Chicken Soup - The Gift That Keeps on Giving
My friend Drew wants to write the book, "What You Should Have Said." The premise being that you get to hit replay on a verbal altercation that has left you tongue-tied, but this time you have the perfect thing to say. It'll be something infinitely more profound than "Shut up!" "No, you shut up!" And everyone will cheer you on. I've owned a PR company for 20 years, and in this very stressful business, I don't have the luxury of saying exactly how I feel. I don't get into verbal altercations. Politics and religion are off limits. And I carefully curate my conversations, revealing as little about myself as necessary.
Yet I found myself in an intensely intimate conversation with a complete stranger the other day on a plane. We were circling the Atlanta airspace amid gut-churning turbulence. With storms gripping the Southeast, we knew it was going to be rough before we took off. They told us that in-flight service would be canceled as they handed us bottles of water and snacks while we boarded. But when the turbulence got bad, I held hands with the woman - a complete stranger - sitting next to me. And when it got really bad we kept holding hands. After an hour of circling, it felt like a roller coaster when the pilot tried and failed to land before re-routing us to Nashville. It was one of the scariest flights of my life. Back on terra firma, as we let go of each other's hand, I confessed that the experience made me wish I still drank alcohol. She confided that she had been sober for nearly three years. We agreed that life was better without the bad decisions and hangovers that came along with drinking. But I told her that sometimes I think about it.
I don't tell many people that I think about drinking. You generally get a range of predictable replies from - "Why not just one?" to "Not on my watch, please." Maybe near-death experiences make you want to unburden yourself - like the scene in the movie, "Almost Famous," when the drummer blurts out that he's gay. Or maybe it's that you have nothing to lose with a stranger. That could explain why I'm more comfortable talking politics with my Lyft drivers than I am with close friends.
I never thought I had a problem (started 10 zillion "Dear Cosmo," letters). Then I met Jeff and, just like that, I had something to lose. I had a great life before I met him. But it was better with him. I had never seriously considered stopping before I met him. But I could drink a lot for my size - for any size. And it cut the edge off running a company and the grief after losing my dog, father and horse in short order. When faced with the choice of continuing to drink alone or getting sober and marrying Jeff, sober won.
Sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving. I feel better. I look better. I tackle stress holistically. And I don't wake up regretting something I've said. Halloween and Karaoke are decidedly less fun without alcohol. It's easier to summon the courage to squeeze into a tiny school-girl plaid miniskirt to dress up like the SNL character, Mary Katherine Gallagher, when you're drunk. And the same is true with belting out the Elton John classic, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," in public. Still - they're small sacrifices for a better life.
After an early dinner in our quiet house on a Friday night, I enjoy another gift that keeps on giving. I love to render all that a roast chicken has left - after we've eaten it's crisp, golden skin and juicy, tender meat - into chicken stock. It is so easy to make, that you'll never get store-bought again. My freezer is stocked with it, which is great when I want to make risotto, soup or a braise.
1 Carcass of a Roast Chicken
3 Carrots cleaned and cut in half
1 Celery stalk cleaned and cut in half
1 Onion cut in half
1 T peppercorns
Toss all of the ingredients into a spaghetti strainer inside a large a pot . Fill it with water and put it on the stove on high. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down to low, cover it and let it simmer for three hours. Turn it off, let it cool (you can let it sit out overnight, which is actually nice because the flavors continue to meld). Then pull out the strainer and give it a healthy shake over the pot. Discard the contents of the strainer. Line the sink with about six quart-sized containers and, holding a mesh strainer over each, pour the broth into the containers. You can use the stock immediately but it should stay good in the freezer for about three months.