What’s Inside

Archived | March 6, 2015 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We’re rounding the curve of winter into spring and the weekend was all about cold and snow in the forecast and thoughts of spreading some salt on the walk. Instead I made a lemon meringue pie and took a walk through the woods with Mr. S and did a bit of spring cleaning. I found the kids’ wood burning kit in the hall closet, and some paints, and got this longing in me to paint a picture. And so I did. The paints are oil-based, and though I’m no expert, I don’t think they’re the ideal paint for the sunset I was attempting, but I gave it a whirl and it’s a nice sunset, though Mr. S thinks it’s a bit intense with all the fuchsia and purple and azure. I told him Spring is coming and I’m feeling creative and there isn’t a color on the planet that doesn’t show up in a sunset now and then.

He told me I’m “artsy fartsy” and I should try ceramic frogs next. And he laughed. Sometimes he thinks he is funnier than he is. “What’s that?” I said. “What?” he asked. “That sound from the living room? I think it’s your recliner calling. It’s cold and it wants you to go out there and warm it up awhile.” He kissed my forehead before he went to read the paper, which means he’s kind of sorry but he knows he doesn’t need to apologize. That’s what a couple decades together has done for us. One thing, anyway.

I don’t consider myself an artist, really, though I do like art and I like to make art. It occurs to me that whenever we create anything it is a form of art, especially if we give it a bit of thought and care and attention. I’ve taken a few classes along the way and I do know how to make a macramé owl and stained glass ceramic tiles and latch hook rugs. I can embroider a fine picture, stitch a flour sack towel, piece together a quilt, and paint a room in an afternoon. I can put up fruit, too, for winter, and decorate a cake with roses and green leaves, and make those little petit fours cakes for tea time. I tend to be on the bold side when I make anything — bright colors, unusual words at times, strong flavors — and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Nothing wrong with oatmeal cookies flavored with orange, or hot pink roses, or flour sack towels stitched in purple with words like, “Follow Your Bliss” and “Never Ever Give Up.”

I have a friend named Danny who believes that making art can help us be on the outside what we are on the inside. We were having coffee, and he was talking about singing when he said that, but I think it’s true for everything we make. You can’t really know what’s in someone else’s heart, but you can get a good idea if you take a look at what they bring forth. Pies, paintings, polkaing, or singing “How Great Thou Art” in church on Sunday morning. A little piece of what’s inside.

Which is why I treasure, and always will, the wooden spoons Mr. S made for me a few years back. Three of ‘em, meticulously carved, each shaped a bit different from the others, sanded and shaped, each with an “S” and a small branch of palm carved into the handle near the end. The “S” is obvious; the palm? “A symbol of victory,” he told me. “Kitchen victories, and these are your weapons.”

So that’s in him, to carve something practical out of wood just for me, and to add a palm branch because he thinks I’m a warrior. Who would think? That’s why I love him, and art, and the urge, come spring, to make something lovely for the world. I think I’ll start with soup and go from there.

Here’s my variation on a family recipe, and you choose your favorite bread with which to serve it up. Just right for in-between weather, I say.

Irish Onion Soup

2 T butter
3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
4 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 T dark brown sugar
3 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth
1 cup Guinness or Irish stout
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese for topping

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, shallots, and garlic, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the bay leaves, basil, thyme, brown sugar, stock or broth, and stout. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange eight 1-cup flameproof crocks on a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into the crocks and sprinkle with cheese.

Place under the broiler 4 inches from the heat source and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Remove from the oven. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, place a crock in the center of each of 8 serving plates.

Serves 8 as a meal starter.