Food + Wine

It’s Spelled S.T.O.P. and Brined and Baked Pork Chops

When I was a senior in high school, I was in a bad car
accident.  I was driving, my good friend/next door neighbor was in the
front seat, and my younger brother was in the back seat.  My car at the time was a
red Ford Aerostar minivan that used to be my mother’s.  I had tricked it out with fuzzy seat cushions, a bean bag chair in the back when I wanted to take the middle seats out, and I had a key chain that weighed 5 pounds. That key chain was my pride in joy.  I love anything that comes in mini form.  My key chain, which weighed down my backpack more than the Calculus novel we were required to tote around, was super awesome.  My key chain had a mini deck of cards, mini lip gloss, mini swiss army knife, mini etch-a-sketch, mini pen and paper, and personality.  (What it did not have was a mini license plate with Abbey on it because THOSE DO NOT EXIST!)  I loved that key chain.  And I kinda loved that car.  It was an older
model so there were no shoulder straps in the back seats and the
steering wheel column was loose (due to the 5 pound key chain) but it got me to and from school and
play practice every day.

Except one early morning, before the sun, that fuzzy minivan only got us one mile from the house.  My neighbor, brother and I were crossing an
intersection, on our way to school, and someone in the
oncoming lane, with headlights off, failed to stop at her red light and
hit us, head on.  I slammed my forehead into the steering wheel, which,
thanks to being loose, saved my life, my neighbor got pretty banged up
and my brother got hurt so badly by the seat belt around his waist that
he was in the hospital for days, needed surgery and had to wear a back
brace for a year which took him out of high school, sports and a social life.  All I can remember about the accident is that I didn’t know a car was coming towards me until it hit me.  Everything was so dark.  And I don’t remember pain, although when I touched my hand to my head I had a baseball-sized hematoma, I just remember groans coming from the back seat.  We crashed in front of a police department and I had a car phone at the time so I called my mom right away and she and my neighbor’s mom came as soon as they could.  Now that I’m a mother I can’t imagine what that phone call was like for them.  When the ambulance came and asked how I was, all I could say was “my brother, my brother.  Get my brother.”  He wasn’t speaking, he was just groaning.  I could speak, my neighbor in the front could speak, but my brother wasn’t speaking.  They took us away on stretchers but I don’t remember it.  Just the quiet calm right after the crash and the groans.

though that accident was out of my hands, and nowhere near my fault, for years I
held onto so much guilt for putting my brother through such trauma.  I
get a chill whenever I pass through that intersection now and think about that dark morning every time I see someone run a red light or stop sign.  And I don’t know if it was because of the blow to the head or if I was always this way, but I have this amazing photographic memory.  I’m what they base TNT dramas on.  I also have a very good sense of my surroundings, I
notice details that most humans don’t and I have a dog-like sense of
smell…my husband likens me to Spiderwoman once in awhile.  I would
make a great spy or detective, in fact I believe I have been one of
those in another life.  When the new cashier at the grocery store the
other day charged me $1.49 for my green onions instead of $.79 because
she thought they were shallots, I noticed and I had her correct it even
though I was with my very sleepy, sick and hungry toddler.  I memorize
numbers and prices easily so I can total my grocery list as I’m writing
it.  I’m highly organized, a bit obsessive, and when I start thinking of
something, I cannot get it out of my brain until a resolution has been
met.  I have been up for hours and hours some nights because I couldn’t
perfect the recipe in my head.  I’ve made myself sick doing this, but I
get things done.  (On a side note, melatonin has recently changed my
life.)  In short, not much gets past me.

When I’m out on a walk with my kids, or driving around and I see
something that looks a little odd, I tend to memorize my surroundings
just in case I’m called in to be a witness.  I am convinced that one day
my skills will come into play and I will be the missing link needed to
crack the big case.  I am also clairvoyant.  I have thoughts and dreams
of little things that end up happening to me days later.  I haven’t
exactly perfected this skill yet, or used it for anything good like crime stopping or world hunger ending, but it’s just something that happens in this
crazy mind of mine.  I had a thought, or maybe it was a little dream,
two nights ago that someone in my neighborhood ran over my foot as I was
out running, and they never stopped.  In my thought or little dream I,
with broken foot, looked up in great pain and memorized their license
plate as they sped away and had them arrested after I hobbled home on
one good foot.  Thoughts or little dreams like that make me feel like
the hero and I like feeling like the hero.  Maybe it’s just my coping
mechanism.  I like to fantasize about being needed
more than just for my food and nose-wiping skills.  One day I will be called in for the greater good and save the world!  Spiderwoman to the rescue!

So the walks I take the kids on every morning are more than just fresh air, more than vitamin D, more than exercise, they’re a way for me to play out silly little dramas in my head.  It’s really good and free entertainment for this stay-at-home-mama.  I’d like to think I’m keeping my brain sharp for the inevitable greater good calling.  So if I’m out pushing my 17
month old daughter in a stroller and you fail to stop at a stop sign in
my neighborhood and quite literally come within 1 inch of running us
over, there isn’t much hope for you.

You see, I not only can memorize the price of a green onion, but what is it that license plates have on them?  Numbers.  They have numbers.  Numbers that this silly little brain can memorize with the drop of a hat.  Those numbers can get stuck in my head like a song.  Funny how the brain works, huh?  So again, if you fail to stop at a stop sign and almost hit me and my child, look me directly in the eye and fail to apologize or even acknowledge that you almost hit a baby, I will turn around and within 2 seconds of you speeding off without a care, I will have memorized your license plate, your face, the make and model of your car and you, my dear, would not leave my mind for a very long time.  You, my dear, would have messed with the wrong lady.  When I see you again I will know it was you who almost hit us, who failed to acknowledge your mistake after you saw me in front of you, who looked at me as if I was the one who had done something wrong after yelling, at the top of my lungs, “STOP!!!” in order for you to actually stop before you ran over my daughter.  If I could draw I could sketch your face.  You have dark brown hair, which was parted in the middle, long and in need of a shampoo, your face is large and flat, retaining a bit of water.  I know you either live, or are visiting someone who lives on the street parallel to mine because you had an unlit cigarette lazily dangling from your mouth.  A smoker gets into the car and puts the cigarette in her mouth, starts the car and lights it within seconds of driving, so you had just recently started your car before threatening my and my daughter’s life.  You may be a waitress because you were leaving, in quite a hurry, at 11 a.m., which could put you in charge of the second lunch shift at a nearby sports bar.  Or perhaps you were late for your shift at the Homeless Shelter where you volunteer for sick and needy puppies.  I certainly don’t want to judge.  It is also likely that you didn’t stop because you don’t know how to read and therefore are an excellent example of why we need to be paying our school teachers more money.  You had a pink flower on your dash and a plastic lei hanging from your rear view mirror, maybe a prize for doing something outrageous at a bar or perhaps they were a present from your Hawaiian grandmother.  I certainly don’t want to judge.  You were driving a shiny, almost new Toyota Corolla, silver, and your North Carolina license plate was ZXS-3920.

It’s not that I want you to get in trouble, young lady, it’s just that I feel that you and I got off on the wrong foot…you’re familiar with my foot, it’s the part of me you almost sped away with today.  You see, young lady, I am a Mother.  I have two beautiful children that I worked very hard to get and continue to work very hard to keep.  And when you make such a small and silly mistake like not looking right before you turn right, and not stopping in front of the big, red octagon that reads, “STOP”, in a quiet family neighborhood no less, then you run the risk of taking away one of my beautiful children that I work so very hard at keeping alive.  And that simply isn’t acceptable to me.  Thank goodness it was a beautiful morning and your windows were open, thank goodness my mother raised me to be loud and you were able to hear me, thank goodness I pretend I’m a spy when I walk, because I wouldn’t be able to write this love letter to you.  I do hope I have the luxury of seeing you again, my dear.  It will be such a delight on my part.  And when I do, I will introduce myself as the woman who you failed to apologize to after almost killing.  So, my dear, I wish you all the best at the sports bar or the homeless shelter.  Whatever path you choose in life, may it be the right one with no pedestrian in your way.  Maybe you’re sitting somewhere right now, opening a book in front of a small, needy child.  But may I suggest that you learn how to read first.


*Brined and Baked Pork Chops
(This is what you want to have cooking in the oven if you happen to cross paths with my little friend because if she keeps you out later than anticipated, and your pork chops overcook, they will still be moist and delicious thanks to the brine.)

-In a medium saucepan combine 2 cups of water with 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, a couple cloves, a couple peppercorns, 1 orange that you’ve squeezed over the pot and thrown in, and 2 bay leaves.  
-Heat the mixture until the sugar and salt melts and then allow it to cool completely.
-Place 4 thick-cut pork chops* (roughly 2 lbs total) into a gallon size freezer bag and pour your cooled brine into the bag.  Seal and place in a bowl to be safe.  Refrigerate for 4 hours.
-Remove your chops and pat them dry completely.
-Heat some olive oil in a skillet on high heat.  Sear your chops until brown and crispy, then flip.  Cover the pan and place in a preheated 225 degree oven for 1 hour, or at 200 for 2 hours.  (Please note that they will be cooked all the way through in this method.  This is a simple recipe for delicious pork chops when you have to leave the house for a bit and want dinner to be cooking while you’re gone.)
-Remove the pan from the oven and uncover.  They will look like this.

-Remove your chops while you make a sauce out of the liquid.
-Place the heat on high and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the juices.  Boil this liquid until it reduces to a thick, syrupy sauce.  Taste it to see if it needs anything.  If it’s too salty, add more vinegar.  If it’s seriously too salty, add some water and reduce again.

(*there will be room for more chops if you need them, this is just what I happened to do.  And this works for chicken as well.)


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1 Comment

  • Reply Tangos Treasures August 27, 2012 at 6:40 am


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