This weekend we took the train to my mother's house, in
northern Westchester. She had been visiting my older brother and his family in
Pennsylvania. About ten days into her journey, she slipped in his kitchen while
moving chicken stock from the stove to the refrigerator and bruised her pelvis
so badly that the doctors first thought that she had broken it. She had packed
her bags for a two week trip and ended up staying about six weeks. She was
finally coming home on Saturday and we wanted to be there to greet her.
I took the day off from work on Friday. It takes us about
two hours to get from our house to hers. The kids were great on the train, and we
got to the house just in time for their midday naps, which didn't quite work
After a quick run to Target for cars seats, we strapped them
into my late father's Chevrolet and took them to Muscoot Farm, a wonderful little county park with
lots of sheep, chickens, turkeys, cows, horses, and other animals. The
following day, we visited the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, where they collected
sticks and climbed on rocks.
The house has a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and lots of space (Nina asked me
why there were so many bedrooms) and my favorite feature, a verdant back yard
(at one point, Santa Maria asked me if I was watching the kids, and I said
"No, they're playing out back. This is why people move to the
It was a great visit. My mother came home Saturday afternoon
and we had dinner with her before heading back to the city early on Sunday. She
was glad to be at home, and to see us. The food had been terrible at the
rehabilitation center. No fresh fruit.
We brought some staples with us--a quart of frozen Bolognese,
the left-over pork, and a vegetable soup that I had made for Santa Maria
earlier in the week--so there wasn't much work to do when we were there. I got
to prance around and tout my contributions to our quality of life, which caused
Santa Maria to smile and roll her eyes.
We enjoyed ourselves until Sunday morning. The kids woke at 5 a.m., and the laundry that Santa Maria had put in the dryer the
night before wasn't quite dry. I didn't have any clothes to wear. The kids
needed to be dressed. The sun wasn't up yet. Santa Maria and I started to
quarrel. I got angry and we really started to fight.
In the midst of it, Nina asked "What was wrong
daddy?" What was wrong? I tried to figure out how to put into words what
was going on for me. I would have told her, but I was distracted because I was
running up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the laundry area in the
basement, that I was upset because
I didn't have any clothes to wear. Upset because I didn't have any clothes to
wear? What was I, a child? I was the one who decided to travel with one pair of
pants and who gave them Santa Maria to wash late at night. Who was responsible
for this situation other than me?
I backed down, but not before the whole trip was discolored
by my bad behavior. My mother woke in the middle of it, tried to be nice, and
ended up wisely retreating. I found her back in bed forty-minutes later. It
wasn't exactly the way I had planned to welcome her home.
Santa Maria and I talked things out when we got home to
Brooklyn, but that didn't diminish the amount of unpacking that needed to be
done. Or the amount of cooking for the afternoon. Or the shopping for the week.
Santa Maria was exhausted. Ashamed of my childish behavior earlier in the day,
I started to slowly ascend the mountain of domestic labor that stood before us.
At about four in the afternoon, I remembered that I was out of chicken
stock. I quickly put a pot of it
on to simmer for a few hours before I had to go to bed.
Chicken stock is the bedrock of much of my cooking. I use it
in everything from my black beans to my Bolognese. I make it from the chicken
carcasses that are leftover after I roast a chicken. I put them in the freezer
to use them when I need them for stock. This was one time I really needed them.
I was hoping that the basic act of making stock would help make amends for the
bruise I had put on the day. We'll see how it turns out. The stock, in any
event, is always great. I just have to remember to be careful when transferring it to the refrigerator.
1 chicken carcass (left over from roasting)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
Soften the onion in some olive oil in a tall stock pot for
the length of time it takes to chop the carrot and the celery. Combine. Cook a
bit longer. Drop the chicken bones in. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil.
Turn down to simmer for as long as you can manage.
I then strain everything through a mesh strainer and then
again through cheese cloth. I put the stock in the refrigerator at least
overnight so the fat can congeal on top. I skim the fat off and freeze the
stock for later use.