I've been making stock, lots of stock.
Pretty much anything goes: celery that's lost its snap, onions and garlic still in their skins, stray stalks, a handful of carrot tops, peppercorns scattered like buckshot, and, from the freezer, frosty bones. Things forgotten and unearthed. Onto a sheet pan and into the cranked-up oven. The ragtag mess emerges gently burnt, transformed, ready to release its mysteries to the pot of water set at a trembling simmer. After a few hours the whole house smells good, though often I’m the only one awake to savor it.
I’ve been taking stock and making stock, lots of stock, late into the night—partly for the honest pleasure of putting scraps to good use and partly for the abstract distraction that making stuff from memory offers. This isn’t a political publication, but it is put together by people living in the actual world. And for many of us, this has been a particularly weird and dispiriting winter. We read the news, we wonder at the state of things, and we seek comfort in familiar, nourishing rituals. This is not a posture of retreat: In rough times we believe more and more in the redemptive power of travel, of getting out and eating with others, as evidenced by our contributors’ far-flung adventures in Azerbaijan and along the tea trail in Yunnan, China (more on those soon in our upcoming issue).
But sometimes we just want to stay in and cook. A quick office poll reveals a shared return to essentials. We're buying wine by the case and inviting friends over. "I've made some kind of soup every day," reports one editor. "And I put extra, and unnecessary, emphasis on carefully chopping every ingredient in some particular way." Another colleague notes a renewed fascination with potato pancakes: "If I can't keep up with how the world's falling apart, at least I know how to manage the relationship between potato starch and egg whites."
Test Kitchen director Stacy Adimando admits she's been compulsively baking pies. "Maybe it's a desire to comfort people and show generosity. Whatever it is there will be two more today—I can't stop."
And so there were pies in the Test Kitchen, two of them. And we all, more or less, will survive another day. However troubling or sunny the weather or the news is outside, one thing is always true inside this place: It usually smells really good. We hope it does in your kitchen too.