And it's not just any dutch oven. It is the mack-daddy, enameled cast iron, Le Creuset French Oven. When it arrived, I immediately named it Simba because I wanted to take it to the top of a mountain and hold it up high so that all the creatures of the forest could genuflect upon it.
There are other dutch ovens out there. I've heard that Costco's are actually very comparable and less expensive. I looked at Martha Stewart's ovens and they looked okay. But I don't own a Coach purse. I spend a reasonable amount on shoes. Is it too much to ask that my kitchen be a little brand-obsessed? (Full disclosure: Simba was a very generous wedding gift. However, if nothing else in our registry had been fulfilled, this was the item that I would have purchased for myself. When I looked at the registry, and the dutch oven had a check next to it marked "fulfilled," I, myself, felt a little fulfilled.)
Simba has been good to us. I have made Julia Child's famous Beef Bourguignon, several other soups and stews, spaghetti sauce with meatballs, and tonight I am making Stout-Braised short ribs for an early Christmas dinner. When the dinner is ready, I expect it will look a little like this.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I like to bake, but I don't do it very often. Cooking is something that I do nearly every day but baking is like an extra-curricular activity, something I do after I've done my chores and cleaned my room. Also, I just so happen to live in a climate where turning on my oven is ill-advised. But every year, my bake-ological clock starts ticking a few days before Thanksgiving and thus starts the season of baking compulsion.
It starts innocently enough, bringing apple and pumpkin pie to the host's house for Thanksgiving. And then I start buying butter in bulk. I make Christmas cookies, the same ones that my mom has made my whole life, and most of them are stashed away in the freezer. They get taken out closer to Christmas unless there is some sort of a apocalypse-related cookie emergency. (I need fresh cookies right now! Oh, they have to defrost? Ok... I'll wait). After the Professor and I shacked up together he got to witness the odd cookie behavior firsthand and was wondering why they were even being frozen to begin with. My response went something like, "Cookies aren't for eating. Cookies are for saving!"
And around New Year's, when the un-eaten cookies are getting stale in the cupboard and every host, co-worker, and casual acquaintance has been given a plate of cookies, I say the same thing. "I will not make cookies next year." There's enough happening around the holidays without the self-inflicted pressure of cookie production. Plus, since these are the family recipes I usually get a batch of cookies shipped from home and they usually taste better than mine anyway.
So why do I do it? I don't think it's a true compulsion because I can certainly stop. I suppose it's part of the ritual of Christmas, my mom did it so now I do it (Nature? Nurture?). But I think there is a lot of pressure on all of us to perform and to have the "perfect Christmas." Black Friday specials kick off the shopping season so early that if it's December 10th and you don't have your shopping complete, you feel like you might as well give up. But there is lots of time, and many ways to celebrate. So this year I'm still making cookies. But next year maybe I'll just say to hell with it and give everyone on my list a fruitcake.