There's a fine line between rustic and lazy.
I like to think of myself as the former but we know the truth and when it comes to cooking I'm no different. I have friend WHO HAS A CHILD and she has the nerve to run marathons in the am, then concocts strange things like mozzarella balloons and pizza flowers all afternoon. Whilst wearing outfits. Then she PHOTO-DOCUMENTS it all with light umbrellas and writes huge paragraphs about it. As if.
I can barely get the makeup off from the day before. The mozzarella and I have an agreement with the grater that it will be in charge and I won't have to consider the cheese for longer than the time it takes to throw it on the pizza crust and get it into Evan's mouth so that terrible jackhammer noise will stop coming out of it (did we really say "MOM" this many time a day when we were little?)
Until that trough that Evan buries his face in every eleven minutes has been removed, we go with bulk. He eats a terrifically well-balanced and organic diet, but it is in no way a precious one. I do, in fact, make the tortillas, but if I had to mill the masa Evan would starve to death. No shit. It requires some serious ass-grinding to produce the amount of food just one person eats in a day. What if you were the Brady Bunch, or Octomom? It'd be like Auschwitz in America. I might have just stumbled upon the world's greatest diet. Check back in a year. Not a lot of chub-chubs on Little House on the Prairie is my point.
Everything I cook must be done in the space of me dropping off and me picking up. Once the monkey has been released all I can do is follow him and clean up the traveling mess he leaves behind like Pigpen on Charlie Brown. Dinner is in the frig ready to go when Daddy gets home. No one is hand-rolling bucatini up in this mother, let's just say and even though I think Rachel Ray is a hack I get why so many women turn to her to tell them how to feed those evil parasites who live in your home and make piles of laundry.
I check out cookbooks from the library. They are evenly split between the fiction of what I wish I could throw down if I had a week to get the hen inside the quail inside the............and the non-fiction of the Bittman and Batali. Gordon Ramsey has lots of casseroles. Nigella gets me with her great hair. No matter. We eat the same things over and over because Mama simply can't keep up. Rustic or lazy?
Whatever my style, there are things that require long amounts of cooking. Things I cannot get around because I am from Texas and the good Lord would not have made the pigs and cows so F-banging tasty if he didn't want us to roast them for 10 hours over slow heat. Lard is your friend, my friend. Don't let those crazy vegans fool you.
I'm on a pork belly kick. A rich cut of meat that's cheap as the Jesus. You can use every rendered drop and scrap making it well worth the $3 per lb. it'll set you back. The trick is to get the butcher at Whole Foods to hand it over since he's probably saving it for bacon and won't want to have to order more. Wear makeup and be prepared to grovel is all I'm saying.
If you've never cooked Babe's tummy, here's the deal: 3 lbs. will take 10-ish hours at 275 to melt all the fat away. You will be left with about 10 ounces of meat. I know. This is one of those times where Mama is neither rustic nor lazy. The thing with this little jewel is that we all have to share it. It's the key flavor profile but not the main portion. It goes into enchiladas or salads or pastas. It glistens. It loves you. It will be gone before you know it.
When I make it I resign myself to the fact that there will never be enough for me to stuff down my own gullet. It is The Giving Tree of pork.
With that in mind, I decide my Turkey Day contribution will be a belly-fried rice with Gai Lan and all her friends at the 99 Ranch. ( Did you know that there is an Asian store somewhere near you BEGGING to sell you vegetables at half the price of whatever chain you ho down at? Pay more if it makes you feel important. Otherwise, go get a catfish & some bok choy and kill your own dinner tonight.)
I usually go overboard planning my part of the dinner and am always the one wrapping spring rolls at the last second while the crowd is gathered in the other room telling me to hurry up. Not this year. All the work was happening in my oven on Wednesday. I steamed the rice, chopped the veg and checked the braising liquid a few times. Done, done and done, son, now who's got the weed?
Nick's aunt's house is huge and we all sprawl in different corners with different colors of wine until the time to cook is upon us. The salmon is dill-ed and lemon-ed, the brussel sprouts are caramelized. I pull out the cooled rice and greens and start rifling through the frig looking for the pork belly. Not on the shelf where I put it, not in the deli drawer. A check of the counters turns up nothing.
Honey. I can't find the pork belly.
It's gotta be there. Look again.
You're the one with glasses, fool. IT'S NOT THERE.
His aunt is setting out serving dishes and asks what's the what. When I tell her I can't find my pork, all the blood drains out of her face. Oh shit, she ate it. Is my first thought. Which bothers me in no way other than the ass-chewing I'm going to get from Nick while she's in the bathroom for the next four hours crapping out a cup of fat.
Blessed angels sing me some Barry Manilow because she did not throw the piggy down her throat, she tossed it in to the crockpot with the turkey breast. Which unfortunately had just been shredded apart, making identification impossible.
She really felt bad. And I really felt bad that she felt bad because I DID NOT CARE. That's right. It's The Giving Pork people. The one I was never going to get to eat anyway. The one whose raison d'etre was simply to make other foods better.
It was the turkey soup's lucky day.
In five years, I will probably still be offering assurances that I really didn't mind at all. That it's no big deal.
Between you and me, it's a HUGE deal. It was the best mothaeffing soup you've ever had starring a GD turkey for F sake. Melted pork belly turns the veg into gravy so it's more like turkey stew, which you could never make because the bastards just don't have the right kind of fat to emulsify without help.
So do it next year. Make the pork. Keep it in the frig. And that Friday, without hesitation, do it, man. Throw it in the pot with the carrots, onions, celery and sage. Smack that little voice in your head screaming MINEMINEMINE. It's a selfish priss who never had playdates. Share the pig. Share. The. Pig.
-dedicated to VMad. Academy-Award nominated actress and Turkey Soup Master. xoxo