Friday, September 4 2020

ragout, veal, and my floating head



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday. The end of this week felt so far away. But through headaches, sleepiness, and exhaustion, we’ve typed, cooked, and cleaned our way to a holiday weekend - and by God, we’ve earned it.

I’m feeling refreshed today. I woke up this morning, feeling like an extra reserve of energy was activated. Perhaps this random hidden reserve of energy would have been useful earlier in the week when I had more things to do, but I’ll take it now too.

I’m a little puzzled why I’m not feeling more tired today. Marissa and I stayed up past our usual witching hour. At 12:10 AM my phone alarm rang as usual. I paused our movie and ushered the napping dogs outside for one final potty break. Marissa went down into the basement to retrieve our bed sheets, returning empty handed.

“They’re still a little damp,” she explained. “Sorry - I thought for sure I came up with a trick to get them to dry more quickly. I unbunched everything before moving them over to the dryer. But they just bunched up again.”

“Eh, don’t sweat it,” I assured her. We wandered around the kitchen and dining room, putting things away as we continued chatting.

“I feel like I should have figured this out a long time ago,” she sighed. “Like, is it just impossible to wash bed sheets after dinner?”

I laughed. “Keeping a house together is just like… a million simple things,” I mused. “Timing everything is complicated.”

I had grocery shopping on my mind. Earlier that morning I placed an online order. My preparation was nearly flawless. The night before I laid out our next three meals in my notes. I filled an online shopping cart with groceries. I even picked backup greens and proteins in case my items were out of stock. I double checked everything in the morning before submitting my order, ensuring I’d get an available spot, but there was still a bevy of complications awaiting dinner. The chuck roast was marked out of stock, and the veal shoulder, along with being a little smaller than I anticipated, was a solid frozen block.

“I still struggle with quarantine dinners,” I added. “Needing backups for everything. Dealing with frozen meat. Simple problems, but the timing of everything makes the day complicated.”

I gripe about last night’s dinner prep, but we made it work. I went ahead with making a brown veal ragout. I made up for lost time by cooking the potatoes separately, and to stretch the meat further, I baked it with the bones.

I was pronouncing ragout incorrectly, by the way. Even though it’s spelled the same, it never occurred to me that as in most French words, the t is silent. I have been calling it “rag-OUT”. “Rag Out” sounds like a backwoods Midwestern rendition of the meal. It’s pronounced “ra-GOO”.

It also occurred to me that I had no idea what veal was. Marissa, still getting over a general squeamishness around veal, psyched herself up at the table before dinner.

“So this is it,” she said. “This is baby cow.”

I thought veal was lamb, and that she was just being cute. “Oh sure,” I retorted. “This is just cow.”

Marissa narrowed her eyes. “Wait, you didn’t use veal in this?”

“Of COURSE not,” I assured her, thinking we were still doing a bit. “This is absolutely not veal, this is just a really spoiled baby cow.”

“Wait - what is going on right now. What is this?” laughed Marissa.

“It’s veal,” I replied, finally shaking off the sarcasm.

She nodded. “So it is baby cow.”

“No,” I replied. “It’s veal.” I readjusted in my chair, but before launching into a misguided mansplanation, Marissa corrected me gracefully.

“I see what’s going on here,” she said. “Veal is baby cow.”

“Do you mind if I check?” I asked, drawing out my phone. Moments later, I flashed my phone screen at the table.

“Dang it, you’re right,” I laughed. “So I was pronouncing this dish wrongly, and I didn’t even know what freakin’ animal I was cooking. Wait - so what is lamb called?”

“I think it’s just called lamb,” guess Marissa. I googled it again.

“Huh,” I said. “It’s called mutton. Now I thought mutton was rabbit? What the hell is going on here?”

If left to my own, I probably could have sat there googling animal food terms for another hour. Rodney, having given up on waiting for the dinner prayer, started hungrily slurping his soup and practically had it finished before I began eating. Marissa slyly motioned to his empty bowl with her eyes.

“I think someone is a fan,” she whispered.

“Dude, do you want some more?” I asked.

“Dada,” said Rodney beginning a question. “What’s this stuff called?”

“It’s called ragooooooo.” I over corrected, so I wouldn’t accidentally call it “rag out” again. “Do you like it?”

Rodney nodded and smiled. He had brown sauce smeared on his lips and chin. I added another ladle full to his tiny plastic bowl.

2020 09 04 ragout

Remember, the "t" is silent.

As Rodney was finishing his second helping, Marissa and I started to discuss plans for my birthday later this month.

“I like the idea of a virtual beer tasting with your family, that sounds like a lot of fun,” she said. “Can we order some beer tasters with your face on it?”

I laughed. “Yeah, want me to take a picture now?”

“Look up and to the right,” she instructed. Moments later, she had the image on the computer, carefully cropping out the space around my head. “You haven’t shaved in a while, so I’m just going to have to guess on the chin-line.”

The image of my giant floating head appeared on the screen. Rodney and I cackled. Marissa uploaded the image to a site and began to order some tasters.

“Uh oh,” she said. “Eh… they’re twenty dollars a piece.”

“Nope!” I laughed. “Shut it down.”

At least we got this nifty floating head image out of it. And with the background removed, it makes for a pretty good desktop icon. Do you need a new icon for your trash bin? Looking for an icon for a hot new mobile app? Perhaps you need an offbeat poster for an empty dorm room wall? Exclusive for readers of this blog, I present the official Alex Recker floating head icon.

2020 09 04 floating head

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Friday, everyone.