Monday, January 10, 2011

PRICELESS DAYS AHEAD


There is a treasure of golden light washing across the river. Some might say it is just another dawn arriving from over the little hill to the east, but I say it is a sign of priceless days ahead. 

Of course, all days are priceless—each more valuable than the one before simply because our individual allotment now has one less in the queue. After a week of various doctor appointments, an outpatient visit to the hospital, a couple of business meetings, the usual writing deadlines, and several days of intermittent Internet service—not to mention the lingering effects of my Christmas cough et cetera, which eventually necessitated a full day's bed rest, and may require another down day before I've shaken the thing—I've finally made it back to my desk…at least temporarily. I can't say I'm starting off the week bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but I'm at least vertical and optimistic.         

It has snowed again since my last post. Not much, maybe an inch or a bit more, just enough to cover the grass with an unbroken layer of white. Along with the snow came cold—15 ˚F as I write this, though early yesterday morning, it got down to 7˚F, the coldest day we've had so far this winter. River pools and back eddies are forming slush, and places where the water is still already have a mirrored lid of clear ice.

Early this morning, when I stepped out to allow Moon the Dog to go snuffling off into the pre-dawn darkness while I checked seed and suet feeders and scattered a couple of scoops of cracked corn on the ground, I noticed a surprising dampness—unusual when temperatures are this low. Typically, I only notice a dampness to the cold when it's within a degree or two of freezing; colder is drier. Maybe it's just me and my compromised respiratory system.   

Yesterday I fixed a cassoulet in the small cast-iron Dutch oven I received as a Christmas gift. Cassoulets aren't difficult, nor do they take much prep work, but they do require time. One of the secrets to this most famous of French dishes—essentially a bean and meat stew—is the hours of slow cooking which renders the beans creamy without breaking them apart, all the while melding the flavors of the various vegetables. Served with a golden pone of homemade corn bread, it was the perfect fireside meal on a snowy January day.
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34 comments:

Cicero Sings said...

Hmmm, a cassoulet - I've never tried one -but I think you've inspired me to give one a go. I do believe I saw a recipe in my French cook book....

Carolyn H said...

Griz: i hope you are soon bright-eyed and bush-tailed!

Carolyn H.

Linda said...

Glad you're feeling better, Grizz. My husband's been sick since Christmas, too. Fortunately, he's retired; so he can rest without worrying about getting behind in his job. That meal you prepared sounds good enough to cure what ails you. :)

Freda said...

Thanks for reminding me to look around at the beauty and specialness of each day.

The Solitary Walker said...

Glad to hear you are on the mend. Stay vertical. And save me some of tht cassoulet. Please!

George said...

Glad to hear you are vertical and optimistic, Grizz. That alone is reason enough for any of us to be grateful, though I certainly hope you are back to your full, robust self soon.

Cassoulet, cornbread, and a warm fire on a winter evening. That sounds like the best of times. Incidentally, I am delighted that people are now beginning to rediscover the pleasures of slow cooking, as well as doing other things slowly. We need many things in this world, but more speed is not one of them.

Gail said...

Grizz- your bean and meat cassoulet sounds so yummy and with cornbread too!! Oh my, I am puddy in your hands. :-)

Good to know you are upright and on the mend. phew. We had a blast of snow Friday and are bracing for a Nor'Easter Tuesday into Wednesday promising about 18". So glad Skipp is off those days. We are headed to the grocery store early in the morning. And have a lasagna defrosting, home made of course for Wednesday - a nice bottle of red wine, some candles and music, a fire roaring and it is the perfect mood and evening. Speaking of such, I wrote a new post which was inspired by a comment I left on your blog the other day. When you get a moment, take a look and you will see what and why. :-)
I love the picture of the river all icy gold - stunning and bright. And I love you too.
Gail
peace......

Grizz………… said...

Cicero…

I don't think there's ever been a book on French cooks that DIDN'T include a cassoulet recipe. Some of them are pretty fancy. But keep in mind three things and you wont's go far wrong:

1. Cassoulets are historically and essentially peasant food. Simple, basic, fresh ingredients prepared lovingly. If a recipe looks like it's better suited to a 5-star city restaurant rather than a rural farmhouse, find another recipe.

2. The mix should be at least as much meat as beans, and some of it needs to be fatty—hence the use of duck, goose, bacon, sausage, etc. in many recipes. Other vegetables are additional and the mix varies, but onions and garlic are always in there.

3. S-l-o-w cooking is the secret. Soak your beans overnight beforehand. Then figure on somewhere around 7 hours at 300˚, quite possibly longer.

Grizz………… said...

Carolyn…

Me, too. I'm tired of coughing and feeling bad.

Thank you.

Grizz………… said...

Linda…

What I probably need to do is go to bed for a week. Of course, that's not happening. So, I have to drag this out until whatever bug I've picked up ties of the game and moves on.

Good food is, indeed, good medicine.

Grizz………… said...

Freda…

Quite honestly, I was reminding myself, as well. It's all too easy to get caught up in whatever squeaky wheel needs grease, and forget to simply gawk in gratitude and wonder at the day you'll never ever see again.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

I'm doing my best on the vertical part…but that cassoulet has about one more round left. Not to worry, though—I can always make another. Bet you've sampled some dandies during your rambles.

Grizz………… said...

George…

I seem to make a little progress each day—so I'm headed in the right direction. But I'm not a patient patient, nor a particularly good one, though God knows I have plenty of experience.

I've cooked all my life, and slow cooking has always been at the core of many of my favorite dishes. But you're right, the foodies are currently "rediscovering" slow cooking, and the truth is there's simply no substitute for time when it comes to preparing many delicious things.

Slow is better for a lot of things besides food, as you point out. (I still would like to get well fast, though.)

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

I expect either of us would feel right at home at the other's table. It always sounds to me like you fix some pretty great stuff—plus you like to make a meal a family experience with love, laughter, and peace.

I will stop by your place, for sure. I haven't been on my computer more than a moment or two this past week beyond the necessary column work; any comments I made to other blogs—and there were only one or two—were made via my i-pod, generally from a recumbent position.

One of the things I so enjoy during the winter is watching the light as it plays off the river—every day, every hour, sometimes every minute, is different.

Hilary said...

That does indeed sound delicious and a lovely way to spend the day. I hope you're entirely better before too long. That photo is absolutely stunning!

Grizz………… said...

Hilary...

It was as good a meal as it sounds, too. Comfort food at its best. As for the healing, I guess that's just going to take time. I am getting better, albeit slowly. Morning or evening, this pool, which is directly in front of the cottage, reflects some often stunning light, in every color of sun and sky.

Arija said...

So nice to read about normal daily doings. Here we are praying for the people of Queensland where three quarters of the state is under water and a raging inland tsunami has carried houses, cars, trucks and shipping containers before it to devastation, even a large cabin cruiser was swept away by the current. Loss of life is rising daily and many people are unaccounted for as well. A great part of the neighbouring state of New South Wales is also under water. The pictures we are seeing are heartbreaking. So many houses with water lapping over the eves and immense destruction of agriculture and agricultural machinery. Fruit and vegetables normally supplied by there states have already doubled in price and are becoming scarce.

The whole country is affected by this crisis.

So good to see the normality of the golden shimmer of your river securely within its banks.

Jayne said...

Glad to hear you are feeling stronger my friend. That meal sounded divine. :c)

Rowan said...

That's a beautiful photograph. Glad you are feeling a little better but you obviously need to take things slowly for a while yet. There's nothing like a long slow cooked casserole on a cold winter day, I make a lot of them in winter using braising steak and root vegetables - cassoulet is a French version of the same thing using beans isn't it? Tastes good whatever you call it:)

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

That is, indeed, quite a tragedy unfolding in Queensland—and the end isn't in sight. I feel so sorry for those folks, all they've lost, being displaced and all. It is just heartbreaking. I hope those now missing will be found alive, and that somehow each and every one will find the will to pick up and face tomorrow with courage and thankfulness that they've at least still got one another. Buildings and such can be replaced; families can't. They need our prayers and any other support we can give. No matter where on the globe we live, we're all brothers and sisters under the skin.

There is great comfort in the normalcy of the everyday—something we may not realize and appreciate until it's disrupted..

Grizz………… said...

Jayne…

Thank you. I'm plugging along toward the light. Meanwhile, there are worse panaceas for what ails than a good meal.

Grizz………… said...

Rowan…

You're right, patience when it comes to being sick isn't one of my strong points—but I know these things take time.

I absolutely love hearty soups, stews, and casseroles, too, and and have a dozen or more of each that I make regularly. They're particularly great fare during the cool/cold months. And you're correct, a cassoulet is essentially a meat/bean stew or casserole, though when compared to most stews, slightly on the drier side.

Merisi, Vienna said...

This is such a beautiful images, and I love the story you have woven along it!

Congratulations on winning the Post of the Week Award!

Grizz………… said...

Merisi…

Thank you. I tried to capture not only the look of the light, but also its "feel," just as a certain light in a room can influence the mood and ambiance. By the way, I love your images, and I especially liked those from the Caf√© Frauenhuber. As to winning the Post of the Week Award, I had no idea, nor do I know from whom. Your mention is the first I've heard about it—but I appreciate it, nevertheless.

Brian Miller said...

what a wonderful pic...and inspiring write...hope you are better soon and congrats on the potw...

Out on the prairie said...

Sometimes I like that cornbread at the bottom of the bowl. A good dish to help get rid of the crud. Nice capture

Grizz………… said...

Brian…

Hey, thank you. Glad you enjoyed your visit to the riverbank. You're always welcome.

Grizz………… said...

Out on the prairie…

Soup beans and cornbread—the latter often crumbled in chunks on the plate or the bottom of a bowl and the beans ladled over—is classic hillbilly fare, and dang near unbeatable if served with slices of onion. Got for whatever ails you anytime, and then some.

Cassoulet is, being French, theoretically more refined, a dub classier. Well, nahhhh, it's just great peasant food from a country who worships cheese and wine and believes to eat well is to live well and practices what they preach. Cornbread, on the side, in, or under goes just fine—and did, trust me.

ethelmaepotter! said...

You had me at "...a treasure of golden light washing across the river."
Perfect accompaniment to that amazing photo.
Vertical and optimistic - that's me, too. Two back-to-back serious infections have left me too weak to do much except write and watch tv.
Congrats on POTW!

Grizz………… said...

ethelmaepotter!…

First off, thank you for your lovely comments. I'm glad you found your way to this riverbank and enjoyed the post.

I've been reading some of your blog posts, and ambling off down various links to other blogs…and had quite a time. Like you, I'm still trying to get over an infection, though it's slow going (or I'm impatient) and I get frustrated when I try to do too much and start myself on a coughing jag again.

Anyway, please visit here as often as you like—you're always welcome.

CherylK said...

Oh, that's such a pretty picture! A worthy choice for POTW, that's for sure!

I'm sorry you were under the weather and am happy you're on the mend.

I love a cassoulet, too. Comfort food at its best.

Grizz………… said...

CherylK…

Thank you. Sometimes, all I have to do is point the camera and push the shutter. FYI, I am feeling a bit better; it's a gradual deal, but heading in the right direction. And I have no doubt that cassoulet helped!

Snappy Di said...

Your photo looks like On Golden Pond. Very lovely light on the water.

Congratulations on your POTW mention over at Hilary's The Smitten Image.

Di

Grizz………… said...

Snappy Di …

Thank you…and thank you for dropping by. You're always welcome.