Monday, March 3, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Snatch

Onions are good. Chop a few onions, coarse chop so they’re still in chunks. And celery stalks. Mise en place, good rule to follow. Get all your needs and wants lined up before you even start so you know where you are going. That’s a likely story, knowing where I am going. Rinse the celery and cut into small pieces, about the same size as the onion cubes. Onions are good. No one knows...when you are slicing onions. No one sees, no one knows. Put the pieces in a bowl while I brown the chicken. Oh yes, don’t forget to brown the chicken pieces, the thighs, drumsticks, wings and neckbone.

Make the skin crispy while the fat melts into the pan, golden rich fat. The thighs are smooth and plumb, dark juicy meat you can sink your teeth into once they’re cooked. Brown them until the meat is al dente, flaking off the bone into your bowl, still in solid pieces, not gossamer light breast meat. Breast meat floats to the surface, pale and bland, easily overcooked. But thighs are full of flavor, toothsome. Like my thighs. Like when he used to bite my thighs, all suntanned and firm, many hours of walking or bike riding making the muscles long and hard, but with the meat striated between. Biting them, pulling them apart, shredding the meat with his teeth, sweetly resistant against his tongue.

Make sure the flame is high enough, so hot that flames lick up the sides of the pan. The fat will drip off the pieces, sputtering as they drip. Easy to get burned, fat can bounce right out of the pan and burn any part of me that is not protected. Have to remember to wear protective gear while cooking so I don’t have to worry about additional scarring. I am already scarred. And scared. I am scared all the time now. But I wasn’t scared then. I didn’t know I’d get new layers of scar tissue before the old ones had a chance to fully heal.

Remove the chicken pieces from pan and set them aside on a plate. Pour in the cubed onions and the celery. The celery will add texture. The onions will caramelize as the tears add an almost burnt sugar flavor. Keep cooking them, over a medium heat. Stir. Add some water, salted water, to the pot. Almost ready to add the broth and spices. Don’t need salt. I am making my own salt, my own broth. Standing over the pot, the steam leaches my tears. They hit the grease, the caramelized onions and sizzle, evaporate.

Slice the carrots into shoestrings and the parsnips into coins. There are two schools of thought on slicing vegetables: either everything should be cut into the same size and shape, or cut everything into as wide a variety of shapes and sizes as possible. Today, I am going for variety. I want things as varied as possible, as different as possible. I want to be able to pick and choose. The thought of everything being exactly the same, fitting into a neat mousehole makes me queasy. I am a geodesic peg and I don’t fit into anything. I don’t even try anymore.

The turnip. I’ll cut that into wedges. No one ever cuts a turnip into wedges. I want it my way. Not my mother’s way (thin slices) or his mother’s way (cubes, lots of little cubes) but my way. Wedges. This is my soup.

Pour in the holy water, toss in the soup greens. Add the browned, crispy chicken pieces back to the pot. Simmer. Skim the foam that rises to the top, the greyish speckled foam. It’s the exact color of, the exact same color as... and the soup greens, the bright green parsley and cilantro and dill... Oh god why do I have to remember that? Let me stir the soup. Add pepper, minced ginger, garlic powder. Stir, skim. Stir, skim. Taste. It has enough salt. Simmer.

Noodles. I forgot to make noodles. Alright, I’ll make them now while the soup simmers. Mix flour, water, egg. Dash of pepper. Mix it, knead it, roll it out. I wish I had my favorite rolling pin here, the tapered French maple pin, but I will settle for a child’s plastic pin I bought for a dollar to use on playdough. I just have to push a lot harder to get it to work. Nothing comes easy. It’s all work. Cut the noodle dough into strips and toss into the soup after it’s simmered for a bit and is almost done. Is it ever done or is it always almost done?

The noodles swirl and twist, a dance, over over, a convoluted dance, so tangled up. Why doesn’t he want to dance with me? Why doesn’t he love me anymore? Did he ever love me at all? What did I do wrong?

Oh hell. What did I ever do right?

It needs more salt. The noodles sucked up the salt. I’ll just stand here for a few minutes. It’ll be fine then. I’ll add the salt and the soup will be fine. In a few minutes. Yes, it will. It’ll all be fine.

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