This cupboard is the only original piece of my apartment. I think it is supposed to be for your really beautiful things, but I don’t really collect beautiful things, and anyways I have always thought that if you put something beautiful in a cupboard, it loses its beauty. You would think I have better things to do than sit around and think about what is beautiful to me, but it can be an important thing to remember. I think my son is beautiful, I think hands are beautiful, fog, violets, Manhattan, perfectly seared fish, and the beauty of a top crust of a really good apple pie can make me feel like I want to kiss somebody. There is music so beautiful that I can feel it change the rhythm of my heart and there are words that people have spoken or written that I think are the definition of beauty, if there is one.
The act of cooking is a very quiet beautiful. Gently cooking carrots and celery and onion until they melt for a stew is so ordinary, but so extraordinary to want to make it taste delicious, to make something of it, to care about an egg or refuse to leave the polenta on its own. It can lift life from a permanent winter to showing signs of Spring.
Make some stew to get you going, and do it in steps so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Simmer about a pound of cubed beef shoulder by covering it with cold water, and adding two carrots, a stalk of celery, two small onions, one canned tomato, a bay leaf and a garlic clove to the pot. If you have a chicken leg, throw that in as well. Add salt to taste. Cook this for at least two hours over a low heat, uncovered. You don’t have to do anything to it, so you can make it the night before when you come home, and put it in the fridge before you go to bed. To a large heavy saute pan, add five medium sliced onions to a little of your best olive oil. Season with salt. Cook these down for a half an hour, stirring every once in a while, and adding a little water if you have to, to keep them from burning. At the end of the half hour, turn up the heat and brown the onions a bit for another two or three minutes. You are looking for brown, but no black, because the carbon will make them bitter. Add a few canned tomatoes (not the whole can), smushing them in your hand before you put them in the pot. Add your beef from yesterday with enough of the stock to cover. Simmer for about half an hour with a drizzle of olive oil, a garlic clove, and a sprig of parsely. Let the cover on the pot sit not quite tight on the top, but watch so the liquid doesn’t completely evaporate.
Serve this with mashed potatoes or polenta, and swiss chard wilted with garlic.
Have strawberries with fresh whipped cream for dessert.