My giddiness about St. Nicholas Day grows a little every year:
- My giddiness about Christmas seems to grow every year, so there is a corresponding increase in general December joy (during which we celebrate Tony's birthday, our anniversary, and five friends' birthdays in addition to Christmas),
- My list of recipes grows a little in the passing months, so each time St Nicholas day rolls around I'm a little better prepared,
- Our relationship with Eastern Orthodoxy grows a little more deep, loving, conflicted, alienated, and infatuated all the time, bit by bit, so I just LOVE having a saint recognized by both East and West to make a fuss over, and take the day to meditate on ecumenism (this article has been a really wonderful read, and I am now totally into dropping the filioque in the name of fraternal love!),
- Tony's parents are from Turkey, like St. Nicholas, so I can cook Turkish food and feel that I am honouring the feast while imparting heritage to Ambrose,
- St. Nicholas slapped Arius (see "The First Council of Nicaea", 4th paragraph), and every year there are a few people I wish I could slap but didn't, so I enjoy the triumph vicariously,
- I enjoy being defiant of cultural norms I think are ridiculous, so I get satisfaction from sticking it to the man and refusing the Coco-Cola commercialism Santa nonsense, intensified to the point of hysterical giddiness when we told my mom this week (for the 5th time at least since I got pregnant with Ambrose) that we are NOT doing Santa with him, and she was so appalled that she got really quiet and sombre (if you know my mom you know this is Rare And Serious) - it was delightfully absurd - so being really emphatic and over-the-top about St. Nicholas gives Ambrose a firm base from which to make sense of the Santa phenomenon,
and so many more. Really.
Anyways I have dough prepared for St Nicholas cookies, like last year (this year I halved the recipe, using one egg yolk and about half the white for the cookie dough, and beating the rest of the white with the other icing ingredients - we want to keep the sugar intake a little more moderate), and I am also making some Turkish food for supper: Turkish rice (which is first fried in butter before cooking, sort of like risotto, but unlike risotto, once the water is added you let it cook undisturbed), spinach & yogurt salad, possibly something with beets, and St Nicholas Stew, inspired a few Turkish recipes (here, for example). It's simmering now and smells SO GOOD.
You'll notice it has heart - aside from what I learned about the health benefits of organ meats in April, I just think there's something really honest and important about eating whole animals. If you didn't grow up eating whole animals, it's okay to have a bit of ick factor, but that can and does wear off if you apply yourself. It's so important to have integrity and align ourselves with God's sustainable patterns he set forth in nature. Chickens don't just have breasts. Cows don't just have limb and belly muscles. And so on. It's really an exercise in humility, gratitude, and eco-awareness to continue to try cooking with new organs and "weird bits". We should constantly be open to challenge and examination, willing to look our inconsistencies in the eye and wither prune away the whole (that is, become vegetarian) or else surrender totally (eat tongue and heart), especially at this time of year. But if you really can't handle it today, substitute an equivalent weight of non-organ meat.
As another note, I chose pork deliberately though it's not really a part of Turkish cooking, to emphasize the freedom we enjoy in Christ.
Anyway, enough of my preaching. Onward!
St. Nicholas Stew
In the morning, or as late as lunch-ish, or the night before if you're a working girl and want to put it in the crock pot in the morning-
Place in a bowl:
1 pork heart, cubed (about 1 lb)
2 lb pork leg or other stewing cut, trimmed and cubed, bone on
[note: these can be tricky to cube neatly, so if sinews are holding bits together, or it gets slippery, just cut it up as best you can and separate it once cooked]
about 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
a few glugs oil
1-2 tsp or whatever, some good shakes, of each: salt, pepper, granulated garlic (or equivalent), cinnamon, oregano, cumin, and coriander (be generous with the salt and garlic)
Massage it all together and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Plop the mixture into a big pot, cover with water, add two sliced onions and two handfuls dried apricots, and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer a long time. I'm leaving mine for 4 hours or something. In the meantime, browse some other Turkish recipes to prepare. At least, do rice! When you judge it to be done, strain out the meat and bones, let that cool a bit, then break apart the meat into smaller pieces as needed, and cut away the bones. I'll probably cut up the apricots a bit then too. Bon appetit! And happy St. Nicholas Day!!
Update: It was delicious! The meat breaks apart very easily, you don't even need utensils, so just break away the bones and any really big hunks of gristle or sinews that remain. Enjoy!