Crock Psychology

Today my therapy is tagine. Beef tagine with prunes by Jamie Oliver, precisely. In a crock pot. Mr. Oliver didn’t prescribe this. The real meaning of tagine is an actual clay pot the Berbers cook the food in over in North Africa. My slow cooker is just more appropriate for my day, which has gone in all directions. The beauty of the crock pot is that you throw everything in together instead of properly cooking things in stages so the flavors have time to mingle.

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Paprika, cinnamon, ginger and Ras-el-hanout spices for tajine

Does it replace real cooking? No. Is it a lifesaver? You bet. Like pop psychology, crock pots are not a substitute for the real thing, yet I don’t know how I’ve lived without one. I had to turn 48 to buy one.

Lately life has been stressful and hectic. If you live in Iowa around caucus time, it’s hard to ignore political discourse. And you shouldn’t. I’ve had lively conversations with friends about which candidate can actually get the job done, about voting on issues or principals, and about what might happen if it doesn’t go as planned.

That hype has moved on. In the middle of it all, an uninsured driver backed into me at an intersection. Chevy Tahoe vs. Honda Fit. Guess who won? Not me. Fortunately my insurance paid for the repairs, but a hefty deductible came out of my bank account. Will they get her to pay up? Who knows. My insurance company wants their money and has a whole subrogation department working on that.

So today the Brewmaster and I had massages. It felt so good to have someone rub out all the pain and tension from so many orchestra rehearsals, the accident, the tension of a mama with her teenage Ballet Boy living miles away.

And tonight we will eat stew. Moroccan tagine made from Iowa grass-fed beef purchased from an Amish farmer.

Grass-fed arm roast. Almost time to order another quarter cow.

The smells wafting out of the crock pot remind me of another time, some twenty some years ago in France. There was an Arab grocer below our apartment in downtown Marseille that had gorgeous burlap bags full of colorful spices, bins of olives and feta cheese, exotic sausages and pickled lemons. Even though I felt shamefully white and Iowan every time I entered, I exited that store feeling brave and excited about trying out new recipes.

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My dog waiting for that hunk of meat to fall on her head. She is not discerning about grass-fed or junky meat. Meat is meat to her.

Tomorrow I start training for a temporary¬†scheduling job with the local university music department. Ten years ago, during the year of my divorce (otherwise known as the Year of Great Unpleasantness) I worked in the same office in a similar position. This time it is temporary until they create a full-time position, but it will be very helpful to supplement my adjunct professor/part-time musician income. I’m afraid of having no time for myself, and losing my new drive that I’ve found to exercise and get back in shape.

Maybe I’m afraid of taking a step backwards.

But we all know that sometimes you have to do that to move forwards. This weekend I’m sad that I have free time and yet can’t afford a trip to see Ballet Boy perform in Houston. It’s beginning to feel like a long time since I hugged my 15 year-old and put him on a plane January 6. It’s time to up the ante and make enough money to be able to choose some extras in life.

And in the meantime, the crock pot bubbles on. There will be delicious stew to share with the Brewmaster as we catch up on Downton Abbey after I teach cello lessons to middle-schoolers tonight. As I look back on that terribly stressful time of my life, I know I have it good now. The Brewmaster and I are getting married in June and I couldn’t be happier. And for right now, that is enough.

The meat marinated in the spices all morning. Now it is simmering with butternut squash, prunes, tomatoes and cilantro.


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