A few years ago, Pete and I started saving beef bones, chicken, duck and turkey carcasses and all sorts of vegetable ends for stocks. During the winters, when everyone stays home and farts, simmering stocks humidify the house and freshen up stale smells. During the summer, though, simmering stocks and boiling them a second time to jar in New Jersey tends to make a body feel sweaty and homicidal. We needed stocks for good meals and to make the most of our hard-won resources, so skipping the step and moving directly to the cocktail hour was out of the question. We needed a better system.
During the summers, we freeze our ends, bones and carcasses. Once the weather cools off, we make stocks, use some and pressure can the rest. Our house is more humid and smells better. No one is extra-murdery. We make excellent use of expensive foodstuffs, first in a meal, then in leftovers, then in stocks. If the stock is vegetarian, the used vegetables can go into the composter to later enrich our soils and gardens. Today, we jarred three quarts of shrimp and three more of vegetable stock. Our future meals will be better. The house smells far less farty than in other Decembers. It’s a total win-win. Bonus: soup!
My son-in-law Mr. Sasha is back from Afghanistan. When Miss Sasha picked up Mr. Sasha at the airport this afternoon, my entire family was able to exhale for the first time in six months. For me, it was like hyperventilating in reverse. Now I can get on with other things like packing on a few pounds and taunting dumb people on the internet, though now that I think about it that could just be a Tuesday.
Somewhere on campus, a biochem grad student teaching an intro level course has offered his students extra credit for donating boxes of non-perishable foodstuffs to the unnamed university’s food pantry/adopt-a-family project. This afternoon, the grad student’s offer produced the interesting result of a young woman at the Circ Desk in the library where I work, offering materials for our project families. The perplexed department supervisor called me, asking that I come from my lair in a dark corner of the basement to cope with this terrifying crisis. At first, I didn’t understand why she had come from a biochem class to this corner of the campus, a humanities library, but she spoke slowly and explained in tiny words that she would leave the foodstuffs with me in exchange for a letter including her name and student number and describing what she was donating. A letter? I write letters all day and I was pretty confident I could do that, so I accepted the bag and quick-walked her back to my lair. She said, “I didn’t know this part of the building existed,” and “You’d think this would smell funny,” as I laid out the donations and typed up a list, added her details and signed my name. She promised she would return with more donations. I thanked her effusively and took the bag of donations to a department where the collecting was going a bit slowly. The perplexed department head examined each item with an expression of wonder. It doesn’t matter why the student suddenly appeared. She did, when someone needed her to, when inspiration was needed. Somewhere, a biochem grad student has filled other rooms with light.
That is the kind of surprise I can live with.