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Archive for July 14th, 2009

Pork chops, like buttercups, are my Proustian objects.  At the taste of a chop, especially one brined in cider or served with applesauce, I’m back on Old City Falls Road, at the big yellow house in Strafford, Vermont.  Up the steep hill behind the house and barn—a catch-all space housing tools, lumber, a VW bus, my Dad’s darkroom, a sauna—was the pond where I learned to swim and skate, and the pig pen.  My parents, on the run from suburbia back to the land, had set up a small homestead with a vegetable garden, chickens, pigs, a goat, and two little girls running around in Wonder Woman Underoos in January, because the wood stove kept the living room so hot.

The pigs, Gruntly Squatwell and Squatly Gruntwell, were contented animals until that particular date when my uncle and a few other guys would show up in their pickup trucks for the big pig roundup.  Then the pigs ran around and around their pen squealing for their lives, though they didn’t know it.

The result was a freezer full of pork.  For some reason, I remember the chops best of all.  Sweetish and salty, for me the essence of pork—until I tasted pancetta, but that’s a different kind of experience.  The best, more recent, pork chops I’ve had were grilled by our friend Donia, the energetic and lovely Palo Alto chef and writer.  Her cooking—whether in her restaurant or home—is less a performance than an expression of her nurturing nature.  The food is loved and cared for, as are the friends she feeds.

The technique here is so simple, it barely warrants the formalization of a recipe, but here goes:

Donia’s Pork Chops

In the morning, place four thick-cut bone-in pork chops (organic if possible) in a large baking dish, and pour in a fruity red wine—a Beaujolais, or a zinfandel, perhaps—just to cover them.  Turn them over once or twice during the day.  Just before grilling—preferably over charcoal—season them liberally with salt and pepper.  Grill to mid-rare over moderate heat.  Throw some perfectly ripe buttered halved peaches onto the grill too, for a taste sensation.  Donia also served cornbread and salad, outside on the deck.  What a memorable meal!

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Is that some kind of summer-in-Vermont activity for kids?  Do you ride it or eat it?
Microbreweries in New England | Norwich Inn | Brewery logo
Actually, you drink it!  It’s a red ale brewed by Jasper Murdock’s at the Norwich Inn, on Main St. in Norwich, Vermont.  The microbrewery makes English style ales which are served only in the little pub at the back of the Inn.

jasper m's

When we stopped in yesterday, on tap as well as Whistling Pig Red Ale were Oh Be Joyful, JM’s Extra Special Bitter, and Second Wind Oatmeal Stout.  The names are all clever little snatches of idiom, some of which are particular to New England.  (The only reason the word “wicked” doesn’t show up is, I’m sure, because of Pete’s so-called Wicked Ale, about which there isn’t much wicked, as far as I’m concerned.)

Let these sentences from their website wet your whistle:

Jasper Murdock’s Ales are crafted from fine English malts, with hops grown in England and in our own hop garden at the Inn. Because filtration can strip flavor and body from a beer, the ale yeast is allowed to settle out naturally in an extended cold-aging period to ensure that all the goodness reaches your palate. The beer is then pumped underground from the beer cellars to our pub at the Inn.

Normally, at this spot, I’d go for a fat pint of extra hoppy ale to be sipped slowly in a rocker on the front porch.  But last night I was feeling sassy, and ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini—up, dry, twist—instead.   Peter and I found two rockers at the corner of the porch.  We discussed my dissertation, poems, upcoming trips, and Rome, and watched the comings and goings of Dan & Whit’s shoppers—including a recumbent cyclist (whose personality, I think, like those who share his practice, must combine exhibitionism with an unwavering belief in scientific studies and an abiding love of corny puns).

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