Life can become hectic despite the best of intentions. For me, it happened over supper and water.
Supper was meant to be one of those slow-cooked, curl up to knit a promised winter hat while alarmingly good smells pervade every nook and cranny types of stews. A rendang with coconut milk and toasted coconut over sticky rice. Garden carrots on the side for crunch. Simple. Hands washed, little faces around the table, forks poised.
And then, the realization. The cows need water and they need it today.
Which is cool, I understand. Water is a simple fact for life. I would want the water too. But that one simple fact made supper into a mad dash, stuff your face, go-get-in-your-jammies-whilst-I -throw dishes-in-the-dishwasher kind of meal. Come on, it's a school night, your sister is a crank, your dad's gone for the week and I need to load the generator. Rush, whine, rice trails throughout the house reminding me of cheesy Family Circus cartoons tracing PJ's steps through the day.
Pile into the truck with my father-in-law. Lift the water tank onto the truck bed. Add mineral. Add sump pump. Add banjo pump hose. Add generator. Community well and then north.
At which point, proper perspective began to take hold. It happened with the slowing light. Then the slumbering pace of combines wending through swathed and heavy fields. Cows grazing stubble.
A slowing of moments brought realization. These are crazy moments my children will remember. Heading out to the pasture in pyjamas, driving swooping curving roads. To end up in a quiet place. Some trees, ducks, grass, rowed bales. Visit the remaining cows. Pack up and enjoy a swirling coloured sunset on the way home. Feel satisfaction in another task completed with the help of little ones and cherished elders. Never mind the two year old screamed for most of the trip. That noise will fade in memory, just as supper's rice stuck to my sock-bottoms will not be remembered, I hope. And if it doesn't, life could always use a soundtrack and texture. Because sometimes knitting and calm is plain-old boring.
Rendang-a version thereof
adapted from RasaMalaysia. I would not in any way claim this adaptation to be authentic.
1 pound boneless beef blade roast (cut into small cubes)
5 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cinnamon stick (about 2-inch long)
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods
1 lemongrass (cut into 4-inch length and pounded)
1 can thick coconut milk
1 cup water
2 teaspoons tamarind pulp (soaked in some warm water for the juice and discard the seeds )
6 dried kaffir lime leaves
3/4 c coconut
Salt to taste
2 onions, finely chopped
2 lemongrass (white part only)
5 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
approx. 1 tsp red chill paste
- Chop the spice paste ingredients and then blend it in a food processor until fine.
- Heat the oil in a stew pot, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and cardamom and stir-fry them until aromatic.
- In another pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and brown beef cubes in small batches at med-hi heat. Add the browned beef and the pounded lemongrass to spice mixture and stir for 1 minute.
- Deglaze beef pan with water, scraping up all the little caramelized bits on pan bottom. Add to beef and spice mixture. Add the coconut milk and tamarind juice. Simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is almost cooked.
- Add the kaffir lime leaves, stirring to blend well with the meat. Toast coconut in pan you used to brown beef. Add to stew mixture.
- Lower the heat to low, cover the lid, and simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is really tender and the gravy has almost dried up.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve immediately with steamed rice and save some for overnight.