Tomorrow three of our former homeschool friends will fly in to Texas from Virginia.
These kids have butchered chickens with us. They have marveled over brand new baby goats and lambs and turkeys and calves and guineas and ducks and chickens and pigs. They have mucked barn and built bigger bonfires than you can imagine. Shot guns and potato cannons. Swam in creeks.
A couple of weeks ago I was working in the bakery as usual. Knowing that eventually we would all need to eat, I pulled a rooster out of the freezer. The vacuum-sealed freezer bag was marked 7-09. It was carried in a big truck, in the freezer from Virginia last July 25th, 2011. I sat it out on the counter and returned to the bakery, the bread, the customers.
Before you know it, 6pm rolled around and said rooster still waited, partially frozen on the counter.
I think I might have let slip out a bad word. What to do? Kids can not live on bread alone, but that does happen a lot at our house...
Some little part of my brain reminded me that I have a pressure cooker.
You may not have been with me in the early blogging days, but if you were, you will remember that pre-farm I had never made jam, canned or any of those other domestic goddess duties. But my sister Terri had.
She would mentor me by telephone as my blood pressure rose, right alongside the pressure canner, just waiting for the moment I would blow the house to kingdom come.
I eventually canned hundreds of jars of goodies off our farm, along with chicken broth. But I never used the pressure cooker to cook regular food.
In a moment of desperation, inspiration rose up like a phoenix. Isn't that always the case?
As I do on a regular basis, I hit google. What in the world did I do before Google???
Rooster went into pot with a quart of water, a pinch of salt and a bunch of garlic cloves. I sealed the top, put it onto my ancient electric stovetop and waited for the steam to rise from the little thingymajig on top. When it did, I put the little pressure cap on and watched the pressure gauge. It stayed at 15 lbs pressure for 15 minutes. I prepared the rest of our dinner, helped with homework and probably poured myself a glass of wine.
Perhaps a bit cynical, but deep, deep down, hope was telling me that this just might work.
We have eaten a bunch of roosters over the last few years. And a whole lot more Cornish Cross Broilers. The broilers are succulent. Tender. Juicy. The roosters are stringy. Tough. Even after hours in a pot of water on the stovetop. They make good broth. Their meat is dark.
Well. After the pressure gauge dropped down to zero, I opened up the contraption, wondering if we were going to have chicken for supper or not. Grabbed a fork. Reached in to the steaming, garlicky pot. Drooling.
The most tender, succulent chicken I had tasted in ages. Juicy. Flavorful. TENDER. In fifteen minutes cooking time, probably thirty minutes total.
We shredded the meat, making some kind of green enchilada casserole, minus the tortillas. Maggie and I snacked away, and I couldn't help but exclaim over the miracle of the pressure cooker. We ate our supper that evening and I was amazed.
I looked on the blog and found a post written July 28, 2009, describing the day that rooster was harvested. It was a day that started out with Arlene and doughnuts and Ingrid and Sean and Serge and tarps for shade and ice and James and Patrick and the other kids chasing chickens and Stewart bringing us lunch and her and the other Maggie bagging the clean wholesome meat up in our kitchen with the Seal a Meal Serge bought her for Christmas the year before.
All of that. And here we are, in Alpine, Texas, eating that day, reveling in the pressure cooker given to us by the Geigers because I messed up the old one.
I don't know about you, but something about that meal made me feel so deeply, profoundly grateful, I can't even tell you. Made me know that even though we don't get to be a part of daily life with our dear ones, those ones who have shared EVERY aspect of life and death with us, they are with us. So very with us.
And now part of that contingent will be arriving by airplane late tomorrow night and we won't butcher a single chicken or light a bonfire or shovel manure. But maybe we will share a rooster. Cooked in the pressure cooker. And we will laugh and remember.
And I will thank God.