between Men and
has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind.
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much…The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
“Everything Good between Men and Women”
Marriage is a private business. Nobody else lives in the eye of the storm. Or in the whispered conversation when one of you wakes the other in the middle of the night, because you’re sad, or sick, or hungry.
I have now been married the exact amount of time I wasn’t. I married at twenty-two and now I’m forty-four. From now on, after this year, I will accumulate more time with this one man than I had without him.
There’s one thing I know for sure: only he and I know the true truth of our time together. Others might have glimpses. We might share confidences about our relationship. But in the end only we know the mud and the butter and the glory, the highs and lows, the ways we failed each other, the ways we came through for each other, the loyalties and mistakes and satisfactions.
I could spill more of that dark, rich, matured wine here. But whatever I wrote would only be a part of the truth.
It would be easier if I gave you poetry, a series of moments. The time he woke me in the dark with a thermos of coffee and a blanket so we could catch a glimpse of a meteor shower over the Mystic River in Medford, MA. Or the way he scrapes the snow off my car here in Denver before he drives away to work. Or the time I was so angry with the way he argues, I slammed out of our tiny one bedroom apartment with the galley kitchen and the fire escape in Indianapolis the first year were were married and drove out into the dark and circled the block for over an hour. The time he came back from a 72 hour shift at the hospital during his pediatric residency and his eyes were glazed with exhaustion and he looked through me as if he didn’t know me, like an animal in a fever that has lost its way.
His tastes and hungers. He loves fried eggs, overeasy, and dislikes stroganoff. He has a taste for the saltiness of cured meats, for all different varieties of sushi. He has a taste for saffron, for coffee with milk, for my skin. He likes his lamb chops medium rare. He grills my steaks to order.
He almost always can be counted on to order the special, because he believes it is where the creativity and seasonal commitment of the chef resides; he is smart, he makes plans, he thinks before he acts, always. He knows I don’t like runny egg yolks, or bananas, or mayonaise unless it’s been thinned with lemon juice. He is the only other person in the world who can brew a cup of tea for me to my satisfaction.
Once, in the middle of the night when I was breastfeeding my first baby in our bed he brought me a meal to satisfy my ravenous hunger. It was toast with peanut butter and chocolate chips. There was a present beside it of a tiny delicate necklace made up of gems like stars. It got lost in the stormy weather of everyday life. I’m wearing its replacement right now. A moonstone on a thread of a gold chain, the links tiny and delicate, and somehow stronger than the sum of their parts. I ate the toast in three mouthfuls to make more milk. He stayed awake and kept watch. We were a trinity. Parent-parent-child. Everywhere you turned in the quiet dark there was love. It moved in all directions.
The way we both have blue eyes but they are a different shade, reflected in the eyes of each of our children, and a metaphor for how differently we often see the world, balancing each other like playmates on a see-saw, imperfectly, so that occasionally one of us falls off and we get hurt. The way he makes better scrambled eggs than anyone I know and it’s sometimes the only thing I want to eat when discouragement and depression grip me, as they have many times in the past twenty-two years and how I try never to look into the black hole of a Michael-less world where my chief maker of scrambled eggs is gone.
The hundreds and hundreds of meals we’ve eaten together and made for each other, the times we’ve sat at a table and talked between bites, or let each other chew in silence, guarding our thoughts as human beings sometimes need to do, but not truly alone because we had each other. Even when we didn’t understand each other. Even when we were hurt or angry or bad things happened, we still got up together and went to sleep together, and ate together. It wasn’t perfect. It was a humble feast that more often than not soothed and satisfied. It was enough.
I don’t know what sort of adult I’d be now without him. The ways we shaped each other are profound and ordinary and so bound up in our everyday life and habits and values that there’s no true severing from the ties that bind us now. We have been a family for twenty-two years.
But all this is just a taste. To give more would be to let you past the veil, and I am old enough to know better and I hope wise enough to want better. We undress for each other, he and I. You can see the splatters from the mud and barbecue sauce and butter, and that’s the map you get. The rest is ground as sacred and carnal as anyone else’s marriage. You get part of the truth and story. The rest is ours.
This meal is for my husband. We had artichokes when were together in Rome and arancini with the meat sauce in the middle at a place called Mama Eat! in Trastevere. We ate at a table outside on the cobblestone street. He took this picture of me. The servers were droll and kind. A man came and played the violin across the alley from us. A motorcycle went by. We smiled at each other for the camera and kept smiling after it had been stashed away. We bought gelato afterwards and ate it as we crossed the Tiber, walking back towards our hotel, hand in hand. It was one of our best days.
Recreating some of the recipes from my time in Rome with Michael took time and commitment and a spirit of adventure. I learned as I went along, a lot like the way we’ve grown up together the last 22 years.
I won’t lie to you, I think the arancini are time consuming and for special occasions and weekends. Part of it is that I had to make mine with meat sauce for reasons of affection and sentiment; that’s what we had in Rome. So with the meat sauce that simmered for four hours and the risotto that had to be made ahead and chilled on a sheet pan on the top shelf of my refrigerator, and the deep-frying at my stove, this was a two day recipe. But it was worth it to see the happiness on my husband’s face when I surprised him with this for dinner. If you are too busy to try this, the bolognese sauce can be served over pasta with a simple salad and bread and that is a really wonderful meal for you alone or for your family on a Saturday or Sunday night.
1 pound ground beef
1 pint whole milk
4 oz pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 med onion
2 carrots, peeled
2 stalks celery
1/2 cup marsala wine
2 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
28 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes
1 parmesan rind
2 tbsp olive oil
Chop the carrots, onion and celery into large chunks. In a food processor fitted with the sharp steel blade, blitz the pancetta, carrot, celery, onion, and garlic until everything is ground into a uniform mixture. It ought to be about the texture of the ground beef once it is cooked. In a large heavy pot, saute the beef over medium high heat until browned. Remove the beef to a plate lined with paper towel. Drain the rendered fat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pot. Add the mixture from the food processor and cook over medium high heat until it is golden and fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add back the beef and then the marsala wine. Cook for three or four minutes until some of the wine evaporates. Add the milk, tomatoes and parmesan rind. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon so they are in smaller pieces.
Let the sauce simmer at least four hours. You can go a lot longer if you like. If you aren’t going to be home, put the sauce in a slow cooker and let it simmer that way.
Braised Artichoke for Two with Garlic and Clementines
1 globe artichoke
4-5 ripe clementines
Butter and olive oil
white wine or chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut if half a large globe artichoke and immediately rub with a cut lemon or clementine orange. Remove all the tough outer leaves.. You’ll feel bad that you’re wasting so much but put it in the compost bin and let it go; this part is inedible. Peel off the tough skin of the stem with a sharp knife. Now remove the inner choke with the same sharp knife. It’s the fuzzy part. If you need to, rinse off the fuzz lightly under the tap.
Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a 10 or 12 inch skillet. Add two coarsely chopped cloves of garlic. When they are golden put the artichoke halves cut side down in the skillet. Squeeze in the juice of one ripe clementine. Add slices of 4 clementines, arranging them around the artichoke halves and the garlic. Pour in 1/2 cup of white wine or chicken broth. Immediately cover the skillet with foil and place in the preheated oven. Braise for one hour. You may need to add more liquid so it doesn’t all evaporate and burn. Remove from oven. Divide onto two plates. Serve warm a first course. It’s really best to eat it with your hands.
These are very different than the more authentic roman artichokes I had as a first course in Rome. Those are made with white wine and sometimes mint. But clementines were what I had in my kitchen and needed to use. I really liked the way the dish turned out.
1/2 recipe of leftover risotto
Marinara or Bolognese sauce
1 cup flour
2 cups fine fresh bread crumbs
Large bottle of good oil for frying. I used canola oil.
First, you need to roll up your sleeves and make risotto. I’m going to confess right now that I have a fancy device I bought at Williams Sonoma for way too much cash that makes risotto without too much stirring and ladling. Don’t judge. But don’t just go out and buy one of these. I really love risotto and I have a fondness for slow cookers, and this functions as both. I don’t have a lot of one-function appliances in my house but this is something I use almost once a week.
To learn how to make risotto you need a recipe that explains it well. There is some technique involved, and I’m not the one to teach it to you. Because, see above. I used to make it without the aid of my fancy dancy risotto cooker but we all compromise in life in order to be our happiest and most content selves. Some people get their hair colored at least six times a year. I have a weakness for books and pricier baking chocolate and don’t care if my hair is grey. Do what makes sense to you. Shoulder pat.
You will need about 2/3 of this recipe reserved for your arancini. So eat some for lunch some weekend and spread the rest on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet and put it into the fridge to cool all afternoon.
When you’re ready, prepare a station for making the risotto. Put the flour in one bowl, beat the eggs in another. Place the fresh bread crumbs in a pie plate. Slice two string cheese into 1 inch pieces.
Shape the arancini in your hand into a kind of half ball, making a small well in the center. Pour in a tbsp of marinara or bolognese and top with a piece of cheese. Pack more risotto over until you have a ball. These are pretty big, the way I made them. They were served to us in a kind of sausage shape at Mama Eat! You can make smaller ones but you might want to leave the fillings out in that case. If I was making them for a party, I think I would try for smaller.
Take the formed arancini and dip it in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumb mixture. They are fragile but they really do stay together just fine once they go into the hot oil. Place them on a plate until they are all formed.
Heat about 3 cups of the oil in a medium sized heavy pot to 375 degrees. Using a metal slotted ladle shaped spatula, carefully lower the arancini one at a time in the hot oil. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, turning once. Keep warm in a 250 oven until they are all made. Serve with a little marinara or bolognese sauce on the side for dipping the pieces in.