It is autumn, and we are purging and nesting and steeling ourselves for the onslaught of the holidays and the grinding tedium of the coming winter. And in the midst of it all, we continue apace slogging through wedding stuffs. It is a time to make oneself very busy, and to ignore the gathering shadows.
An overwhelming season, all in all. Besides the planning and nesting, there is also going to work and keeping ourselves afloat and all of the other workaday nonsense that makes up the vast majority of human existence. We all deal with it, and we all have our own ways of working out our anxieties in the little bits of off time that we’re granted. Sometimes, we work out. Sometimes, we sit and read in the big comfortable chair by the window. Sometimes, we drink. And on occasion, we take those little bits of flexible time and press them together and if we are lucky, those spare bits of time form a full day of free time. We concocted one of these free days over last weekend, and went up into the mountains. At a particularly crowded orchard, we bought apples and sweet potatoes. Quite a bit of both. A comical amount, some might say. And, unwilling to admit that maybe I made a mistake in buying so many apples and sweet potatoes, I have instead decided to focus my energies on how to best go about using up this abundance.
I have eaten apples with bleu cheese and cut up with other fruit. I have baked a couple of sweet potatoes. I have made sweet potato fries. I made a large apple-sweet potato bake, and will be eating it for some time. Probably on my own.
I will also be giving away applesauce at some point.
And then, stretching perhaps, I came up with this recipe for beef stew, using apples and sweet potatoes. It’s very good, and it kept me busy for a number of hours in the kitchen when I otherwise could have been working or stressing out about all of the things in my life that make me uncomfortable. I share this recipe now with you, dear reader.
“[AUTUMNAL SOUNDING] BEEF STEW”
“I’M FINE (STEW)”
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
4 carrots, cut into one inch pieces
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 onions, chopped
1 bulb garlic, minced
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup red wine plus remainder of bottle to stabilize self after long day
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Ginger
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp white Pepper
2 tsp corn starch
You should probably start with a pot. I’ve got a Creuset, which is a very nice dutch oven that was gifted to me for Christmas one year (I could never have afforded it on my own.) Any will do, though. Seriously. Heat up a little bit of oil in the bottom of the pot. Throw the beef in to brown. Season it with salt and pepper. This will keep you busy for a few minutes. Open the bottle of wine at some point while the meat is cooking. Pour a little in a glass, and call Amy into the kitchen if she’s within earshot. If she shows up, offer her some. If she doesn’t, you’ll just have to do this alone. Sprinkle the flour over the meat once its browned.
At this point, you’ll want to add in the onions and garlic. Some people are prudes about garlic. They’ll say “a whole bulb? That seems like overkill.” And you’ll say, under your breath, or maybe just inside of your own head, “fuck you.” And you’ll be in the right. It’s a whole bulb. It will make your house smell. It will ward off the emotional vampires. The ones with opinions about your cooking. This is also probably the time you’ll want to toss in the turmeric and cinnamon and paprika and ginger and rosemary. So you can toast the spices. For some reason. Sip some wine. This shouldn’t be stressful.
After the Onions become transparent, add the cooking stock and the wine. Put a lid on the mess for a while. Turn it down to low to simmer. For an hour? Who knows. Now’s a good time to chop sweet potatoes and carrots and apples. Peel all of those things first, should you find it necessary. If the wine is working properly, it shouldn’t matter. Just dump all of the stuff in a bowl to the side until it’s time to add it.
Maybe now’s the time to go check on Amy? If you’ve been smart, you’ve saved her some wine. If you’ve been wicked smart, you bought a second bottle to give yourself a little wiggle room. She’s probably in the bedroom working on something, or researching caterers or places to rent silverware. She’ll ask your opinion, perhaps. At this point, you should probably have a few opinions. You owe her at least that. She went off to Charleston without you last week to introduce her mother to yours. Without you. You stayed home and worked and went to rehearsal and pretty much just did the same not-terribly-scary things you would normally do while she went to another city without any backup and introduced your mother to her mother which is terrifying. Not that either mother is a monster, mind you. They are both lovely women who have your best interests in mind and at heart. But people have written novels, plays, films about families intermingling for the first time. Think Romeo and Juliet. It’s inherently dramatic. And they were talking wedding stuff, too. And you missed it. So you should probably pipe the fuck up when she asks if you have an opinion. That is literally the very least you can do, asshole.
You honestly worry that you are not enough for her. Or worse, that you’re too much. Your career, which you spent so much of your adult life obsessing over, seems to be in free fall, and you’re just this big twisted knot all of the time, all worry and want and inferiority complex. And maybe you’ve always been this way? Why is she with you, anyway?
Stop thinking! She’s in the other room planning your wedding so you can’t be totally screwing this up.
Maybe don’t bother her just yet. You will not be useful. Sit on the floor in the kitchen with your wine. Watch the autumn sunbeams catch the dust motes in the kitchen on fire. Don’t watch for too long. You’ll get melancholy, and then it’s all downhill. Besides, an hour has passed, surely, so it’s time to put the other chopped vegetables into the stew.
Cover again. Let simmer. Let simmer for a long time. An hour, or a lifetime. Did you notice that the sunlight slants differently than it did a month ago? And that the light is paler? And that it’s getting dark so much earlier. It is time to dust off all of the ol’ coping mechanisms. Winter’s coming. You should start exercising again. And pick out a few books. Get back into a steadier writing routine. Yeah, you’re busy, but you can still find time. Also, this. Cooking. Cooking for someone. She’s in the other room! Planning the rest of your life! That’s nice! Add that to the list of coping mechanisms: take part in the planning of your own future with the person who loves you.
When vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Ladle into bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring bowl to her in the other room with whatever wine is left over.
Serves 6-8, or 2 for a few days.