For a week now, the freezer door has refused to stay shut. I will close it, only to have Greg complain it’s been cracked open all night, a puddle of water the damning evidence on the floor. Both of us have tried in our own haphazard way to shove bags of peas and protruding ice packs back into the maw of the deep freeze, announcing triumphantly that “I fixed it,” only to find the door ajar an hour or two later in the golden light of the afternoon.
So yesterday morning, while I was making Sunday coffee for coffee and The New York Times in bed, I took everything out of the freezer, and here’s what I found: a dozen frozen bananas, a pint of Talenti Tahitian vanilla I didn’t know I had, the missing fruit pop I removed from its box because the box was taking up too much room, a bag labeled “lamb scraps” and another labeled “lamb pieces for stock,” a small round filled with a dark brown substance that is either chocolate frosting, demi-glace or bordelaise (the lid is frozen to the container), along with the requisite chicken and pork packs I knew were in there.
I also found the culprit to the door dilemma: 14 chicken backs shoved, along with 3 bags of frozen leek ends from last years’ garden in the door’s upper shelf. Whenever I make chicken, I often buy a whole fryer, a bargain at my localish healthy grocery store for about six bucks. Far easier to cut up the chicken myself than to pay the butcher to do it. This leaves me with the back which goes into the freezer for a stock I’ve never gotten around to making. Until yesterday.
Judiciously choosing ten backs, and saving four, Greg and I bought another three pounds of chicken wings and together, put the pieces onto two cookie sheets along with a coarsely chopped onion, celery and carrot. We don’t often cook together, a habit we seem to have fallen into because the first rule of the kitchen is that s/he who cooks doesn’t do the dishes. Our labor thusly divided, we tend to stay out of the other’s way. Perhaps because it was a largely hands off venture, the stock seemed ripe for cooperation on a day that caught us squabbling about the most mundane things.
After checking the chicken parts three times, an hour and fifteen minutes later, I took the browned meat and veg out of the 450 degree oven, deglazed the sheets and poured everything into a big stock pot and covered it with water. Then Greg climbed the stairs from the basement at thirty minute intervals to de-scum the stock which simmered for three hours as I alternately napped and rooted for the underdog Steelers who were fielding a backup quarterback.
I’ve been thinking about taking stock as summer fades fitfully—the forecast is still peppered with 80 degree days out here on the prairie, and just this last week, the morning glories breathed their last gasp at the height of their bloom, as night time temperatures dipped into the forties. It’s been a lovely and sometimes difficult six months since I fell into full time writing, working most days in my office alone, River sleeping at my feet, trying to keep a rhythm going for my memoir in progress, while also being mindful of the rhythm in my relationship wit my artist-lover.
Writing is lonely solitary work. In my particular way of accessing the best of it, I prefer quiet mornings without so much as a cheery hello or tender I love you before I am off to work. Speaking first thing seems to get in the way of my best words. It is a habit I honed all those years when I was single and living on the mountain, but it’s tough on Greg, who nevertheless has been game as my writing days stretched from five to six a week this summer. Still I worry that the gap I’ve created for my work has introduced a gap in my relationship.
At this point, it normally would be far too easy for me to panic, to see my dilemma as pitting professional fulfillment against more personal ones, to walk straight to the ledge and leap. But the one thing I've learned in five years of being with Greg is that what’s happening today isn’t necessarily what will be happening tomorrow or next week. Just at the moment when I’m certain I’ve fallen into a perilous rut—with writing, with Greg, with life--something surprises me. Things change. The seasons tell us that. And just like the surprise of those chicken backs or the dozen frozen bananas in the freezer which I vow to make into a fabulous something sometime soon, there are things left to be discovered, new stories to live and tell.
As Greg and I shared a comforter on the couch downstairs and ate his famous natchos, from basement to bedroom, the house smelled like Thanksgiving, a lovely roasted and browned poultry aroma that brought to mind some of our happier holidays and inspired me to save our joint stock for turkey day, when we can be gratifyingly reminded that it was made by four hands not two.