Most days in most months, I think that I've got it pretty good. I'm head over heels in love with my husband. I have a terrific son, who is almost always a source of laughter and inspiration to me. We live in a comfortable home in a city a we love. As for my job (or jobs), I always say that while it's less lucrative than my lawyer days, it's far more rewarding. So on most days in most months, I feel pretty lucky.
And then March roars in and takes me down like a lame gazelle on an African plain. I can't remember exactly when it started, probably because it has been going on for as long as I can recall, but March is routinely a series of misfortunes and mishaps. The traumas and bad luck ranges from the mundane to the profound. To provide some context, here are a few examples:
- I've had more than my share of break-ups in March, including separating from and ultimately divorcing my first husband.
- Last year, we embarked on a minor home renovation project (insulating an extension) only to learn that the back of our house was in shreds from water damage hidden from us by the prior owners more than doubling the cost of a simple project.
- Two years ago, we were forced to rip out a whole wall of cabinets when I stumbled upon a Rattus norvegicus (that's fancy talk for brown rat) taking up residence in our laundry room, slithering through a gap left at the base of our basement wall. At least we knew he was dead, when the stench of rotting flesh emanated from the walls.
My health has not been immune from this streak of misfortune. In March 2007, I came down with a nasty case of shingles just weeks before I was scheduled to cook for our now FLOTUS, Mrs. Obama (fortunately the dinner was scheduled for April and the medication went into overdrive starting April Fool's Day - of course).
I could go on, but it hurts to relive these previous Marches, especially when this one has followed an equally icky pattern.
This year started out with a bang. On March 1, I received news so disappointing that I'm not the first person to blog about it and it's only gone downhill from there. Several friends have noted that I look tired. Others have seen my scowl-like frown and turned on their heel when approaching. Not such a terrible idea, who knows bad luck is catching.
I've tried all sorts of solutions, remedies, distractions to at least soothe the troubled mind. One of my favorite food-related means of chasing the March blues is comfort food. Everyone's got their version, whether it be chicken soup or macaroni and cheese. Mine is the silky strands of slow simmered swine. When March started its downward spiral, I pulled out a beautiful bone-in pork shoulder from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. After searing the exterior, I cooked it with the gentle heat of my All-Clad slow cooker in a mixture of apple cider and onions. After a day in the fridge, I pried off the layer of golden fat, returned the meat to a simmer, while I boiled a batch of Pasta Puttana's luxurious butternut squash noodles. After plating, I snapped a few pictures of it and then sat down to enjoy it with my son, my darling husband, and a glass or two, or three of wine.
The glimmer of comfort was short lived. Thor came upstairs when called, clearly agitated. "I think I swallowed a penny." My usually smart 6-year old who's never, ever ingested any other kind of inedible object has chosen on this particular day in this particular month to eat a penny. The thought of comfort had passed with visions of coins sliding down his esophagus.
Perhaps, my recipe for braised pork will provide some comfort for others surviving the Winter blahs.
Me? I'm moving to Australia, at least until April.
That is unless anyone has an idea on how to cure such bad luck. If so, do tell. I've still got 6 days to get through.
Cider Braised Pork
1 medium pork shoulder, preferably bone-in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 large onion, thinly sliced 1/2 cup sparkling apple cider 1 cup apple cider 2 cups chicken stock a bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/8 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, 1/8 teaspon coriander seeds, and 1 clove 1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Dry the pork shoulder and season with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven or slow cooker insert over a medium-high flame. (If using a Dutch oven, preheat the oven to 350 F). Brown the pork shoulder on all sides. Remove to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the butter. When the foam subsides, dump in the onion and cook until soft and light golden, stirring frequently. Pour in the apple cider and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. Pour in the apple cider and chicken stock and add the bouquet garni. Bring the liquids to a simmer. Return the pork to the pot. Put the slow cooker insert onto the pan or place the Dutch oven into the oven and cook for 4-6hours or until the pork is very tender. If possible, let the pork come to room temperature and refrigerate so that you can easily remove the layer of fat from the top. Serve on top of noodles or mashed potatoes.