Dinner · General

Back to Basics

CW: This post contains recollections on trauma, PTSD, and death.

My Uncle John died two weeks ago.

He died on the shoulder of a gravel road near Beaver Lake in Garfield, Arkansas.

He died without his shoes on. While I held his hand. And mom and I shouted his name, as though it held some magic. As though as long as we kept saying it, he’d keep being.

This was an accident.

It was a terrible accident.

It was a matter of sliding, turning too much, over correcting, stepping out of an unstable vehicle.

I wrote a lot more than what I’m posting here. But I’m not ready to share it. It’s still too raw. I realized I was writing in present tense. Because when I relive that day, I am living that day. It’s too messy to share. All you really need to know is, one second, after a year of isolation, now in the company of so many people I love, unimaginable, horrifying, tragedy, unrelated to the news, or the statistics I’d been living by, or the dangers I knew about – in the height of happiness and contentment and freedom – created a cacophony of terror and hopelessness and sadness. An unfeeling fissure ripped our moment apart.

And since it happened, I’ve remained. Split in two. Living one life where this both happened, and did not happen. Living a life that requires twice the amount of focus when I have half the capacity I had before. Living a life that stings, the creeps up, that pulls the breath from my lungs.

So many people have been through so much tragedy this past year and a half. Bizarre, unpredictable, tragedy.

What do we do when we face a world that isn’t the one we planned for? What do we do when our brief moments of joy are robbed from us? What do we do when accidents happen?

I don’t know.

I don’t know what we do.

But I know what I’ve done.

I’ve given myself a little more grace. I’ve reached out for love. I’ve reached out for guidance. I’ve reached out for therapy.

And I’ve celebrated the mundane accomplishments I used to take for granted.

A shower.

A made bed.

And a roasted chicken.

I use Martha Stewart’s recipe. And it was perfect. And it took a lot of effort, but it’s really an effortless recipe. And I had to really work to stand up and pull the chicken out of the fridge. And I faced a lot of minor obstacles that felt overwhelming. But I did it.

I’m still sad. I’m still split. I’m still clawing my way to some new life where my uncle is gone.

But at least I made dinner.

And tomorrow? Maybe I’m make something else.

Martha Stewart’s Roasted Chicken

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 roasting chicken, about 6 lbs
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 C chicken stock

Instruments

  • Roasting Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Fork
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Kitchen twine

Instructions

  1. Let the chicken and 1 T unsalted butter stand at room temperature for about half an hour. Preheat your oven to 425 F. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from the chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and any excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity liberally with salt and pepper, set aside.
  2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion slices, creating a sturdy bed of onions for the chicken to sit on. Roll the lemons and then pierce them multiple times with a fork. Press the peeled garlic with a knife to slightly crush. Insert the garlic, thyme sprigs, and lemons into the cavity. Place the chicken on the onion slices.
  3. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine. Place the middle of the twine at the center front of the bird. Bring the twine backwards, towards the cavity. Bring both sides of the string down around the chicken legs, looping from the inside around the outside and back towards the center. Pull until the legs cross slightly then tie the string.
  4. Spread the butter all over the outside of the chicken and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until the breast temperature reads 180 and the thigh is 190. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a cutting board to rest for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl. Leave the onions and browned bits in the roasting pan, but pull out any burnt pieces or bits. Using a large spoon skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on the onions to extract any liquid. Discard the onions, stire the remaiing tablespoon of cold butter into the gravy until melted. Untie the legs and remove and discard the garlic, thyme, and lemons. Carve and serve the gracy on the side.

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