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Terez Mertes

Recipe for Success

January 28, 2011 at 12:24 AM

Making beef stock is not for those who are looking for the short cut in life. You have to really want to produce a superior product to the canned stuff. It requires, first of all, the purchase of quality ingredients a few days prior. Beef bones, like shank and oxtail and those white knobby hunks you really don’t want to analyze too carefully. In addition, you’ll need some fresh thyme. Marjoram. Don’t forget onions, carrots and celery. The next morning, get up and turn on the oven. Use a big pan—a cookie sheet or an oversized cake tin does the job in a pinch—and arrange the bones and intersperse with the aforementioned herbs and vegetables, chopped into big hunks. Brown in the oven at 425 degrees for roughly an hour. This will soon smell good, beyond good, but it’s a tease, because you won’t be eating it for a long while. When the bones are golden, transfer all this hot, clunky stuff into a very big pot, the biggest one you’ve got in the house. Add enough water to cover the bones, bring to boil, then simmer. For a long time. Say, six to eight hours. Stir from time to time so all parts get their share of time in liquid, releasing their marrow, their gelatin, producing that ineffable something that turns “just beef broth” into “omigod, what is this exquisite stuff?”

That night, drain the broth and throw away the bones and vegetables, which is to say almost everything. Which seems wrong. Wasteful. But it’s not; you’ve retained the best. Chill the broth overnight. As you sleep, the fat will rise to the top of the pot and can be easily skimmed off the next morning. Now start simmering again. Simmer that liquid so it reduces, reduces, but never disappears. Thirty hours into the process (forty if you count the grocery store trip), you have a quart of liquid gold. This gives you the base for a phenomenal French onion soup, which will require another two hours on your part to make. Or you can reduce the liquid even further, down to a cup, say, for a sauce that you might combine with some Madeira or cabernet sauvignon, along with butter, shallots and sliced wild mushrooms, to blanket a filet mignon or chicken breast. A distilled masterpiece.

One cup of sauce, representing all that work. Was it worth it? Is the flavor that much improved over a more expedient process? 

Like you can’t imagine.

You might be asking yourself why this food recipe is appearing on a violinists’ forum. Well, let’s change the variables… 

Making music on the violin is not for those who are looking for the short cut in life. You have to really want to produce a superior product to the canned stuff. It requires, first of all, the purchase of quality ingredients a few years and/or decades days prior. A superior violin. A bow that draws the most exquisite tones from aforementioned violin. A wise, supportive and experienced teacher. Lots of books. In addition, you’ll need plenty of time. Patience. Don’t forget rosin, back-up strings and a metronome. The next morning, and every morning thereafter, get up and turn on the mind, the ears. Use a big music stand—a cookie sheet or an oversized cake tin does the job in a pinch—and arrange the books and metronome and apply shoulder rest accordingly. Warm up in scales, arpeggios and etudes for roughly an hour. This may soon sound good, beyond good, but it’s a tease, because you won’t be performing for a long while. When fingers and mind are nimble and golden, transfer all this into a very big concerto, the biggest one you’ve got in the house. Add enough time to cover the bare bones, bring the practice to boil, then simmer. For a long time. Say, six to eight hours. Or years. Mix things up from time to time so all parts get their share of time in practice, releasing their marrow, their gelatin, producing that ineffable something that turns “just a little tune” into “omigod, what is that exquisite music?”

That night, consider everything acquired from the day and throw most of it away. Which seems wrong. Wasteful. But it’s not; you’ve retained the best. As you sleep, thoughts of bad habits, ungainly passages, a less than economical use of the bow, will rise to the top and can be easily skimmed off the next morning. Now start simmering again. Simmer those musical phrases, thoughts of the composer’s intentions, so they reduce, reduce, but never disappear. Thirty days/weeks into the process (forty if you count the purchasing trip), you have twenty minutes of aural gold. This gives you the base for a phenomenal violin concerto performance with orchestra, which will require another two years/decades on your part to make happen. Or you can reduce the musical perfection even further, down to a movement, performed in a recital, that you might combine with some Mozart or Bartók. A distilled masterpiece.

It’s a night of music that your audience enjoys. Really enjoys. “Oh my,” one woman says to you, “that was wonderful. You must have put some real work into that.”

They’re thinking several weeks’ worth. Months’ worth. How about years, decades? And what they don’t see is what you’ve discarded along the way—much like the bones and limp vegetables that fill my trash after my stock is made. Goodbye the excess fat, the too-sentimental phrasing, the wrong type of vibrato, and in its place is the exquisite, the organic, the ineffable. This small serving of peerless classical musical expression, that is your art, your craft, at its finest.

Was it worth it? Is the music that much improved over a more expedient process?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

 

© 2011 Terez Rose


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 4:05 AM

So true... Bravo!!!!

What a nice parallèle...

I have a teacher who told:  If you want to cook a cake too fast and put the oven tempeture too high, you'll burn it!  But it will be perfect if it cooks for a longer time with a lower tempeture... It's the same for violin!

Anne-Marie

Btw, many violinists say violin is like cooking...

Igor Oistrakh said in an interview that learning from and seeing his father for many years gave him the "ingredients" to play well.   He said violin is like cooking.  It's like receipies. 

He's right but unfourtunately, it's not a receipy that can be made by anyone anywhere like a chocolate cake! 


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 4:47 AM

 Oh, I love all your cooking comments and anecdotes, Anne-Marie! Thanks for the great reply.


From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 6:19 AM

I'm hungry now for French Onion Soup!

The geek side of me from chem classes past finds this blog rather appealing.  There are indeed no short cuts that can be taken if you want a quality product at the end of the day.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 2:11 PM

 >I'm hungry now for French Onion Soup!

Have to say I was getting a powerful craving for the whole soup business yesterday as I wrote this. I see another stock-making endeavor happening soon...

And Mendy, a friend of mine with a Master's in chemistry, upon observing my interest in cooking, commented on how chemistry to him was like cooking was to me, that they were very much alike in some respects.

Um... you guys can take the chemistry. I nearly flunked it. I'll keep the cooking, tho!


From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM

Wow!  What an interesting, thoughtful comparison.  I suspect that we all wish we could devote more of that kind of quality time and attention to our playing.  I certainly do.

 


From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 3:26 PM

What time is dinner being served?


From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 3:27 PM

I enjoyed reading this! 

I picked up a couple of hints from Mom; celery leaves are superior to celery stalk, and, don't forget the bay leaf!


From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Anne is shameless, but count me in too!


From Janis Cortese
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 10:02 PM

"Or you can reduce the liquid even further, down to a cup, say, for a sauce that you might combine with some Madeira or cabernet sauvignon, along with butter, shallots and sliced wild mushrooms ... "

I just passed out.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Anne - 8pm. Cocktails beforehand. Grab Tom and come on over.

Yes, the celery leaves always go in my stocks; I'd heard the same tip. But yikes, forgot to mention the bay leaf! Hard to imagine a soup or stock w/o one.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 28, 2011 at 10:27 PM

 Ha, Tom, I just typed in my comment before seeing your "count me in" comment. Great minds think alike!

Janis: oh dear, poor you! You just sit back on the couch, let me pour you a glass of champagne to help revive you, serve you some puff pastry appetizers. I'll get the rest of the dinner going. You can keep Anne and Tom company -- ooh, is that a nice bottle of red I see in Tom's hand?


From Janis Cortese
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 12:47 AM

*whisk!*

In my hand now.  :-D

Where do you keep the corkscrew and glasses around here?

I may need some red meat tonight, atypical for me but I think this post pushed me over the edge.

BTW, I make a mean orange-chocolate cake.  Replace the vanilla extract in the icing and cake with orange extract and use satsuma-mandarin marmalade between the layers.  I think I brought one with me, as a matter of fact!  *steps out to the car*


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 3:26 AM

 Janis - so glad to see the cake because whoops - I forgot dessert in all the excitement, not to mention that yours sounds sublime. Will be perfect with the 60 yr old Spanish Porto I've got in the closet, saving for the right occasion.

And ah, yes, the meat thing. I'm right there with you, and I say, if you're going to sin, make it big. Oh, and the filet will be cooked rare. Sorry, no medium-well here. The beef's too high quality to desecrate it in that way. So tender you could cut it with a fork.

... I'm really making myself suffer here. Dinner, which I'm about to sit down to, in the real world, is chicken sandwiches and baked beans. But the chicken is roasted from last night and I'm supplementing it with homemade mayonnaise, which is right there in my book with homemade stock and once you tried it, you'll never go back. So I won't complain. But, that said. I'm really grooving on the thought of this virtual dinner we've got going.

Anyone else? Door's open. You just have to show up with some favorite food thing. Or... just show up. That sauce is a-cookin'.


From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 4:11 AM

If only I still lived in Felton, I would literally take you up on that offer!



From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 4:20 AM

 >If only I still lived in Felton, I would literally take you up on that offer!

Well, my dear, that's both of our losses! : )


From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 1:48 PM

That's it, I'm bringing along My Favorite Francophile.  Y'all can wax rhapsodic over the sixty year old porto, and he can whip up a chocolate souffle for dessert.

It is warm there right now?  Do we need to wear sweaters?

 


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 2:05 PM

I would have a few wonderful meal "starters"  for your dinner but be careful because usually people get stuck to this stage of the meal and eat so many they are full before the main meal ; )

Amongst my favorites and most suceeded (those which are always eaten first by the guests...)

- cheese sticks

- mini quiches

- mushroom rools

- Napolitan little pizzas

- Pita parmesan/basilic chips

- little corn and basilic pancakes

- blinis with sea food

- many sorts of salads

I'm also pretty good in rice plates, vegetables

and my all time specialty that is inherited by my mom ... deserts/breads/muffins etc!!! 

 

Fortunately, I don't have time and space in my tiny appartment to put my culinary talents in application...  (a good thing to stay slim : ) 

I put them in application when I go home...

I can easilly see why musicians like to cook (the bad tongues would say it's because it's cheaper...)  but I would say, it's because it takes patience, non- laziness and a little technique (still way easier than violin technique).   You often have to miss your first attempts before mastering a receipie...  Also, it's fun and relaxing.  Lastly, musicians are joyful people who like to gather and have fun... so perhaps eat too! 

If only I could transform these talents into music ones, I could play my dream concertos!  : )

 


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 3:45 PM

 Oh, Anne-Marie, you are SO invited, and hurry on over. ...Well, now that it's morning and I'm sizing up the dirty dishes, getting myself a tea and getting OUT of that kitchen -- good thing I have a maid, huh? -- we can all recoup, but tonight we're doing the same thing again. Anne, yes, our francophile friend and his chocolate souffle will be a welcome addition. Janis's cake went FAR too quickly.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 3:48 PM

 >but be careful because usually people get stuck to this stage of the meal and eat so many they are full before the main meal ; )

I laughed at this. This is sooooo me. Just can't help it. 

And Anne - the weather has been nauseatingly nice for the past 14 days: sun sun sun, warmth, warmth, warmth, birds singing, people waving to each other, dogs and cats living together in harmony. It feels like a set for a Disney movie.

Gaaah! Give me some real winter for chrissakes! I want my winter rain!


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 6:04 PM

lol... : )


From Janis Cortese
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Well, I've had a little too much wine, so I'm afraid the viola has to stay in the case, but I can play accomp on the piano for anyone who wants to break out their fiddle.  (BTW, it's a Bechstein grand, as long as we're fantasizing ... )  The quick bits will be a little iffy with the wine, but I don't have to worry about dropping the piano like I do the viola.  :-)  Can't drop what you can't pick up!

Anybody up for the Glinka in Dm?


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 29, 2011 at 10:45 PM

I expect some volunteers to take up Janis on the suggestion. Fine entertainment most decidedly should accompany a fine dinner gathering. And after the wine, the dinner, the Ports, the scotch (antique single malt, anyone?), well, I've been told that I'm quite entertaining when I attempt to do my table dance at the end of the night.

So. We're all set.


From Tate Sexton
Posted on January 31, 2011 at 12:41 AM

Absolutely brilliant, thanks for sharing.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 31, 2011 at 5:10 AM

Tate - thanks for the nice comment, and do share in the rest... The greasy excess of the cyber-dining for two nights in a row has me vowing to go on a diet for the rest of the month (easy to say on the 30th...). And now I'm wondering if there's a correlation for the violin angle of this. Over-Brahmsage? Gastro-Mozart-eritis? Tchaikovskiosis? Beethovenoverdosage? A vow to play Bach and Corelli alone for a spell? Silence, even? (...nah!)

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