We had our first fight, and I don’t know what’s worse, that we had our first fight or that we had our first fight on the phone.
We weren’t even on Facetime, so I couldn’t see your face, so everything feels even worse because I don’t know if I’m just reading too much into everything, the tone of your voice, the curtness with which you hung up, the silence from your end the rest of the night and all of today. I don’t know what to do — or maybe I do know; I should call you, text you, reach out to you in some way, shape, or form — I’m just afraid to.
So, instead, I do what I do when I’m feeling anxious and spinning myself in mental circles: I cook.
I go to the market, and, because it’s the tail-end of summer, I buy peaches and tomatoes and a pound or so of chuck roast to make a ragu. When I get home, I rinse off my roast, pat it dry, season it with salt and pepper. I score little X-es on the butts of all my peaches and tomatoes, blanch them in simmering water, drop them into an ice bath, so I can peel them easily. I cut my tomatoes into quarters, remove the seeds and dump them in a strainer, cut my peeled peaches into slivers off their pits. I coat the bottom of my Dutch oven with oil, toss in chopped garlic, wait until the oil is smoking before placing my roast into the oil, laying it out away from me quickly as oil spatters and hisses. After a few minutes, I flip the roast, let it sear on the other side. After a few more minutes, I sear each side of the roast, holding it up with my tongs until each side is browned. I remove it from the Dutch oven, set it on a cutting board to rest.
I don’t wipe down my Dutch oven, pour my peeled and cut tomatoes and peaches directly into the oil and fat. I toss in half an onion whole — or as whole as half an onion can be. When my tomatoes and peaches have softened, I return the meat to the Dutch oven, add some chicken stock and salt, place the lid on top. When the sauce comes to a boil, I skim off the scum that rises to the surface, and I let it simmer for an hour, maybe two, stirring occasionally, mashing the tomatoes and peaches as they soften and break down.
A half-hour in, I fish out the onion.
An hour, hour-and-a-half in, I pour a quarter-cup or so of olive oil onto a cold pan, shake red pepper flakes into it energetically. I turn the heat on low, let that come to a slow simmer, turn it off, strain the oil, let it sit.
When the sauce is almost done, I remove the meat and let it cool on a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, I shred it with my fingers. I return the shredded meat to the sauce, stir it in, then add the chili oil.
At the very end, when the sauce is done, I add a tablespoon of butter.
You still haven’t called.