Ode to Soapstone, Kate Lebo, and Beef Stock
Sunday, 7 March 2010
A month has passed since we left Soapstone, and I am finally ready to say goodbye. Please forgive the lapse in posts – breaking up is hard to do. I know that even escape grows old if it is your daily life, but I hadn’t quite hit the “I’m ready to miss this” moment at Soapstone before we left. What I am (mostly) over missing - the uninterrupted span of time to write. The daily rituals Kate and I perfected – late mornings of waking to start a fire and stoke a small pot fat with oatmeal, raisins and coconut for our lazy breakfast, trips to Bread and Ocean in Manzanita for coffee and a few good hours of writing, nighttime in some ocean-side pub for a beer or two and a basket of oysters, and of course, more writing.
I discovered a beautiful thing I’d like to call the One Beer Wonder – poems seemed to just tumble out on their own in the time it took me to polish off a pint of porter. This amounted to 23 new poems during our three week trip, a good number even if poems shouldn’t be quantified. I miss the river and the white noise it made all day and night. I miss spotting coyotes and eagles from the deck of the cabin. I miss the green, green, green of the forest we were blessed to live in.
I know now what a good residency feels like, and I also know that Kate is the best residency mate that any fool could dream up – we got along flawlessly, and helped work each other’s poems into pleasing shapes. The only real bummer of the trip? Kate got sick (from food poisoning, the Noro Virus, or some other evil malady) and the beef stock that she had made the night before illness bore her to the bathroom was promptly put in the freezer. I was pretty excited for Kate and I to make French Onion Soup – but the food you make the night before sickness often gets relegated to the no-eat zone, and this was the case for Kate and the stock.
On a day that I was especially sad over the loss of our magical writing residency, I decided to make some stock of my own to soothe my blues. This stock is an ode to Kate, Soapstone, the coyotes and all the poems we made. Food really is the best way out of sadness, sometimes.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine and Memory
- 4 pounds meaty organic grass fed beef bones (As Kate says, make sure the cow has been hugged to death)
- 2 onions, quartered and left unpeeled
- 2 medium or 1 and a half large carrots, quartered
- 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 1 fresh thyme bundle (4-5 sprigs)
- 1 bay leaf
- 15 1/2 cups cold water
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 cup dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Spread beef bones, onions, and carrot in a large flameproof roasting pan and roast, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 1 hour.
While shanks roast, wrap parsley, thyme, and bay leaf in kitchen string and tie to make a bouquet garni.
Transfer meat and vegetables to a 6- to 8-quart stockpot. Straddle roasting pan across 2 burners, then add 1 cup sherry and 1 cup water, and deglaze pan by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Add deglazing liquid to stockpot along with 14 cups water, celery, salt, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil and skim froth. Add remaining 1/2 cup water, then bring mixture to a simmer and skim froth. Simmer gently, uncovered, 5 hours.
Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, and discard solids. Stock should measure about 8 cups – if you have more than 8 cups, boil until reduced to 8 cups; add water if stock measures less than 8 cups. If using stock right away, skim off and discard fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming fat (it will be easier to remove when cool), then chill, covered.