Million Dollar Beef Stew
Your greatest asset is your earning ability. Your greatest resource is your time.
-- Brian Tracy
When the incessant Seattle rain starts to feel like the Chinese water torture, it's time to head over to Ronnie's house and wheedle a bowl of beef stew from her. Though Ronnie is my favorite cousin, I can say without prejudice that nobody makes a better beef stew than she does. And the price of her stew is quite reasonable just a bottle of her favorite Cabernet Sauvignon and a loaf of crusty Italian bread from her favorite bakery, which is inconveniently located all the way on the other side of town. Even counting the hour of back and forth traffic to the bakery, it's still a small price to pay for a piece of gastronomic paradise and a delightful evening of her company. We made our dinner date for Saturday night at six o'clock.
At ten minutes to six, armed with the red wine and crusty bread, I arrived at Ronnie's door and rang the bell.
Looking very domestic in her blue-checked apron, Ronnie opened the door and let out an avalanche of tantalizing fragrances. I kissed her on the cheek and took a deep breath of the air that's suffused with the tender scent of herbs and the robust aroma of roasted meat. Warmed by the heat radiating from the blazing fire in the living room next to the foyer, I asked myself, not for the first time, why I did not visit here more often.
I closed the door behind me and followed Ronnie into her kitchen. One glance at the gleaming copper pans hanging from the ceiling rack and the healthy pots of herbs sitting along the windowsills tells you it is a room well used and cared for by an attentive mistress.
I placed the bread and wine on the kitchen counter and smelled cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. "You didn't!" I gasped with pleasure, knowing that she most certainly did.
Ronnie looked up from the white frosting she was whipping and smiled. "I know it's your favorite," she said. So much affection was enfolded in those few simple words. I hugged her and told her I love her. Something else I don't do enough anymore because there is always something more pressing to do and places to go. Oddly, I remembered what Tammy had said about still being a rat even if we win the rat race. I began to wonder if she had a point.
As much as I love homemade cinnamon rolls, I had stopped taking the time to make them, just as I had neglected other simple pleasures in life I don't have time for anymore. I must have mentioned to Ronnie in passing about craving some, and she remembered. Knowing her life was as hectic as mine, I was touched that she would take the time from her busy schedule to bake for me.
Making cinnamon rolls is an all day event. She takes the time to allow the dough to rise twice in order to coax more life from the yeast. She plumps the raisins in Portugal Port wine for extra sweetness. But the best part is the topping, which is half goat and half cow cream cheese whipped with a few generous splashes of Grand Marnier and dollops of French butter. Someone has to love you very much to go to all this bother to make you happy.
I helped her set the table and sliced the bread, two things I could do without encroaching on the chef's sacred cooking territory.
We sat down in the cozy nook next to the kitchen that looked out to the Seattle skyline. The slowly developing evening fog was starting to blur the skyline, adding a surreal layer to the twilight beyond.
When the stew was served, I eagerly picked up my spoon to take a bite. It was every bit as good as I remembered: The seasonings were skillfully balanced and the texture was positively sensuous. I closed my eyes and uttered some unintelligent sound of absolute bliss.
Copyright 2001 by Meena Cheng. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
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