Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking

I’ve been thinking a lot about onions lately. (I get in these moods.) When someone I know has a problem, I listen carefully, then I ask them if they have an onion. If they say no (you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have onions), I tell them to go to the store immediately and buy several. “You need onions,” I say. “An onion is not only nourishing, it is a great work of art.” And of course they look at me strangely, no doubt thinking, This guy’s had way too many onions. While this might be true, I still maintain that properly observing an onion is a great way to clear one’s mind and to gain a fresh perspective on life. Studying an onion is like taking in a good painting, but on a low budget. Furthermore, good paintings are hard to find, while good onions are everywhere. An onion is a work of art that belongs to the people. Very few paintings fall in this category. Most lack the simultaneous simplicity and complexity required of true art. An onion never pretends, it never poses, and it is never, ever exclusive. (I’ve tried explaining this to the NEA, but they never listen. They don’t even return my calls.)

Basic Lamb Stew

Making stew is a great way to clean out the refrigerator and to get rid of stuff before it’s too old to use. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to use some things that are too old to use, as long as you don’t go overboard. Normally, for instance, you wouldn’t serve a limp carrot. But in a stew, a carrot ends up being limp anyway. Granted, a fresh carrot has more flavor, but we shouldn’t let a simple thing like flavor stand in our way. That’s what spices are for.

I like to start a stew in a good-sized pan with a piece or two of lamb neck, preferably with the bone in and a little fat. I put a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in the pan, coat the meat with it, and then sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Next I add water, enough to cover the meat, put on a lid, and warm to a light boil.

While the meat is boiling, I cut the vegetables for the stew. You can put most anything in a stew, but some things I always use: several peeled potatoes, depending on how big I want the stew to be, a yellow onion or two, a few cloves of garlic, carrots, and celery. Sometimes I throw in a tomato or two, sometimes I don’t. Leeks are good. So is parsley. A few pieces of chopped okra can’t hurt, and neither can a handful of lentils, a handful of pearled barley, or a few garbanzos.

The amount of time I have is what determines the size I cut things. Less time equals bigger pieces. Once in awhile, I nearly bypass the cutting process altogether. The resulting stew, while crude, is nourishing and always good for a few laughs. I cut everything into a big bowl. When the lamb has boiled for twenty minutes or so, I dump the vegetables into the pan. The idea is to start with enough water so you don’t have to add any more. That way all the vegetables will cook in the lamb broth.

The only seasonings I use are salt, pepper, and purple basil. Sometimes I leave the basil out. I use a lot of salt and a lot of pepper. Simmer on low heat until the carrots and potatoes are soft, but not mushy. Serve with bread for a complete meal, or serve as a first course. If you don’t like lamb, or would like to skip the meat altogether, you can begin by simmering some onion and garlic in a little olive oil and water, and then add everything else to that.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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