Every morning, my dog, Stanley, gets up from our bed and heads downstairs to his other bed, which is actually this fabulous blanket I bought because Oprah told me to! Stanley’s migration is sort of an apt representation of 2020. In a miasma of malaise, I shuffle from one room to the next, confined to the walls of here. Not to say there hasn’t been joy, laughter and good food, but, man, anxiety has long arms!
Here are a few things to help push back!
Tell you what, I sure miss going to see live theater. I miss being a member of an audience and feeling all the feels in community. I miss watching actors on the stage, doing so much for me. And so, I’m going to read a bunch of plays this December. Who knows, it may strengthen my dialog game. If you’ve got some favorite plays, please do share with me. Here’s my list so far:
How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel
The story of a woman who learns the rules of the road and life from behind the wheel. Wildly funny, surprising and a devastating tale of survival, a sexual coming of age through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as seen through the provocative lens of a troubling relationship between a young girl and an older man.
Red, John Logan.
Red tells the story of Mark Rothko and his assistant, as he tries to create a definitive work for the Rothko Chapel in Houston.
Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar
The story of a Pakistani-American lawyer rapidly moving up the corporate ladder while distancing himself from his cultural roots. When Amir and his wife Emily, a white artist influenced by Islamic imagery, host a dinner party, what starts out as a friendly conversation escalates into something far more damaging.
I also want to read something by Sarah Ruhl. The plays I mention are pretty heavy, got a comedy for me? Please?
I am on the edge of my seat, waiting to pick up my copy of Charles Baxter’s new novel, The Sun Collective. The NYTs review says this: “Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship.” It seems relationship is what I am most interested in right now, and, well, always!
I go out on stage and say what everyone is thinking. -Carl Reiner
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. -James Baldwin
And there you go, Baldwin and Reiner elucidate why it is I write, why it is I read, and why I hold literature in the highest regard. Writing is a sacred act. In being as honest as I can on the page, and then pushing harder, peeling back self-protective layers, stripping away my ego (oh dear, I’m not as smart as I think I am, I can be that cruddy, that petty, that careless) I have the potential to make another human feel less alone when faced with their failings and foibles. If I go out on the page and admit the truth of human experience as I know it, as I’ve witnessed and lived it, I am saying what everyone is thinking. By saying it first, I’m giving readers permission to feel it and think it too! In community we can survive the hard stuff we’d rather not know about ourselves. In community there is safety.
I encourage you to put a little post-it in your writing space. You can quote Reiner or Baldwin. Or, you can simply write: TELL THE TRUTH HARDER.
Turns out I’ve been making flaccid chicken stock all these years. Leave it to Bill Buford (do yourself a favor and click the link, a charming video of him cooking w/his twin teenaged boys) and New Yorker magazine to set me straight.
I have stacks of NYer magazines teetering around my home. Yes, I’ve read nearly all the cartoons (though I never come up with a clever caption for the cartoon contest), 40% of the short stories, 35% of the poems, 90% of the film and tv reviews, an occasional article (Jelani Cobb!! Ariel Levy!! Adam Gopnik!!). But, my relationship with the NYer is troubled. I’m a person who likes the idea of me reading the NYer, hence, when I don’t, I feel bad about myself. So, I only renewed for the digital version. Then covid hit and somehow I signed up for newsletters, and who knew, the NYer taught me to make a robust chicken stock!
I offer this to you today, because tomorrow, many of us will have a turkey carcass lying around.
Brown Chicken Stock
- 2 onions
- A handful each of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley
- 6 stalks celery
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 6 carrots
- 7 pounds chicken bones and carcass, plus (optional) neck and back of turkey
- A spoonful (or two) of honey
- A few splashes white wine (I had none open, so I skipped the honey and used madeira wine instead)1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a large roasting pan on the middle rack2. Set a sauté pan over low heat, without fat or oil. Peel and halve onions. Place each half, cut-side down, in pan and leave to brown slowly. After 5 minutes, peek underneath one; if there is no color, increase heat. Once onions are thoroughly browned (10 to 20 minutes), carefully remove and set aside. Browned, the onions have a deeper flavor and will strengthen the color of the sauce.
3. Make a bouquet garni of the herbs and 2 of the celery stalks and bind with twine. Roughly chop the remaining celery and place in a large stock pot w/ bouquet garni, onion, garlic, and carrots.
4. Add bones to heated roasting pan. (If it’s hot enough, you won’t need fat or oil.) Roast until bones are browned on the bottom, 15 to 30 minutes, and then flip, using a flexible spatula to lift the pieces off the pan without losing the browned skin. Repeat regularly until bones are almost thoroughly cooked, but be careful—if the bones burn, they are useless. Add the bones to the pot with the vegetables.
5. Deglaze the roasting pan by placing it over high heat, pouring in white wine to cover, bringing to a boil, and scraping up browned bits from the bottom.
6. Fill pot with enough water to cover bones. Set over high heat and bring almost to a boil, then turn heat to the lowest setting and skim. The broth should be less than simmering. Continue to cook gently over low heat for 10 hours, or so, skimming occasionally, topping up as needed.
7. Pour the stock through a sieve into a new pot, set over medium heat, and, if you choose to further intensify flavor, you can reduce slowly, by at least half. Once completely cool, refrigerate, then freeze to have on hand for soups this winter.