Okay, so recently I was waxing rhapsodic about the sybaritic delights of tantalizing aromas wafting from a barbecue grill on a perfect spring evening.
There’s nothing like it, and believe me, my Beloved and I take full advantage of such simple pleasures.
But what do you do when, well, when the feat turns into famine?
Simple. You make soup.
Not too long ago, we had some folks in town for the weekend. Great to see them, had a blast, wonderful times, all that. Somewhere along the way, I had landed a deal on some steaks on special and this seemed like the perfect time to put those succulent looking pieces-o-cow to good use. I marinated them in my time-honored secret fixings and when the time was right, poured myself a frosty mug of cold beverage and hit the ignition switch on our trusty gas grill. Old Vesuvius erupted in all its happy, three-burner flame glory, and soon, those lovely bits of beef were sizzling ever so tantalizingly in the twilight.
The problem was, they were cheap cuts of meat, all right.
They probably would have been fine had I marinated them for three days instead of three hours. They looked great, smelled great, even had the blackened crust and grill stripes over which cardiologists and vegans everywhere wring their hands.
But after five minutes of chewing my first bite, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. And glancing around the table, I could tell everyone else knew it, too.
Usually, when the dinner table falls silent, it means all attention is being given to the cornucopia of delectables on the table – keep your hands away from my mouth and don’t attempt any deeper conversation than an occasional eye-rolling, “Mmmmmmgrrrr” until the feeding frenzy is finished.
This particular evening, the silence was heavy and broken only by low growls, the exact same noise our dog, The Wonder Corgi makes when she’s playing tug of war with an old baseball glove.
That was exactly what it seemed like we were eating: Old barbecued baseball glove. Marinated rawhide toy. Medium rare wingtip au jus.
All the compliments in the world couldn’t have hidden the fact that these things were virtually inedible; at the end of the meal, three of the four steaks were still sitting on their plates with one bite sawn off each end.
Mine, of course, was gone: I eat anything that doesn’t eat me first – sort of a gustatory point of pride. But two days later, I still had the better part of three steaks in a Tupperware container in the fridge, no doubt made even more difficult to chew by the time spent squatting truculently in a plastic container in 40 degree weather with nothing but milk, coffee creamer, and half a diet cola for company.
I also cannot stand to throw away food; this is ingrained in me by classic, deep south folk who grew up in harder times than I. Nothing warts me more than to buy something I thought I really wanted, like a mess of salad fixings, only to find them wilted and rotted five days later because I never got around to doing anything with it.
So here I am, craving something, anything besides left over resin bags steeped in Dale’s sauce, and knowing if I let it go another day they’ll be tossed.
A glance around the refrigerator and freezer revealed some unlikely prospects, and it was then that inspiration hit.
Back in the day, when I spent summers living and working (read that partying and surfing) in the Garden City/Murrells Inlet area, my roommates and I came up with a quaint little recipe we affectionately called “By God Soup” – everything in it, including the kitchen sink, by God. The secret to this recipe – because the ingredients changed constantly – was cooking it for a long time, usually on low in a crock pot, until it was edible, either through flavor mingling or reduction or both.
I had in my little kitchen the other night those baseball gloves, a couple of pieces of overcooked pepper and onion, half a raw onion, a bag of frozen vegetables, a variety of dry spices, and a bottle of catsup, the wonder condiment. I had a great big old pot – in a former life it was the business end of a giant pressure cooker – and I had a lot of time before supper.
You see where I’m going, right? And I will concede that the destination sounds right disgusting.
Yet it wasn’t.
Given enough time partially submerged in liquid approaching the temperature of, say, fresh hot lava, flame-broiled baseball glove – ripped by hand into smaller, bite-sized fists – will become as tender as rare prime rib. The spices already present from the day of grilling blends nicely with the rest of the concoction, which carries its own blend of peculiar spices thrown together seemingly on a whim. But make no mistake, there’s method in my madness.
Now if only I could separate the method from the madness…