Rendered Fat Content

OrdinaryTimes 1.21-Prep

At least 80% of every activity can be charged to the preparation account. At most, 20% of wallpapering involves wallpaper. Painting, too, turns out to barely engage either paint or a brush. Same story with supper.

Hours before any flame ignites, I’m plotting, pre-planning before doing anything; then peeling, chopping, and setting aside in bowls, which I set in cooking sequence. By the time I ignite any flame, supper’s set up for a fall-through. The fall-through’s usually quick.

The Muse’s return turns out to be absolutely unpredictable. I usually start supper prep around four, but she’ll return anywhere between seven and nine. Her boss often calls her at seven for a quick update, which can extend for an hour. She never, ever knows when she’ll be able to leave until she’s left. She texts me to say she’s on her way.

I blind-start slow roasts around six, figuring we can push out supper time until nine thirty if necessary. Anything that needs little fire time waits until she arrives. I clean the prep kitchen as I progress, hoping to leave no trace of the effort. I use a pan, I wash that pan before moving on to the next ingredient. I believe that there should be no trace of the prepping effort left to influence the palate by the time supper’s served.

This turns out to be an exacting discipline. If I want to serve chicken, chicken might be the last thing I touch before firing up the stovetop. I imagine backward, swimming upstream against a strong enough current to capsize any notion of how this supper might emerge. I want the accompanying side dishes, which often outnumber and out-weight the ‘chicken’ to emerge from their flame like teeth in a cog wheel. Nothing worse than a chicken, sodden and coagulating, waiting for the broccolini to finish, or a garnet yam baked almost to charcoal before the chicken’s bleeding clear.

When I eat in a restaurant, I’m learning that I am paying for much, much more than the food I order. I’m paying for hours of care and attention, stretching back well beyond the afternoon before, to someone imagining in reverse. Their diligent preparation delivered this entree, even when it arrives imperfectly. I cannot, and I will not, imagine how any whim might have produced it.

I’m as attracted to whims as the next guy; maybe more. I’m learning that my whims get a better reception when I back up a bit before delivering. This is why the clock stops here around four and I start winding it backwards to envision what I’m actually imagining. Do not tell The Muse that I wasted half the afternoon working backwards in time. Don’t tell anybody that I was faking knowledge when I audaciously proposed the supper tonight. I, as always, started the fantasy with whatever was threatening to spoil. Just gotta use that or sacrifice any semblance of honor.

About a quarter to six tonight, The Muse texted to say that she was eating out with some co-workers and would not be home for supper tonight. I was almost two hours into prep by then, but I had not committed anything to flame yet, save the pimento peppers. The whole mess will save until tomorrow, where it will feed a passel of her co-workers, and us too. This simplifies tomorrow’s supper. I pre-expended much of the prep effort tonight already.

In my youth, I committed early, eager to achieve the connection commitment brings. In my ensuing dotage, I defer commitment, swapping in preparation instead. I’m a decent selector, chopper, and sequencer, but once that flame hits flesh, I’m unable to back out of my presumed elegant entree.

Tonight, I’ll warm leftovers for myself. Lord knows we have plenty. And I’ll revel in the knowledge that I need not please any but my own lead palate to produce an acceptable meal tonight. Leftovers represent a stockpile of previous preparation, just waiting for a short ride through a warming oven to satisfy.

At least 80% of every activity can be charged to the preparation account.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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