TakingStock/MakingStock


" … at least try out trying to do without before freaking out about the absence."

An impending end of a season, like an approaching yearend, brings out the auditor in me. I feel moved to engage in inventorying. What had I acquired? What expended? What remains after the passage of this latest period of existence? How might I value that flow of goods and services, and the not-so-goods and trespasses? Much of what came to pass simply passed back into the ether from whence it appeared, no longer here and unverifiable anywhere now. There were fusses and feathers, though little remains of their presence. What does remain hardly represents the hopefulness or dread by which experiences and stuff originally appeared. A few scant shards remain like the frozen vegetable peelings clogging my freezer's shelves, souvenirs from a hundred suppers otherwise forgotten now. I purge that inventory, roasting it off into an enormous batch of stock, the water of life, leftovers reduced back into essence.

I learned this year to roast my stock.
Too distracted to carefully watch my simmering stockpot, I decided to just throw that pot into a slow oven for the contents to reduce. There, I need not worry whether it's fixing to boil over or trouble myself to painstakingly spoon off discoloring foam (as if I ever did that, anyway) because the mess never boils and so never produces discoloring foam. The mess more steeps than simmers. The veg that floats to the top gains a satisfying char, particularly the onion skins, which more deeply color the result. Whatever bones find their way into the pot reduce into porous chalk, with the formerly connecting collagen completely combining into the liquid side of the emulsion. The finished stock nearly gels at room temperature and almost solidifies when refrigerated. I can leave the largest stockpot unattended in the oven for a day or even two, reducing the original liquid by half or even three-quarters, producing a more finely concentrated finished product. I can the stock in widemouth quart jars for convenience. The narrow-mouthed jobs can be almost impossible to easily empty.

The rest of my leavings might not so easily reduce into reuse. I reincarnated my painting skills this year, finding them still present in spite of a few absent years of renewing practice. Painting might be like riding a bike, a skill once mastered, never lost. I might have become a more focused procrastinator this year, though I managed to write pretty much every day, I also managed to fiddle around before engaging as if I wasn't quite certain whether or not I should let myself let go enough to begin again. I did not, however, manage to master my apparent aversion to editing my writing into any finished collection. I suspect that I'm still undecided what I'm writing about. I want plots to be emergent properties and so I shrink away from the notion that they should be deliberately constructed. I continue to enjoy well-plotted books but rather steadfastly refuse to produce any of those myself.

I relearned how to see this season and, indeed, through this year, after first unlearning to see. I can't claim to have learned how to see the first time through, sight being part of the stock accessory package that came with the vehicle. I fully realize that I could have avoided considerable drama had I embraced the reality that cataracts were degrading my vision a few years earlier, but I've never been one to insist upon running out for a replacement the moment after something breaks. I'm more the type who first considers whether I really need that once-considered absolutely necessary element and to at least try out trying to do without before freaking out about the absence. My life feels abundant enough to weather plenty of absence without materially diminishing the quality of my experience, at least as long as I can keep my head screwed on straight. For most of the last half of the year, I'd convinced myself that the cataract surgery was clearly not worth the effort or expense. Then, the ophthalmologist discovered that the replacement lens had slipped to the left before correcting the earlier bungled correction. As the season draws to a close and the year threatens to end, I'm beginning to accept that the procedures might have been worth subjecting myself to after all. This result took long enough.

I remain uncertain what comes next. Taking inventory never predicts any future. Best case, the tally might clarify the present. I can see that I'm no further ahead (or behind) than I ever was. I've made no apparent progress. Nor have I fallen far behind. I might be a little clearer about where this dance is heading, but I feel no increased gravitational pull. I've been noticing that a few of my dearest friends have disappeared on me, slipping into the great mystery, and this disturbs me without really tipping me over. I've always understood that we're fundamentally alone here, however many revelers might crowd into our rooms. I'm enjoined to enjoy the present, warmly revel in the past, and let the freaking future take care of itself. My TakingStock/MakingStock reflection mirrors no more or less than I expected. I really should get around to reorganizing my shelves, though no noticeable losses seem to have resulted from my casual larder management.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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