Monday, October 31, 2011

A Crash In The Night

it's Halloween, and i live in the woods at the end of a long wooded driveway - nobody comes here to Trick or Treat and if they did, well, i wouldn't answer the door, because a sure sign that someone isn't right in the head is to go Trickertreatin' in lonely places.
My sweet husband has gone to town for Tai Chi class, his first in a few weeks, since he's had the Epizoudic as my grandfather used to call it - the cough has kept us up for nights now, and usually i'm the lung case here, but this time it was him.

So i'm here alone, with the fire going, and a slate blue sky that is the afterthought of a rainy afternoon that gave up. If there's a moon, my hounds will have to find it for me. The pines are black and thick against the western sky.

i'm making Julia Child's Potage Veloute Aux Champignons - that's Fancy for Cream of Mushroom Soup and you can find it on page 40 of Mastering The Art of French Cooking. I wouldn't normally make such a thing, but i bought a chicken and roasted it a few days ago, because i had a dream about attending a banquet where little roasted birds were served on pearl white plates and well, after a dream like that, you must make a roasted chicken, and then make a lovely stock of it's remnants a day or so later. Well, I used half the stock on a risotto with asparagus and white wine, and now i'm using the remainder to make this Potage Veloute . . . i have failed to mention here that i bought far too many crimini mushrooms at the market today because i was listening to a nearby conversation and in order to stay put i kept putting handfuls of the cool round fungus in the bag and besides, there is something rich about mushrooms isn't there? Oh the smell of dark dirt they carry.

so there i am in the kitchen, just a while ago and i have fed the hounds their dinner and have tended the fire . . . have i mentioned i can build a hell of a good fire? It comes from years of visiting my mother in her unheated house where the only source of warmth was her fireplace - they made me sleep on the sofa near the fire, warm indeed, but it came with a heavy responsibility, stoke the fire all night, or we all freeze by morning . . . i understand the Three Log Rule, and if you know about fire, you know what i'm talking about.

so anyway, there i am, i've brought the stock to a boil and i've carefully sauteed the onions in butter and added the flour and i'm getting ready to add the stock and chopped mushroom stems from a pound of mushrooms, along with the bay leaf and the thyme and the parsley, to the stock, when i hear a Crash.

No ordinary crash, it's the distinct sound of breaking glass.

you know that sound, it's a sharp shrill and then a tinkling like Tinkerbell just arrived, am i right?

Well, i was torn - i was at a critical point with the stock and i hear my hounds running through the house. This was quite a challenge for one such as me - i'm not only afraid of the dark, but am quite prone to Madam Panic -- yeah? Oh shuttup.

i decided to do what Julia wanted me to do and i combined the boiling stock with the other ingredients and i forged on and my hound Boogie showed up in the kitchen, repelled by the steam, but drawn by the chicken essence in the air, with a boding look in his eyes, "They broke something . . . " Boogie never busts things up around here, the girls do, my girl hounds are simply unable to control themselves, and so i looked at Boogie, "they have and well, i can't come right now, because i have to bring this back up to a simmer and make certain the flour doesn't clump, got me?"

But then i had visions in my head of one of the girls with bloody paws, so i left my fungus stock and began the search through the house for the source of the Crash in the Night.

You know, the night before my grandmother died, there was a terrible bump in the wee hours of the night. It woke my grandfather and my grandmother's Polish nurse who was very Catholic and heavens-to-Betsy more superstitious than my grandfather, and this so frightened her that she ran to Pop's bedroom and woke him and said the sound meant Death was near. My grandfather told her to go back to bed, but knowing him, he was completely undone by her declaration. She insisted he walk the house with her to find the source of the sound, but they found nothing. My grandfather deposited her back in her bed next to my grandmother's bed, my grandmother who had been out of her mind for over a year at that point. The next night my grandmother died, choking on her medication after dinner - it was middle March and there was sleet falling and the Polish nurse ran from the house and waited in the dark cold driveway for her sister to pick her up and take her to the train station. Pop told her she could wait in the house, but she refused, Mr. Death was too close for her comfort.

So, i hated to leave my soup, but i ran down the hall and found one Hound Girl in my office with a very guilty look on her face - she had my loofah from the shower and was getting ready to tear into it. There was nothing broken in the room - no shards of glass anywhere. I took the loofah from her and she followed me down the hall. I found my other Hound Girl standing in the hallway with that Veronica Lake smile, "What did you two break? I heard breaking glass . . . where is it?" They took off down the hall and asked to go outside. I let them out and proceeded to turn every light in the house on and found NOTHING. I returned to my soup and told myself that perhaps I was hearing things. Perhaps it was in the music i had been listening to. My heart began to pound. No. No. I heard glass breaking. Nothing else sounds like glass breaking.

I looked at the clock. My husband was a half hour into his Tai Chi class by now, but something frightened me,  i had found no source of the terrible sound. I went back to the soup. I lit the burner again, and like Julia prompted on page 41, I brought the stock to a simmer and set the timer for 20 minutes. The windows went black and thoughts of my husband's car in a ditch somewhere between here and there came to mind. I texted him, "Are you okay?" I asked. No reply - of course not, he's in Tai Chi class, i tell myself, or or or or, dead . . . the stock began to steam slightly and the hounds stared at me through the glass doors, "Yes, yes, come in." They wanted cookies and then it occurred to me i had not checked  the office downstairs, my husband's office, and i went down there, and it was terribly dark, and the dogs came with me, "Whatcha doin? Whatcha doin?" They always want to know, don't they? And I turned on the lights and I stared at his empty chair, and some weird sadness came over me and i burst into tears at the sight of all his computer monitors . . . there are so many, and they were dark, usually they are lit with terrible amounts of information on them, and then i moved his chair, and i heard a clank . . . a ting tang of glass . . . yes! his green banker's lamp was laying on the floor under the blinking lights of our servers, it was in a million pieces on the tile floor. I exhaled. And then my phone made that high pitched "the Quiche is done" signal . . . and it was him, my good husband texting me, "I'm on my way home."

The dogs stood in a small battalion at the foot of the stairs, "Well?" I asked them.

"Trick or Treat!"


Anonymous said...

"Fungus stock" is preferred by nine out of ten ghouls Boooo! Ummmm, so your house is haunted. Yikers.


Mr Brown said...

any dish, correctly prepared from that cookbook contains a sliver of the pure essence of western cooking.

i have stood for a while with the lonely peasant far from any village with his crust of black bread and a cup of this fabulous, exotic (though composed of the humblest ingredients) tasting brew, the aroma alone so filled with milkfat it coats your moustache.

my head is so engorged with fungus i lie down next to the old woman from our village who collects the mushrooms. you dont want to be on her bad side. i inhale, and the air moves over gilled ribs covered with tiny spores and sticky, dark earth.

the milk, the cream, the stock from the chicken from the yard and the goats (or maybe you have a cow): the butter in great yellow heaps. herbs and everyone, absolutely every single person living in europe has a pot of it on the fire.

in the cities, they refine all things, until the masters and their ladies' sit by starched lined and take tiny, perfect sips of the speciality of the maison: Potage Veloute Aux Champignons.

anyone sould be thrilled to find a bowl of this stuff at the end of a long, dark ride through november.