Friday, February 5, 2010

Yes, I'm Divorced, But There's More To Me Than That.

A few months ago, when I was invited to “guest blog” on Charlotte Observer’s, I agreed to write about the struggles and occasional perils of being a divorced mom.  

And I tried.  Pinky swear.  (Check my October posts.  I marvel that a single scrap of skin remains on my body.)  But divorce is awkward.  It’s painful.  It’s ugly.  I don’t know how to write about that stuff.  And while I’m surely biased, I’m not so sure anyone wants to read it.

Yes, I can tell tales of the obvious:  the legal process, the single parenting, the navigation of “Couple Land” as a “single.”  Nevertheless, I’m ill-prepared to write about the many things I didn’t foresee.  

I’m no expert.  Mrs. Evelyn Hall, the high school composition teacher who taught me practically everything I know about writing and virtually nothing about the apparent rapture of coffee, cigarettes and braided hair, was adamant:  Write about what you know.  

Do I know what I’m doing? Most days, I haven’t the foggiest. Can I foretell how my post-divorce life will unfold?  Ummm.  That would be “no.”  Most days, I feel as if I’ve been air-dropped into a foreign country.  In another galaxy.

I didn’t foresee how differently I’d be labeled, for example.  In 30 years, I’ve gone from Cheri-Hyper-Blue-Eyes (I kid you not -- check The Iliad, my high school yearbook), to Cheri-Who’s-Married-To-An-Ivy-League-Lawyer, to Cheri-Who-Has-Two-Kids, to finally, sadly, Cheri-Who’s-Divorced. 

I didn’t realize how differently I’d be perceived as a single woman.  I worried – far more than was necessary – about whether other parents would be hesitant to let their kids come over.  I worried – far less than was necessary – about how I’d be regarded by men – both single, and, ahem, decidedly not.

I couldn’t have predicted the emotions – not just mine and the kids’, but also our family’s.  Our friends’.  Divorce is devastating, and the effect is ongoing.  The ripple goes on and on and on.  And just when you think everyone's OK, it goes on.  And then some.

All that said, though, I don’t want to be known as Cheri-Who’s-Divorced.  Surely there’s more to this story.  I’m not sure what lies around the corner, but the knowledge that other things do lie around the corner allows me to write about all kinds of things.  Cooking.  Parenting.  Laughing.  Dating.  President Obama.  American Idol.  Bad manners.  And on occasion, divorce.

At the moment, cooking’s what’s on my mind.  A few months back, Darling Daughter (DD) and I were inspired by the movie, Julie and Julia.  At that time, DD insisted that we needed to cook more.  (Of course, I blogged about it.  Click here.)  Because of the movie, our hearts were set on Boeuf Bourgignon, but in reality, no one here would allow the tine of their fork to even pierce a pearl onion, I’m the only one who would eat a mushroom, and Julia, really?  A six-ounce “chunk” of bacon?  

Yep.  We can improvise.  And although it may not be what was originally intended, It’s still pretty darned good -– post-divorce and pre-what-comes-next -– Chez Wiles.

Not Julia’s Boeuf Bourgignon
As much as I admire Julia Child, her Boeuf Bourgignon is more sophisticated than might be appreciated Chez Wiles.  This version is plenty hearty with lovely, layered flavors.  And since most of the meals I cook are of the 60-minutes-or-less variety, my kids think this slow-cooked maindish is pretty special all by itself.

Serves four
5 slices bacon, diced
2 ½ lbs. stew beef
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
heaping tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
bay leaf
1 14-oz. can beef broth
2 cups dry red wine (pinot noir or cabernet saugignon)
½ cup V-8 juice (optional)
½ lb. white mushrooms, sliced, sautéed in 2 tablespoons butter

In a large, lidded, ovenproof saucepan, sauté the bacon until very crispy.  Remove bacon (you’ll use it later).  Heat remaining bacon grease over medium high heat.  When very hot, brown beef (in batches), until browned on all sides.  When all beef is browned, remove to another dish, and sauté carrot, onion and garlic in hot grease.  When vegetables are softened and lightly browned, return beef and bacon crisps to pan.  Heat through, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and flour.  When thickened, quickly stir in beef broth, wine, bay leaf and V-8 juice (if using).  Replace lid and put entire pan in preheated 325 oven for 2 ½ - 3 hours, or until beef is very tender.  Stir in sautéed mushrooms.  Serve hot, with buttered noodles or rice.
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