Wow. I just wrote several hundred words for my first-ever blog post and had it disappear. Wow. Ok. Again.
So otherwise, this has been an idyllic Saturday. Grandma stayed over last night and through today to entertain the boys while me and Mr. Crump did our thing, puttering and practicing, laundry and loose ends. Now he is putting them to bed for the last time in 3 ½ weeks as he leaves tomorrow for a European tour. And I am sipping red wine, of which I’m normally not a huge fan (scandal!) but which makes perfect sense on a very cold February night with and following a dinner of venison, farro and butternut squash.
Sounds gourmet, right? And it was pretty durn good, if I do say so myself. But for me the main charm of this meal was the fact that it required so few decisions.
See, I am blessed with a professional life of much autonomy and, erratic income aside, great control. I write my own songs and sing them my own way. I decide what, where, how, when and with whom I do my job. I get to work hard and work meaningfully, while also getting to spend enormous amounts of time with my family. I am constantly conscious of what a privilege this is, while I am also always burdened by all the question marks and ever-shifting schedules, priorities, bank balances.. Such is life.
Then there is food. It is enormously important to me, politically, spiritually, aesthetically, and so on. I love to eat it and to prepare it, and I hate to waste it. And the less money I can spend and the fewer decisions I can make in the course of that, the better. Shopping stresses me out, but I love our famous local Park Slope Food Coop because selection is rather small (by expansive American standards) and discounts are big. When late spring comes, I love our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share, which comes delivered to our older son Maceo’s school every Thursday afternoon. The produce is harvested that morning from a farm 3 hours north, paid for already, delivered to a site four blocks away — and I don’t have to choose! Beets, arugula, garlic scapes, chard, parsley, celeriac, radishes, onions, fennel, who knows? – whatever — it’s mine and I’ll figure out what to do with it. It won’t go to waste and I didn’t have to decide anything, past when I signed up months before.
The CSA season is sadly months away, but tonight’s meal presented itself without angst. We eat mostly plants these days, but the venison steaks came frozen and gift-wrapped as a Christmas gift from my cousins, who shot the deer somewhere near Delaware and subsequently lightened my meal-deciding burden by several nights now and in the future. I’ll trust the deer had a relatively wild and free life before it was purposefully and quickly brought down.
The butternut squash did represent a decision, but not a fresh one as it had been purchased and 1/3 cut away to be cooked with black beans and tortillas more than a week ago. It was time to finish it. The farro (really just a type of whole wheat berries with more protein, nutrients and integrity than the white powdery stuff we in the West are drowning in to our growing weight and diminishing health) was the remainders of a bag also partly eaten, and really just needed to be taken care of.
I know little of venison but that it likes to be marinated, so I opened a gift bottle of unspecial red wine rejected by Mr. Crump, and covered the two thick steaks with most of it, plus some olive oil, a sliced shallot, garlic, and some allspice and juniper berries we had left over from Christmas turkey brining. Some pear and apple slices had been abandoned by the boys and turning brown on a plate for hours since breakfast, so – no big decision here – I sliced them thinner and dumped them in the bowl to sit in the fridge for a spell.
The squash was cubed and tossed in a pan with olive oil, salt and some ground spice from a bag whose label had long faded, but which Mr. Crump (who wanted to throw it away) suspected was coriander. Either way, it was mixed in and placed in a 400º oven, which a call to Crump’s brother in Tennesee revealed was just the right temperature in which to finish the hot pan-seared steaks. OK!
The farro was non-descript boiled in water and salt, but tasty after being drained and stirred into the sautéed remnants of the bloody winey shallots and fruit of the marinade.
Yes, it was good! And cheap. And nothing was wasted.
..though stovetop alongside all this successful and fairly sophisticated culinary improvisation were small pans of leftover boxed macaroni and cheese for the young nay-sayers. Well, to his credit Maceo did have all his venison and squash. We’ve given up trying with 3 year old Van, for now..
Gotta stay humble.