diary of a mad
househusband

28 january 2000

 

 cooking: country-style pork loin

I cook. It's my job. It's what I do.

Why, this very evening, for the delectation of my little nuclear family, I prepared a repast of pork loin, country-style, with rice and peas. Humble fare, true-- but ah, the details!

I baptized the meat (in Catholic fashion-- symbolic, rather than total immersion) with vinegar; I sprinkled it lightly with salt and garlic powder, dusted it with rubbed sage, and ground a bit of black pepper onto it. I then braised it, ever so gently (no violent boiling would toughen the fibers of this meat!) for an hour and a half, turning it after a time and lightly seasoning again.

Twenty minutes before I deemed the pork would be at the pinnacle of perfection, I poured off most of the liquid into a measuring cup, reserving in the skillet, with calibrated eyeball, precisely the amount I deemed appropriate to accompany the meat on the brief remainder of its journey to the absolute acme of flavorfulness.

After replacing the cover on the skillet, I seized the measuring cup, and-- moving quickly now, for timing would be critical in these last few minutes-- added sufficient water to make up the quantity necessary for cooking the rice. After bringing this savory liquor (which would ever so subtly lend its complex of flavors (not only the vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and sage, but also and most especially those rare and precious juices I had so painstakingly wrought from the meat!) to the rice) to a boil, I added those sere seeds (so soon to be swollen into plump tenderness, or perhaps tender plumpness), covered, and reduced heat.

I had but a moment's respite in which to peek under the skillet's lid, and make a quick assessment: Not now, but soon... Now it was time for the splash of water in another saucepan, quickly brought to a boil on a third burner, to which I added the peas. Cover, reduce heat; peek at the meat again: Yes-- now!

I wield the tongs with the tightly controlled urgency of a surgeon as I turn the slabs underside up, each revealing in its turn the color of sunlit autumn sycamore leaves. Operation over, I replace the lid, breathe deeply, and wriggle the tension from my shoulders: For the moment, I can do no more.

Slowly, indolently even, with a sureness of movement engendered by many years repetition (for I've been cooking for myself and others ever since my first wife What's'ername told me, so many years ago, with that logic that was hers and hers alone: "I'm leaving you--get out!"), I arrange plates, napkins, and utensils beside the stove, in readiness for The Moment.

A peek at the rice, a sniff of the peas, and I spring back into action: The Moment! I spoon rice onto plates; with tongs I place meat. Strategically placed knife and fork seem to leap into my hands, and I cut Leo's meat into bites, taking care to slice across the grain even though it's so tender a spoon can cut it. Last come the peas, so quick to lose their heat.

Into Waiter Mode, now: With a plate, utensils, and napkin in each hand, I move swiftly to the living room, and serve HRH Leo ("I am the Lord thy Son; thou shalt have no other gods before me!") and HRH Lee, D.G. Queen of the House, who are watching cartoons. Her Majesty accepts hers with the regally indifferent "Thanks..." of the Breadwinner. My Lord doesn't even look at his (little Philistine!), having consumed a full bag of CheeTohs (and not the little 25c bag that now costs 35c, either, but the 59c bag), a gift of Her Majesty, within the previous half-hour (%^&* Breadwinners!); it was still untouched when he went to bed.

Another deep breath: My job here is done.

In no hurry now, I return to the kitchen, prepare my own plate, and eat in solitary silence. It's good. It's exceptionally good. It's exactly what I intended. It's just what I'd hoped to achieve:

  • The meat tender enough to cut with a spoon, yet retaining its form when cut, instead of falling apart into individual fibers; betraying no hint of dryness despite having surrendered so much of its juice to the pan, and the rice; its seasoning so perfectly balanced that no living soul would succeed in identifying the ingredients from tasting alone, their individual identities submerged in and subservient to the meat's own richness, intensified to perfection by the perfectly timed final browning;
  • The rice, each grain as plump and tender, or perhaps as tender and plump, as I told you, so many words ago, it would be, and, thanks to the Gift of the Meat Juice, wanting no butter or other condiment;
  • The peas, cooked just to tenderness, perfectly complementing the flavors of pork and rice, even as their green enlivened the colors on the plate (as best I could tell, by the light of this monitor).

I would cheerfully serve this meal to, and be confident of compliments from, HRH Elizabeth, D.G. Queen of the United Kingdom, etc., D.F., etc., or HRH Beatrix, D.G. Queen of the Netherlands, etc., or HRH RuPaul, D.G. Queen of Queens.

I cook. It's my job. It's what I do.

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