a layoff at work. I was with my company for 18 years... 18 YEARS! And one day, it came to an end. And it was devastating. That company was all I had ever known in my working life. It was security. It was familiar. It was family. And then it was gone. Thankfully, I had been given weeks (months even) notice, and was paid a handsome severance for my years of service. There was my last day on the last day of November 2010, when I turned out the lights, and the next day I was on a plane to Venice, Italy.
I bolted. I rented an apartment there with no plans. I just went. Alone. To figure me out. Who is this person now? I ended up staying for three months. And it was one of the best times of my life. I had three hour lunches with half-litres of wine. I was fawned over by waiters and gondoliers. Slowly, I became a local, even earning status by receiving the mythical "sconto" -- the "local's price" for goods and services. I didn't want to imagine life any other way. But of course, it was fantasy... eventually I had to return to the "real world."
It was a rough re-entry. Think space shuttle into the atmosphere re-entry... I had stepped through the looking glass and nothing was the same.
Sadly, The Mayor and I parted. Anyone going through a divorce can attest to how this experience can rock you to your foundation. My life was unrecognizable. No longer did I have the beautiful kitchen with the six ovens; no longer did I have a comfortable home in Venice Beach. No longer did I have a husband after 15 years.
My beloved Crookshanks died... my constant companion for 10 years... who saw me through my darkest days...
I found a job, and then another...
I lived in a one-room apartment with a kitchenette and no heat. I slept on a futon. I kept the TV on all night because I could not bear the sound of crushing loneliness. I had an intruder break in to take a shower.
And The Town Tart blog died out there in the ether. I couldn't visit it. It was yet another death that I could not bear. I couldn't even visit my favorite food blogs, such as The Wednesday Chef, because my heart ached too much.
Everything was gone.
And then... and then...
I woke up one day on the futon, frozen under layers of flannel-covered duvets and faux-fur blankets, and said to myself I had been punished enough.
I realized that my old life was gone, but a new life could be had, if I tried hard enough, if I was brave enough, if I was strong enough.
So, here I am.
I'm not out of the woods. There is a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of angst, and worry, and fear to be worked through.
But I am writing to you here, today, as proof that the human condition and spirit can recover and, maybe, possibly, with a little luck, even thrive. And my love of cooking, which had been my therapy, my creativity, my entertainment... and of which I had lost all joy, is back.
I still don't have that kitchen with the 6 ovens, but I have one basic gas oven, four burners and my Le Creuset, and funny enough, that's good enough.
I have The Bodyguard who happily eats whatever I put in front of him.
I have a new fat orange cat named Cornbread.
And It Feels Like Home.
And so I have chosen to share with you for my first entry in three years, a recipe that exemplifies the beginning: Brown Veal Stock. It (along with its brethren stocks) is the foundation for so many things. It all begins with stock. So then, shall this blog.
To begin at the beginning, you need veal bones. Lots of them. I bought 12 pounds. These aren't the easiest things to find (nor the cheapest -- my 12 pounds cost $46) but I urge you to find them however you can. Search the web, ask around, call your butcher department... whatever it takes.
I placed the bones in a gigantic roasting pan, set the oven on 450, and let them brown away. The house began to take on an otherworldly aroma of beefy goodness.
After an hour and a half, I added chopped celery, carrots, and onions, and smeared everything with rich, dark tomato paste (that's the photo at the top) and stuck it back in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.
Once the vegetables had decently caramelized, I placed the bones and vegetables, using a slotted spoon, into a 24-quart stockpot. I drained off the fat in the roasting pan, poured in a cup of red wine, and deglazed the pan, scraping up all of the crusty brown bits left behind.
I poured this into the stockpot, and filled it with water, covering the bones by about 2 inches. I brought it to a simmer, and left it uncovered, simmering ever so gently, all night long, for a total of about 10 hours.
If I thought the smell was intoxicating before, let me tell you: 10 hours of simmering this pot will change your life!
In the morning, I turned off the heat, covered it, and let it be. I know that this is a no-no... I know that one needs to get food out of the "temperature danger zone" -- but jeez, I needed to get to work, and this ain't my first rodeo, so I was fine with the risk. I'm not advocating, but I'm not cutting up a raw chicken on a wooden board and then slicing bread with the same knife and the same board, either. Sheesh.
When I come home from work, I am greeted with an amazing transformation: veal stock jello!
I was simply fascinated by this metamorphosis. All of that roasting and boiling had extracted the gelatin in the veal bones and I knew, there and then, that that was a thing of beauty.
I gently heated the stock, to melt the gelatin down so that I could portion it away in quart-sized Ziplocs.
I ended up with 14 two-cup bags of stock. I froze them flat, and now they await whatever my heart desires.
My heart is desiring a lot.
I hope to share it with you. I hope you'll come around. I hope we can find our way together.
Thank you for stopping by. It Feels Like Home.
The Town Tart