Thursday, November 4, 2010
Beef Stew With a Dash of Philosophy
Beef Stew With a Dash of Philosophy
I stopped in a local market today, headed to the meat department and ordered a pound of stew meat. I asked the butcher how his day was going, and he said, “I wish I was in the Caribbean.” I said that sounded quite lovely but that I had never been. He said, “Oh you should go. It’s a magnificent place.” It turns out his grandparents from Italy had purchased a house on St. Maarten over 40 year ago and the house has remained a place for the family to visit, having survived multiple hurricanes and several major post-hurricane overhauls. I could practically see the ocean through his eyes.
From there we segued into a discussion of his Italian heritage and the European way of life. He spoke of his visits to the old country with wistfulness. He shared a story of a trip to his grandmother’s home in Guilianova, Italy when he was a young man. He had slept with the windows open facing the Adriatic Sea and was awakened by the aroma of fresh bread and pastries. He arose, hopped on his bicycle and headed off to discover the source. He traversed the steep hill leading down to the village below and discovered a bakery in full operation. The sun was just beginning to rise for the day. He described a diminutive, round Italian woman who noticed him peering in the window. She shouted, “Buon Giorno! Americano?” He nodded and was invited into a room full of appetizing wonders, scintillating aromas and mouth-watering delights. The women bakers filled his stomach with treats and his arms with breads and tortes. After a few friendly pinches on his cheeks, he was sent out the door to ride his bicycle back up the hill to share his treasures with his ‘famiglia’. His family had been searching for him, but quickly understood where he had been when he arrived with a trail of flour behind him and the scent of heaven in his arms.
He then shared his thoughts on Americans and our busy, busy lives - always in a hurry to get nowhere fast. He noted the humane working hours in Italy. A couple of hours in the middle of the day for eating and resting before returning to work are the norm. He mentioned the month off in August that everyone takes as an annual holiday. He wondered out loud what would happen if a few American corporations dared to adopt this philosophy and just shut down for an entire month.
So, Bill and I stood there and talked for about 20 minutes as shoppers passed by, hurriedly picking up groceries for the day and week. We were fortunate that no one came to the meat counter while we were discussing these important issues.
I never cease to be amazed at the conversations that occur when I ask the simple question, “How’s your day going?” If I show real interest and take the time to listen, I come away enriched with a new perspective and sometimes a new friend. The next time I buy stew meat or a roasting chicken, I may inquire further about his philosophies for changing our busy American culture. I think he’s onto something.
1 lb. beef stew meat
Two bay leaves
Six carrots cleaned and sliced
Six potatoes peeled and sliced
One onion peeled and diced
Salt & pepper to taste
In a heavy pot, cook the beef in the beef broth with the bay leaves over medium to medium high heat. Add the potatoes, carrots and onions. Cook until juicy and tender. Remove the bay leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix cornstarch in a little water and add slowly to the juice if you wish to have a thicker gravy base. Voila – beef stew!