I know, the family food blog is Madison House Chef, but it seems to me that talking about food every now and then on this blog seems to make perfect sense. In this particular case the item in question makes a great deal of sense, as the idea behind Letting It Breathe is that it is vitally important for us to slow down, think for a bit and enjoy a slightly less frenetic pace.
Which brings us, quite logically, to stock.
No, not that canned or boxed stuff that you buy in the grocery store. Real stock, the stuff that you make at home. It is not difficult, it just takes a bit of time - something that most people say that they don't have (but actually have more of than they would like to admit - for if you are truly honest, you have found novel ways of wasting time all the while convincing yourself that you are not wasting time - as I string out this parenthetical to absurd lengths, let me posit that we rarely actually waste time, we may not be being as constructive about certain projects as we ought (or as we think we should), but that does not mean that the time spent in other pursuits is actually wasting time - sometimes our brains need a break, we need to let it get a bit squishy doing seemingly foolish or banal things). All you have to do is take the bones of some roasted beast or fowl, add some veg (whatever is at hand, really) and a good bit of water, heat the oven to something like 185 degrees, throw the lot into a pot or large pan and leave it to work its magic over a good number of hours (put it in right before bed and take it out in the morning when exploring the first cup of coffee). Strain the liquid through some cheesecloth (or a clean kitchen towel), put it into some decent sealable container and freeze. Take it out to use whenever you are making rice, or soup, or some recipe that calls for stock.
Why? Because food tastes better when it is cooked with or in a liquid other than plain water. Especially when you know that you did something very simple that provides the kind of flavors that you would happily pay good money for at a nice restaurant. There is a reason that most restaurants always have stock simmering in the kitchen - because it improves the taste of food, and imparts a nice little bit of nutrition along the way.
There is something wonderful about taking plain tap water and stuff that you would routinely pitch out in the trash and turning it into that subtle bit that makes whatever you are making that much better. All it takes is a bit of work and time.
For me, stock is not only a lovely addition to our culinary exploration and life, it is a tidy little bit of metaphor for how we let the various things that are around us seep into who we are and flavor us in the long process of contemplation and reflection. We start to take on that which we are immersed in, not completely, but certainly it slowly and subtly changes the way we see the world and the way the world sees us.
Of course, the metaphor breaks down in that we are not mere passive receivers of the stuff that sloshes around us. We have the ability to make some conscious decisions about what effects us and how we are changed by the environment in which we live. We have the ability to shape how we are shaped by our environment. That does take a bit of work, and it demands from us an awareness of what is going on around us and how we are reacting to what is going on around us. This is certainly not an impossible task, but many seem rather inclined to not bother - they just react, they don't reflect or respond. Why bother contemplating all of what flows around us? Why bother making stock?
Make no mistake though, we are shaped, subtly and not so subtly, by the environment in which we live, and we had best be aware of each of the various ingredients. Understanding who we are and how we came to be who we are should be one of those things to which we pay close attention.
A bit much in light of the fact that I started by talking about stock? Probably, but these are the kinds of things that have been kicking around my head whilst watching a lovely pan of turkey stock slowly cooking in the oven. Shouldn't these be the kinds of things that one thinks about over the Thanksgiving weekend? It makes perfect sense to me.
Time, a good number of ingredients, all making something plain into something far more complex, far more interesting. This is a good thing. For stock and for us.