French Fridays with Dorie
I have a stew problem. Stew. Eew.
I hear the word “stew” and immediately relive my experience of opening hundreds of #10 cans of it every Wednesday afternoon while working as a summer camp counselor. My wrist still aches when I remember the hours it takes to feed an entire camp from a can.
Each week we were asked to work one day off our regular camp jobs and spend a day in the kitchen working for Big Betty, our camp’s (ahem) “Chef”.
Its hard to refer to her as a “Chef” these days without choking on my words a bit. To call yourself a chef you should first have people in the kitchen that you direct but – but when you do direct these minions to open 100 cans of Dinty Moore Stew for your dinner entree, well, you should be forced to abdicate your title. Don’t you think?
So, Wednesday was my day for kitchen work and Wednesday night was stew night. Like clockwork. Stew, salad, butter and rolls. Hot fudge sundaes for dessert. Chef Betty had obviously hoped that campers who had just sugared up on ice cream sundaes would no longer remember the meal they suffered through just minutes earlier.
You’d think with a menu like that I would have spent my Wednesday mornings dicing beef shoulder, quartering potatoes, or at least peeling and slicing bags of carrots so that they could simmer all afternoon, filing the kitchen and dining hall with their enticing and nourishing aromas. .
Nope. At Big Betty’s direction I spent my Wednesday afternoons opening up hundreds of #10 cans filled with stew, scooping their contents into big pots and carrying them to the cooking line where Betty’s number 2, an even bigger woman named Claudia, would melt down their contents over the stove and pass them on to a minion who would, in turn, scoop them out onto a sectioned cafeteria tray.
You can only imagine how horrifying this whole experience was to a young, impressionable youth such as myself. A youth, I might remind you, with particular culinary sensibilities.
I lost 10 pounds at camp that summer.
So now you know why I have an aversion to stew. Its not permanent I assure you. I’m working it out because, well, I actually really like stew. Now that I know what it should taste like. Since stews are just a tick of the gastronomical index away from all manner of elegantly braised dishes that I love. — Coq au vin, boeuf à la bourguignonne, veal oso bucco, etc..
Seems all I really have to do to enjoy stew is stay away from cans and give it another, more fancy name. A name you won’t see on the side of a can. A name like Navarin Printanier.