After two years, this blog still challenges me to poke and prod and go places I haven't been before. It reminds me that despite what I think I already know, the only thing I really know is that there is always more to know.
I'm grateful for that.
I wouldn't want it any other way.
I'm also grateful to those of you that take time out of your busy, busy lives to drop me a line. To ask questions. To say hi. To send encouragement. To take me to task. And sometimes, after I respond, you respond back. And so on. And the next thing I know, I have a new friend.
I'm grateful for that, too.
Sometimes, my new friends send me things. Special things. The kind of things you can't buy in a store. Or anywhere else for that matter.
Sometimes, they send me inspiration. Or boxes of sunshine. They even send me magic.
And just in case there was any doubt, it was clearly labeled POP'S MAGIC HAM.
Uwe's pop is a magician. On his farm in Texas he transforms pork loin into something not of this world. Uwe and Chad describe the magic far better than I could. I can tell you, though, that with a smoke whisperer for a father, Uwe has a lot to be grateful for.
And so do I.
If you've ever received food that promises magic, you'll know that the first thing you want to do is eat it. And if it's good, you'll want to eat it all. That's part of the magic.
And if you, like me, showed heroic restraint and stopped yourself short so someone else can enjoy it too, then you know that magic is meant to be shared.
Some time later, you may find yourself with a few handfuls of tiny fingerling potatoes that are intended to share a plate with the magic ham. And you wait patiently to roast them because your oven is currently full of dirt (after all, it's early spring and you need sterile soil to start your seedlings). And as you wait, your nostrils fill will the smell of roasted earth, and you look at the potatoes and slap yourself upside the head (gently, of course) and think DUH. And you grab a trowel and head for the garden and fill a casserole dish with damp earth.
Back in the kitchen you bury the potatoes in the earth and it just feels right. You put them in the oven and set a timer. You hope against hope that they turn out tender and fragrant, but they don't. You look with despair at the shriveled hard pucks and realize that they are victims of the hygroscopic properties of silica. You try again with a fresh batch of potatoes, this time soaking the soil thoroughly, and you smile, remembering how you used to make mud pies as a child and you realize that you've come full circle.
They turn out perfect: soft, tender, earthy by design. You give them a quick rinse in hot water, sad that you had to do so because you like the way they looked with bits of soil clinging to them. Then you remember the crispy cream and crumble some over the hot potatoes with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. You toss them and watch the bits of toasted milk solids soften and melt, coating the potatoes with butterfat and you are satisfied.
You eat the earthy potatoes and magic ham and come to a sudden realization. It is this:
In your entire life, you've cooked with fire. Sometimes with water. Sometimes with air. And now you can add earth to the list.
Somehow, that makes you feel complete.