- Three pounds of slow-cooked brisket, left over from the second-night Passover seder where you managed to fit fifteen people in one little room for dinner and your wife touched Jew and Gentile alike with her telling of the flight from Egypt.
- The juices of the same, totaling about two cups, which you rescued by reboiling the shit out of it for about ten minutes.
- Half a bottle of cheap merlot, because you drank the other half yourself.
- Three potatoes.
- Two shallots, the last, slightly wilted survivors of a whole haul of shallots it took both hands to carry inside when you got back from the Quaker New Year’s Gathering with her, laughing and smiling. You squeezed her hand as midnight struck in the middle of the mountains, and some distant bagpipes sounded “Auld Lang Syne.”
- The last half of the celery she set out to dip in salt-water tears and people didn’t finish.
- Three carrots, which forms the third of the Holy Trinity, the mirepoix.
- A pack of white mushrooms, because you are the only one eating this, and no one will mind.
- The whole contents of a full tea kettle, less the two cups you had with breakfast this morning. She had Mariage Freres, you had builder’s tea.
- A spoonful of Old Bay from the dented tin that’s followed you to China and back twice.
- Put on folksongs of quiet desperation, to fill the silent house with music as you are about to fill the cold kitchen with warmth and the salon with light.
- Rescue the gravy of the brisket – boil the shit out of it while you take your boots off.
- Pour yourself a glass of that merlot. It’ll taste better as the evening wears on, the aromas mingle, and the sharp edge comes off experience.
- Tumble the desiccated brisket into the Dutch oven where you’re boiling the juices, add half the bottle of merlot and the contents of the kettle. Toss in some Old Bay. Cover.
- Stab the brisket every now and again with a meat fork, until it starts coming apart under the fork’s ministrations.
- Chop the vegetables rough, adding them in order of toughness: first the potatoes and the carrots, then the shallots, then the celery and the mushrooms.
- Cover again, turn the heat down to low, and leave it be until the meat comes apart if you look at it funny.
- Pour yourself a bowl of thick stew, knowing that no matter how far away she is, she loves you and misses you. Drink a glass of the cheap merlot with it, and toast once for her.