I’m not always the parent I hope to be. I don’t yell too much (though I have been known to lose my temper), drink too much (albeit I do tipple), or gamble excessively (unless you consider working in publishing these days to be long shot). No, sometimes I contemplate cutting corners in the kitchen.
Just this morning, I was making my more-or-less weekly Bolognese sauce. I was feeling lazy and considered leaving out the chicken stock. I had plenty of it in the freezer, or so I thought. But my freezer is often just too forbidding to enter, even though I keep it pretty well organized. On the left are the store-bought frozen items, like fish sticks and empanadas. Frozen fish fillets are stacked in the center. My homemade, prepared foods are stacked on the right-hand side in re-used quart-sized plastic take-out and yogurt containers. The problem is I haven’t figured out a way to keep a label on those containers, and I need to peer into each one to find the thing I’m looking for (Mark Bittman, in today’s Times, has stern words for this kind of behavior, in an excellent piece on the many and surprising uses of the freezer).
So, finding chicken stock involves stacking the frozen items on the floor (in a weird New York City quirk, my refrigerator is not in the kitchen—it’s in the middle of my apartment’s main hallway). And this morning, I just didn’t feel like being bothered with the bending and stooping and moving.
I started to rationalize my decision. Who would notice if I left out the stock? Anyone? I doubt it. Would it make my recipe a false rendition of the sauce? God no. There are a thousand ways to make Bolognese and mine barely qualifies as authentic. I only stand by mine because my family and I like it, which seems as good a reason as any to make anything around the home.
“What would be the difference,” a little voice said to me, “if I skipped the effort to find the stock and just moved on to adding the tomatoes.” Another voice said to me, “Don’t do it. Think of the kids. Think of yourself.” A third voice said, “You’re starting to act crazy.”
Finally, the voice of reasons spoke: “How do you even know that there is chicken stock in the freezer? And if you don’t have any, what are you going to do about it?” So I had to look, and I found one nice quart of it. And I noted to myself that I’ll need to make more soon.