My kitchen seems joyless lately. Not that I haven’t cooked–good or bad enough–for one of these posts. But for the first time in my life, my cupboards haven’t offered a dram of fun.
The current culprit could easily be pinned on the world’s crashing loss of faith and sanity, but I’m choosing to believe we’ll rise up and prevail. No, it’s all because a young man we loved and tried to care for died in the most lonely and sad way. After that, we closed up the house, closed ourselves up, as well. While previous humongous losses have sent me skidding to the stove, this one didn’t. His ghost insisted on hanging about the kitchen, his smile and unmatched chopping skills haunted its corners–his guacamole, tacos and barbecue steak now mere shades.
Five months passed and I muddled through all the Christmas cooking. And then the first snow fell and something cracked enough inside for me to remember onion soup.
When I was about thirteen my very sophisticated aunt stayed at our house and left behind a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book’s appearance coincided with Mom beginning to work late Friday nights and Dad picking her up for dinner afterwards. This left my brother and me to feed ourselves. There were other cookbooks in the house but Mastering was on the counter and my brother liked the idea of sugary crepes (he was eleven) and onion soup appeared to be the easiest French dish for me to try. The soup became our first course; crepes stuffed with cut-up hot dogs folded into a concoction of ketchup and various alarming spices, the entree. We were singularly impressed with ourselves.
Memory, a snowy January night, and a determination to push through trepidation and sorrow forced out the onion pail.
I had enough if I cut away the mildew on a few.
All that was needed beside the onions was butter, some herbs, broth, brandy, bread, and gruyere (i.e Swiss) cheese. Your basic kitchen staples.
After slicing the onions with my new knife (see next post about my knife dilemma), I took down my latest cast iron pot (It’s a Lauffers. I cooked with one at my sister’s house and promptly found an old one in need of serious scrubbing on Ebay for 1/3rd the price. Lauffers is like Le Creuset without the primary colors–the cast iron is enameled white inside but left black outside. Also, the lid can be cooked in, too–makes terrific eggs and biscuits.).
I melted a lot of butter, slid in the onions and sauteed over low heat. Someone drank all the brandy at Christmas so I substituted a tablespoon of sherry, turned up the heat to burn it off, then lowered the flame and sat down to drink a glass of wine because Julia said I had about 30 minutes before the onions caramelized.
Except this happened….
….maybe it was the Lauffer.
Anyway, I scraped the burnt pieces down among the silky onions and poured in broth, stirred in some thyme twigs and two bay leaves, then set the pot to thicken.
In the meantime, I toasted baguette slices smeared in butter and smashed garlic (honestly, you can live and be happy using regular bread). Husband came home. I ladled soup into large bowls, floated toast, covered the surface with grated cheese and slid the bowls under the broiler. By the time I refilled my wine glass, the cheese melted.
He and I sat down at the table, broke through the crust and ate our simple soup slowly, a simple pleasure the suspends the future and softens the past.