Down to the Last Bite: There’s More Than One Way to Make a Good Stew (or show some love)

I have always loved the autumns in New York. I love the drives along the parkway to see the colors of the leaves in the trees. I love the smell in the air and the subtle hint of nearby fireplaces where smoke comes from chimneys and permeate the air. For the moment, the warmth has stalled at a midway process, like the slack tide between the in and out near the beaches at Point Lookout. The wind is neither too warm or too cold and the air is just right. Ah, there is an exhale and pause from the overheated pressure at the end of our summer months.

I don’t mind the sweaters. I don’t mind the ideas of bundling up or finding a cause to create warmth. In fact, I appreciate the change of seasons for this exact reason: We can find new ways to become connected. While I grant that this is taken from my perspective, if I may, I’d like to offer you a picture in your mind to help transition this journal entry to act like a movie screen in the mind.

Everyone has their own tastes and flavors and preferences. I know this. I also know there are those who come rushing for the seasonal choices of pumpkin spice. Meanwhile, there are others who surround them and say, “Enough already with your pumpkin spice lattes,” which is not to say that I am opposed to such flavors, not at all.
I do not enjoy the temporary menu changes that coincide with this time of year. I love the farm to table options and the soups which can be absolutely incredible. In fact, I am always open to new flavors or in this case, I am always open to the traditional flavors that come in a seasonal flow with the autumn months. 

Call me simple. Call me a glutton. Call me a fat kid at heart. Or, call me anything you choose, but I am a big fan of good stews. I’m a fan of the crock pot recipes; moreover, I am a fan of the hours of preparation which follows with the dinner table annihilation of a meal that took hours to perfect.
Now, I offer this in connection to my appreciation for the autumn months because a hardy stew is a source of absolute warmth and satisfaction. So yes, I am a fan of a good stew. No, this is not a cook book or anything like a cook book. Nope, this is an offering, I will get to it now that I have set the stage.

More to the point; I’m a fan of a stew made with apple cider. Then again, I am sure that I have modified this stew on more than one occasion. I’ve prepared this stew with both versions of beef and pork. And sure, I am biased. Of course, I’m going to say that my stew is better than your stew.
(because it is)
However, I suppose what I appreciate most about this is the attention to detail and the conscious attention to the ingredients and the process of bringing this together – of course, this is something that happens while listening to the mandatory obligation of good music, which is playing in the background, and somehow; all of this coincides to make your dish as perfect as it can be.

So, let’s start simple and yes, I’m sure that there are steps that I miss while making my stew and no, I’m not a chef nor do I pretend to be a chef (or play one on t.v.) However, this is the point; this is the reason why I appreciate the simpleness of putting together a meal that comes with flavor and the rewards of a full belly as a result of a happy meal time memory.

I’d always look to start simple. Maybe, I’d start with some country style boneless ribs. Then I’d cut them up into two-inch cubes. Next, I’d drop some oil in a pan. Get the pan nice and hot and then dollop some crushed garlic or maybe even some diced onion and sauté them until the onions become translucent and clear.
Next, I’d brown the pork in the pan and let this swirl together with the oil, the garlic and the onions. Then I’m placing this in the crock pot.
I’d add a few baby carrots to the mix. Come to think of it, I’ve added some baby bellos or some sliced or portobello mushrooms. Then I’d add potatoes, maybe some Yukon golds or even some red potatoes for color. 

I’d toss the meat into the pot with some salt and pepper to my liking. Or, if I wanted some heat, I could offer a suggestion to use little white pepper or some red pepper flakes – but of course, I would do this to my liking. I do this because I want to make the meal so good that I am literally sweating with joy as I eat it. But again; this is just me.
When sitting down to a good meal, admittedly, I like a lot of food and a lot of meat. More accurately, I like the hardiness of a good stew that fills the body. My objective is to build a meal with all the ingredients and accompaniments that fuels the warmth like a picturesque version of a fireplace in a secluded chalet up in the woods. 
In my case, my aim is to make a meal that matches the colors of the trees in the mountains in mid-October. In this case, my stew should match my sentiments as well as my taste buds.

But getting back to my stew:
Next, I’d pour in two cups of apple cider. Then I’d pour in a cup of red wine. By the way, I find this works better with pork than with beef – but again, this is just me and my experience. 

Add some cloves of garlic, if you’d like. Or, add about a tablespoon of cinnamon. Toss in some vegetable or beef stock, about one cup should be enough. 

The great thing about this is we own the right to make this a meal that suits us in the best way possible. We can make changes at any given moment. I say this because I believe in the freedom to create. Are there better ways? Maybe there are.
Is this the best way? Maybe or maybe not.
But what I can say is there were times when my sentiment was low. There were times when my head was heavy and the issues at hand were hard and more than I could handle. 

So, rather than nurture my anxiety and rather than consider the options of “what comes next” or “what should I do,” I made a choice to focus on something different.
Rather than worry, which is like the back and forth of sitting in a rocking chair (it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere), I decided to create a feast.
I decided to make a meal that fits my needs and to the point which I make that says, “food is love,” I chose to resign to the uncontrollable mishaps of life.

Rather than calculate the options which seemed pertinent to an impertinent matter, I offer this menu option as a means to an end. Or, as it was with me, I chose to create this stew to nurture myself.
I made a choice to find something that would heal us like a meal from Mom – I choose an afternoon, like a Sunday – or like today, for example – when autumn is upon us and the leaves are as colorful as ever (like now).

In fairness, I have not made this stew in a long time. This is not to say that there aren’t moments when this stew will come my way. No, this is shared with you for a simple reason.
My efforts with this journal is to compile ideas, thoughts, sentiments and memories that have become an uplifting spirit to my life. 

I say this because I am no better nor worse, nor smarter or more in-tune than anyone else. I am only human. I am a person in this world who, at times, faces the sky and wonders if something is wrong or worries about the uncontrollable. 
I have good days and bad and, of course, I have situations that arise in which, if I’m not careful, I often catastrophize and expect the worst.
Safe to say that I have overreacted more than once.
Safe to say there are times when the world can seem like a lonely place, even in crowds, and especially when we are around people who lead us to feel lonesome (or unworthy).
I am a very real person and so are you which is why I am sending this to you now.

I suppose my offering of the above recipe is intentional and yes, I’m sure there are steps which I’ve left out – like, say the hours of cooking time on medium in my crock pot which results in a long journey of a “low-and-slow” cook for about four hours which concludes with meat so flavorful and tender. In any case, regardless of the choices or changes that come with my preparation, my idea is to offer you the love and comfort that comes with this menu.

No, I am not a cook. But I do love to see the expression on your face when you taste something that is both physically and emotionally soothing. I like the idea of sharing a meal with the people who matter the most to us. And more, I appreciate the idea that food is love and that yes, there are simple ways to express a love without a lot of money at a restaurant or graduating from a culinary institute to cook a perfect meal. Besides, the perfect meal is always relative.

As I close this entry, I don’t know if this will reach my Mom. She doesn’t live where our typical communications can reach. However, in case the universe is kind enough to send this message from cyber-land, I suppose I’d like my Mom to know something.
I’d like Mom to know that there are certain inspirations that I channel from her; in which case, there are certain memories I have. Some are from the times when I had the chance to feed Mom when she was sick and in the hospital or sick in bed.
I saw a photograph on social media about this asking would you do this for your Mother. I thought to myself – Would I? Of course, I would – if she were still here.
In fact, I did do this for my Mother.

I never had the chance to make a stew for Mom. But, I did make her some pasta (which I’m pretty good at) with a puttanesca sauce with some black olives, some garlic of course, and some chicken.
I remember Mom’s eyes opened wide with a sense of surprise. She was having a hard time before taking her first forkful out of a dish. I suppose the most meaningful part is this was a dish created by me, yours truly. Mom wasn’t so happy on this day. But when her eyes opened up, Mom said, “That’s good” and suddenly, all else was forgotten, at least for a little while.

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