Tuesday, November 23 2021

the doorbell, dad duty, and cooking ham hocks

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday. We have Rodney to thank for today's banner image. It's a decorative horse crafted from toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and some yarn for - not a leash, a lead (Rodney was very eager to correct me). He wanted to add it to the pile of stuffed animals he sleeps with, but in the interest of preserving art I talked him into leaving it by his bed. I don't know what kind of guidance he got while making this, but I think it's pretty good. Good job, Rodney.

Today is show and tell day for Rodney. We asked him last night what he wanted to bring. Would it be one of his many stuffed animals? His giant green dinosaur? His basketball? His answer surprised us.

"I want to bring... my... dinosaur drawing book," he said.


This morning, he headed out the door with his "How to Draw Dinosuars" book tucked proudly under his arm. We added his spider-man slippers to his backpack because it also happens to be "pajama day".

It's a beautiful day today. But despite the beautiful fall morning around us, our family got off to a weird start today. Shuffling around the kitchen in my bathrobe making coffee, my head shot up at the sound of our doorbell. That's right, our doorbell rang at 6:50 AM. I froze in horror until the sound of shuffling on our front porch disappated. Marissa, looking just as disgusted as I was, barreled down the stairs and peeked through the window.

"Who was it?" I snapped.

"It was the mail," she said, slapping her thighs in disappointment. "Just the mail. That's it. There's a box on our step."

I don't understand how the mail gets delivered to our street. It's spotty, sometimes arriving at night or even on Sunday, but 6:50 in the morning is a new low, and the doorbell is the annoying cherry on top.

I guess it could have been worse. At least it wasn't anybody that needed to talk to me. I didn't have to face anyone with my bedhead and un-brushed teeth. I didn't have to lean out into the chilly air in my bathrobe while awkwardly blocking the dogs in with my leg. Sometimes I wish our front door didn't exist.

So there it is, one of the weirder ways to start a morning. Whether the effects of that doorbell will ripple chaos and disaster into my day in the style of The Butterfly Effect or just amount to a weird story, I don't know. I'm just going to try to wash the disturbance away with this fresh cup of coffee. Here's to the things that bring us back to a sense of normal - absolutely nothing weird or off-rhythm about this coffee.

Sip. It's good to be here today, and I missed you yesterday. Marissa earned a last minute wait-listed seat into an advanced dog agility seminar, so I took the day off work to free things up. I may not have been on the clock, but I still had plenty to do. It was a heads-down, dad-duty kind of day. Miles and I dropped Mom off on the west side of town. We caught up on laundry. We ate lunch, picked up Rodney from school, and picked up groceries together. I shook both the boys out of their afternoon naps so we could beat the traffic to pick up Mom again.

By the way, while waking Miles out of his afternoon nap, this is how I found him.


I wasn't surprised. Lately Miles has been expressing his own frustration with nap time by climbing out of his clothes. On good days, he only gets as far as wiggling his head out of the neck hole of his shirt. I've never seen him get his whole leg through it too. I bet it wasn't fun when he realized he was stuck, but it couldn't have been that bad. Miles fell back asleep for at least another hour, bested and pinned by his own jiu jitsu leg lock.

I capped off a busy dad-duty day with an adventure in the kitchen. I made pea soup, but on an impulse I grabbed a package of ham hocks from the meat counter. I had never cooked with ham hocks before, and at face value they looked a bit grotesque. There were four flat, wide bones with dark marrow circles, rubbery tendons and cartilage covered with a thick white pad of rough hide. They looked like feet. But the five dollar price tag caught my eye. They wouldn't set out so much meat for sale if there wasn't a trick to it, and I wanted to be in the "know".

Back home, I threw the hocks into a stock pot with water and brought it to a boil. Normally if I were making chicken stock, I'd scoop the foamy scum off the top and add the vegetables, but even after cleaning the foam off the top, the water was emitting an off, gamey smell. So I emptied the stock pot, rinsed the hocks in cold water, and started again. When the water boiled, more foam rose to the top, but it smelled like pure, satisfying pork the second time around. I added vegetables and herbs and let the mixture simmer for a few hours. It would later make the base of pea soup, and it tasted delicious.

The conclusion? Ham hocks look disgusting, but they're cheap and delicious. I read later that they come from the pig's ankle. I think blanching them in hot water and rinsing them in the sink before cooking them was the right call, as that seemed to remove a lot of the impurities. If you seem them at your store and you're in the mood for a grotesque, cost-effective, and weirdly satisfying adventure, I fully recommend making some soup out of them.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Tuesday, everyone.