Hi. I hope you’re still here. Because I am. I always have been in a way.
All throughout these past months of little sleep, of no respite, of tiredness and sadness. Of trying to get by, trying to make sure everything was at least a decent amount done. Of squeezing in work, and children, and food, and a household…while watching my father leave this world. As I knew he was. As I always knew. Even when people gathered around with extra loud voices – as if the volume of it could somehow push the sickness away – I stood by and did what I needed to do. I watched, I spoke to doctors and nurses, I updated family members. Rinse, repeat. I whispered in his ear that I loved him, because I felt that was the most important thing he needed to hear. If everything else was left unsaid it was ok, that I loved him was enough. I cherished each time when he would respond, and say it back, and told my heart that it was ok if this was the last time. So when it was really the last time, and the days to follow held no response, no “saying back”, it was ok. And I continued to do what needed to be done. In companionable silence. And people’s foreheads knitted in worry, hands were wrung, and tears were spilled. I looked at them almost as if watching from afar. Shook my head and went about my business. There were things to be done, and I did them. Until the end. And truth be told, until now.
Grief. They say it comes to us in different ways…and it’s true. I have certainly shed some tears. But how do we measure our grief? Is it in tears? In the days we can’t get out of bed? The days of being inconsolable? I can’t say. There are things that need to be done, and I do them. I feel sadness like an old wound, humming a bit every now and then. Is this grief? I used to go to bed in fear, that I would wake up and “real grief” would arrive, and attack me with a vengeance. Punishing me for having let others cry in my stead. But I’ve stopped being scared. There is too much life yet to be lived. If there is one thing that my father has taught me it is to live life to the fullest, and to follow your passions. So I go on, doing what I do best, which is doing the things that need to be done. And if one day, weeks, months, or years from now, the grief arrives, big and dark and monstrous, then I’ll deal with it then.
Meanwhile, there are booboos to be kissed, books to be read, trips to be taken, birthdays to be celebrated, food to be cooked and to be eaten. There is work to be done, and a new year to experience. There is life to be lived.
Korean Beef Stew
(from Trissalicious, with some changes)
- 1 kilo beef short ribs
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 5 spring onions, chopped
- 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, to serve
- 2-3 spring onions chopped, to serve
- Optional: 1 tablespoon cornstarch diluted in 2 tablespoons cold water
– In a small bowl mix together the dark soy sauce, sesame oil, 5 spring onions, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and mirin. Set aside.
– Bring an oven-proof pot to medium high heat then add the oil.
– Season the beef ribs with salt and pepper.
– When the oil is hot add the beef to the pot, making sure not to overcrowd the pot. Do this in batches if needed. Fry the meat to sear until golden brown.
– Once done, return all the meat to the pot and add the sauce mixture and the two cups of water. I like to almost cover the meat in the liquid. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top.
– Cover the pot and transfer to a pre-heated 180C oven and cook for 2-3 hours or until the beef is very tender and falling off the bone. Check your pot occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking or burning and to turn the meat around in the sauce so it braises evenly. Towards the end of the cooking time, I like to give it an extra 15-20 minutes with the cover off to reduce the sauce a bit.
– Once the meat is meltingly tender remove the pot from the oven and stir in half the sesame seeds. If you are serving immediately then top with the other half of the sesame seeds and the remaining spring onions. If you aren’t serving this immediately, then add the rest of the sesame seeds and spring onions right before you serve.
**If you want to thicken the sauce further, you can add the cornstarch that has been diluted in cold water when the ribs are done. I didn’t feel I needed to (or maybe I was lazy) so I left it out.
Stews and braises are some of the most comforting foods for me, both in the eating of them and in the cooking. The feeling of “tending a pot” that blips slowly in the oven for hours gives me just as much pleasure as sinking my teeth into a tender piece of meat while dribbling its sauce on hot rice. So I am sharing this with you, some comfort in a pot, to bolster us through forlorn times, and to fortify us for new undertakings. Korean beef stew is one of my favorite stews and Trissalicious’ recipe is both delicious and relatively simple to make. I make mine in the oven (vis a vis on the hob) because I love making almost all braise-y dishes there. The heat is slower and gentler, and, you don’t have to look after it as much. I’ve cooked everything from binagoongan baboy to adobo this way. Although of course, you can prepare it completely on the hob, as the original recipe says, and that is absolutely fine. This dish was a hit with my husband and both the little ones so I hope you give it a whirl.
So…here we are at the beginning of a new year. I can’t say that we can shrug off all last year’s troubles like an old jacket, and that everything henceforth will be shiny and fresh. I can’t say that last year’s ghosts will not come back to haunt us on cold rainy nights. But I can say that with each new dawn, new possibilities will show themselves to those who are looking. So keep watch, and be ready to reach out and take their hands. And when I stumble (or lock myself in a bathroom – a story for another time), I’ll know there is someone watching over me. And I’ll whisper, “Oh dad!” as I have many times since he passed. And I’ll keep going.
I want to wish all of you a wonderful New Year!! Your messages of comfort and sympathy have touched my heart and have given me solace throughout this tough time. I cannot express enough how much I want to stretch my arms across this virtual world and give you a big hug. May 2015 smile upon you tremendously!!