Monday, November 15, 2010

Bone Soup

My vegetarian son has been working at a barbeque restaurant that doles out Austin hill country flavor like nobody outside of Austin. It's better than anything I've eaten in Austin, but that doesn't mean it's better than Austin, just that maybe I was at the wrong barbeque places or something.

Anyway, it was his first job, delivering barbeque. I had hoped it would suck mightily and convince him to re-apply himself academically. Unfortunately this job is a great success, and he was made delivery manager after a few months there. He was also made the staff representative for the delivery squad, which he takes very seriously, aware that his position in management requires him to go the extra mile for his worker pals.

The owners seem to like him for all the reasons a mother could wish; but I think they're also kind of proud to have a vegetarian on staff to vouch for the purity of the side dishes. Or "fixins," for the cognoscenti. The cooks seem to like him too, and when he tells them he's bringing home a short rib for his mother, they bring out the biggest, juiciest one. "Carlos" says, "Now I can say I gave your mom the big bone." The previous delivery manager left to have a baby, but her response to him ordering dinner for me was, "tell her to suck my dick!" Which son immediately texted me to ask me if I was interested. I guess he's grown up.

Anyway, I spent a deal of my childhood poor, so these big rib bones are too beautiful to pitch once that juicy, fatty, rich meat is off them. I throw them in my stock pot along with any other bones that find their way onto a plate, and boil the mess, then let it simmer for a few days, adding bones as the week progresses. Beef, pork, chicken, duck. As long as it's simmering, flavor is leaving the bones and entering my broth. As long as the lid is on it stays sterile. What you end up with is a smoky, dark, marrowy broth that hardly needs anything in it but a few bay leaves. I like to cut up any leftover smoked brisket, ham, sausage, duck, and short rib leftover from the week's meals. We live half a block from the farmers market so into the pot go the season's parsnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, green pepper, garlic, green onions, parsley, fresh thyme and oregano. Throw in some lentils and let it simmer.

My grandparents bought a farm right around when the Depression hit, and fed their extended family while growing a family of their own. This is as close as I get, mostly. We're going to be fine.

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