Friday, November 2, 2012

Stone Soup

Just as we’re all deciding what to do with the leftover Halloween candy and keeping an eye to looming Thanksgiving preparations, let’s all just sit for a spell and take a deep breath. After all, a trip to any type of retail outlet has told us since late September that Christmas is just around the corner. The commercial push to consume at the expense of all else just takes the shine off the season for me. Here’s what my family does to take back what we love about this time of year, and we do it in grand fashion!

 We start with this...

Well, to be entirely honest, Papa started with this...its a stewpot before the good stuff gets introduced into its depth. More precisely, this is a 100-gallon cast iron stewpot that he scrubbed clean and seasoned in preparation for this weekend’s Brunswick stew. We’ve had more fun in the last two days than we’ve had in the last two months playing pranks on each other, needling Papa while questioning his methods when none of the rest of us would know how to pull this weekend off without him. No matter how well my mom can make homemade pimento cheese for the sandwiches which will accompany that Brunswick stew, no matter how good Deedee’s buttermilk pies will be fresh from the oven, no matter how Lindsay will undoubtedly fill our weekend with laughter leaving us all sore from the mirth, this weekend belongs to my father’s expertise around a stewpot. And don’t think we don’t all try to catch every detail!

We’ll spend this afternoon chopping enough vegetables to earn us a collective berth into the nonexistent Rockingham County Stew Masters Hall of Fame. We’ll de-bone more cooked chickens than we’ll be able to count. Sure, it’s a formidable task to prep and cook 100 gallons of Brunswick stew, but it’ll pay us both now and later.

Today’s sky is gloriously overcast and there’s an unmistakable nip in the air. Wood has been stacked near the stewpot for ready access and it will perfume tomorrow’s early morning. Hopefully our friends and family will arrive early and constantly to take a turn stirring the pot. Conversation will be lively and laughter-filled. Tales told will be tall ones. And the stew will be remarkable! It never, ever disappoints.

Well now, don’t go thinking that I’m going to share the recipe for Papa’s Brunswick stew here because I don’t even have it. We’re still trying to convince him to give my girls a handwritten copy for their family cookbooks, so wish us luck in that regard. But I am giving you my granny’s buttermilk pie recipe along with Deedee’s tweak. And I am asking you to borrow a concept from my poetry friends and me – take a few minutes to focus on the beauty of something small and now. Don’t be pushed. Don’t allow others’ schedules to entirely dictate your own for a few moments. In some way, whether in writing or a soft touch or a song, share that moment with someone. We poets call such moments “stones”. It takes a lot of small stones, those things we have and are commonly, to line our river’s bed. We hold each other together and become something so much larger.

rain drops changing the tone of river stones

Curtis Dunlap
Modern Haiku Volume 39.1 - Winter/Spring 2008

Granny Rona’s Buttermilk Pies
makes 2 

5 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 ½ tbsp. flour
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cups unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
* 7 ounces coconut flakes (Deedee’s optional addition - trust her on this one!)
2 deep-dish pie shells, store-bought or homemade but bring your best intentions!

Mix all ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie shells. Bake at 275 degrees F for 10 minutes; increase oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake 50 minutes longer.

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