“Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.” ~ Leonard Cohen
I was born the daughter of a sailor. I lived wherever the Navy sent us. When I was old enough, I joined the Army and married a soldier and we continued the traveling story until he decided to try out civilian life nine years into our marriage. I was happy. I would finally get to put down roots. Put down roots. I dreamed of it … longed for it and prayed for it. They were vain dreams and vain prayers. How could I know roots in terra firma would never be possible for me?
I remember when we sold our last house. We were at the closing with the young couple buying our home and their lawyer. They had lived in that same small town all their lives. They had known their lawyer since they were children. As we waited for our lawyer to show up, they told stories from their youth. They talked of cousins, common acquaintances, and yes, mama and them. I hung on every word. The warm familiarity they had seemed like old quilted blanket worn smooth and soft through time. They laughed and sighed as I watched as amazed as if I were listening to some well woven fantasy. It was a life as foreign to me as one of elves and dwarfs. I imagined what a good life it must be.
Imagine would be all I could do. My husband and I now in our fifties would be off to some new place, just the two of us. All our children were now living the life we had lived. The military had flung them out to all corners of the States and across the sea. Far from us. My roots, you see, would never, could never be in the ground. They were always dug into people. Though separated, those resilient roots stretched from heart to heart over this large earth.
Joe and I realized that we, our very persons, were roots for our children. They come home to us not to a place. We have become rooted in each other. He has been the one constant and unchangeable earth I could cling to. I no longer pray for roots. I have loved seeing the kids stretch their wings and follow their hearts. I have learned to love our life to see its uniqueness as a positive. We are in our own way both free and grounded.
The dish I am sharing with you today is one that conjures up images of family gatherings and togetherness. Pot-au-Feu means “pot on fire” in French and is a classic dish made in homes all over France. It is served family style and is meant to nourish a crowd. I have pared it down for about six people. It is wonderfully comforting and perfect for these rainy cold days we’ve been having lately. You serve it with the meat and vegetables separate from the broth, and what a broth it is! It is so rich and delicious I would be content to have it all by itself. Drizzle a little over the meat and vegetables and serve with coarse salt and Dijon mustard. It’s hard to imagine a more satisfying meal.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
3 lbs lean beef, (pot roast)
4 potatoes, peeled
1 marrow bone, wrapped in cheesecloth
2 turnips, peeled
2 leeks, washed thoroughly and trimmed of all but an inch of green, tied together with kitchen string
3 carrots, cut in half
1/2 cabbage head, chopped in three pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Bouquet garni ~ wrap 3 sprigs of parsley, 3 sprigs of thyme, 3 garlic cloves, 8 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf in cheesecloth tied with kitchen string
Place beef and marrow bone in a large dutch oven with a pinch of salt and cover with plenty of water.
Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. After about an half hour, add the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Cover with water as needed and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low and simmer for 3 1/2 hours until meat is tender.
When meat is tender, remove to a large serving platter along with the vegetables and marrow bone. Skim fat off the broth, season with salt, and strain into a soup bowl.
Serve with course sea salt and Dijon mustard.
Pot-au-Feu ~ French Beef Stew
- 3 lbs lean beef (pot roast)
- 4 potatoes peeled
- 1 marrow bone wrapped in cheesecloth
- 2 turnips peeled
- 2 leeks washed thoroughly and trimmed of all but an inch of green, tied together with kitchen string
- 3 carrots cut in half
- 1/2 cabbage head chopped in three pieces
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- Bouquet garni ~ wrap 3 sprigs of parsley 3 sprigs of thyme, 3 garlic cloves, 8 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf in cheesecloth tied with kitchen string
- Place beef and marrow bone in a large dutch oven with a pinch of salt and cover with plenty of water.
- Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. After about an half hour, add the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Cover with water as needed and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for 3 1/2 hours until meat is tender.
- When meat is tender, remove to a large serving platter along with the vegetables and marrow bone. Skim fat off the broth, season with salt, and strain into a soup bowl.
- Serve with course sea salt and Dijon mustard.