The real reason I slow-cook a spicy, hearty beef brisket in the thick of a scorching, humid South Florida summer and not save it for a more weather-appropriate chilly day is because I’m time-pressed for love.
And we don’t have chilly days in South Florida, anyhow.
Even if you can fry an egg on the pavement outside and the weatherman is begging you to please stay cool, keep yourself hydrated, spend the day in the pool, I pull out my slow-cooker and my fieriest spices.
My husband stopped by for a visit a few days ago. Most spouses live in the same country but mine doesn’t, so, it was a rare treat to share time with him at home without the children.
That investment in summer camp is all the worthwhile when you can spend time together running errands, joking around, gazing dreamily at each other, sharing great wine, and eat amazing food without having to care for anybody else.
Yes, we still gaze dreamily at each other. Go figure.
Three days is not nearly enough time for all the meals I’d love to share with him, but, this one, a spicy, slow-cooked, chipotle, BBQ brisket, came to mind. After all, my husband has a bit of Texas in him, having lived in the Lone Star State for part of his childhood. And once that state gets in you, it’s hard-pressed to come out. I have tripped over many a pair of his misplaced cowboy boots over the years to know this is true.
I’m not even sure if this BBQ hails from Texas, actually. It is brisket, which is favored there, but, truth be told, it doesn’t really matter. Barbeque is code for telling my husband that I love him; his heart melts a bit and his eyes light up when I serve him this dish, even if we are in the middle of another scorching South Florida summer where most culinary folks are suggesting we eat salad and chilled soups. That’s when ice-cold beer comes in handy.
We march to our own drumbeat together, always have. Ours is a long and winding tale of breaking rules for the sake of love. I’ll save those stories for another day and stick to offering up this meal, which is hassle-free and outrageously delicious, leaving plenty of time for eye-gazing and holding hands.
Twenty years ago I was a daredevil.Today I am chic.I am poised upon the fresh powder (that’s Colorado snow, for those of you not in the know), garbed up in my razor sharp ski outfit (Spyder jacket ice white with aqua and midnight trim, white gloves, sexy black pants) helmet, goggles, boots, skis.Ready for the slopes.On top of the world.
I had made it on the lifts, a contraption I gave no thought to mount from age 6 to 19, but now, at 39, approached apprehensively. All right, approached in a panic.I haven’t lived in Manhattan in over 14 years but it’s as if Woody Allen and all his neurosis had infiltrated me steadily through the years:
“Get on this thing? It’s not safe?A dangling chair in subzero weather climbing precariously up a cliff with lunatics zooming down (hey wait a second, am I going to have to go down THAT?)
My husband was faithfully at my side, coaxing the daredevil back. Or at least trying.
“You’re fine.You’ve done this a thousand times, remember?Scoot up. Sit. Bar down. Enjoy the ride. Simple. Follow my lead.”
We crept up in the crowded line, closer and closer to the ominous ride.I recounted the zillions of times I’ve turned down rides of any kind, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, spinning teacups.Something about my feet not being on the ground and in control just doesn’t jive with this control freak.Yet here I was, my feet already not in control, straddled in clunky alien boots and slippery skis, trying to keep up with Yeshua (outfitted in an even jazzier outfit given to him by the number one Slovenian ski champion, Jure Kosir).In my moment of panic I could at least appreciate how good we look.
I heard a tiny sigh and turned around.The six-year old behind me was getting frustrated with my hesitation.No doubt this little bugger would zoom down the mountain without a thought.What was it about aging that makes some of us more precarious?Why couldn’t I just have fun?
The lift came and, indeed, as riding a bicycle, every movement clicked and I sat down without a thought. As we swung through the frigid air I begged Yeshua to talk to me, distract me from the perilous death I was envisioning. I clung to the thin bar for life and cursed myself for agreeing to ride this endless and steep ride. But as the ride continued my grip eased and I actually began enjoying myself.It was hard not to. The trees looked so beautiful and pristine, their evergreen branches comfortably hugged by mounds of fresh snow.Agile skiers flew through them with natural precision (I learned with relief that was the black diamond slope, not the beginner’s green allotted for me).So, you see, the slopes looked fabulous and chic again.
‘Hey, maybe I can do this,’ I thought to myself.‘Maybe those years and years and years of zooming down the benign Vermont bunny slope on Pico Peak with my family back in the seventies would kick in and I’d be able to pull this off as a middle-aged precarious nut.’
I turned to my Slovenian ski champion and smiled.I could definitely pull this off.I looked at him, after all:tall, dark and handsome, but nevertheless a tropical Venezuelan who had never set foot on skis until his mid-thirties. Yesh had come a long way, now hitting the black diamonds and coming out alive.If I could only smile at him long enough, maybe his fearlessness would infect me.I thought of our two young children, off with some ski pro in their class at this moment.No doubt our wild seven-year old son, who already sported a black eye that would make Rocky Balboa jealous, would find the thrill of this sport intoxicating.If he would zoom, then so would I, damnit.
So there I am, poised atop of the main summit, 11 thousand and plus feet altitude. The air is thin and icy and lovely. I am surrounded by skiers and snowboarders and mountains.I am in the moment and take it all in.And then, I see the photographers. Yes! There are photographers.I snag one immediately.Yeshua scoffs.He thinks I am absurd.Why are we taking a picture now?Let’s ski, he urges.But I know why.I must capture this moment.This moment now. When I am full of the mountain, when I don’t fear it because I haven’t quite met it. Where I feel free and possibilities are endless and I don’t live the pain my quads will feel as they burn their way down Jack Rabbit Hole or Red Bull Run in a stubborn snowplow that will not relent to the ease of a parallel ski because I must slow down, slow down, slow down and not hit that tree or that one or that one. Yesh will patiently ski behind me shouting out all sorts of Zen commands:feel the mountain, you control it, don’t let it control you, put your weight into it, you know how to do this, you’ve DONE this before, enjoy the moment, look forward, don’t look down, be one with nature.” It is all going to get shot at me and I will grow more and more impatient with him as my legs beg for a break and my mind fills with anxiety, I will manage to turn around (and ski) and shout that he please shut up and question over and over and over again, “Is this really a green slope? Is this a green?!” because there is ice (I thought it was illegal for ice to exist on a Colorado slope) and skiers and snowboarders, the same ones that added to the ambience of excellence I needed photographed up on the summit but now just felt like intrusions on my moment of panic and safety as they all zoom past me without a care in this world:
“On your left”
“On your right”
They’d shout on the way down, throwing me further and further off balance and spiraling into blackness.
And then, there we were. We’d somehow made it to the bottom and good God my two legs where shaking but they were intact, and, even though I felt like sending Yeshua to an ashram in India for all his philosophical spewing, he had guided me patiently down the mountain, gently prodding my sense of adventure back to life, which, was slow to wake but definitely stirring, buried under years of motherhood vigilance, weighed down by moments of ‘eat your peas, tie your shoelaces, look both ways before you cross the road, don’t talk to strangers, hold my hand, no come back here and hold my hand.’
How could this persona be expected to fly down a mountain without a thought in this world?But somehow I had.Okay, not fly, but crawl. Snowplow, zigzag. Stopped. Reassessed, and continued.Slowly sawing my way down Beaver Creek but here I was, still chic, victorious, and still married.Maybe I’ll go up the mountain again.Tomorrow.First, I need a glass of wine and a good hearty mountain meal.