The ‘S’ Word

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I said yesterday that my husband has a stew phobia.  Yes, that it the dreaded ‘s’ word in the house.  The word will bring him out in a rash sooner than the threat of half a dozen other scary ingredients going into a dish.  Stew.  The problem is that stews are actually quite a handy concoction midwinter; they’re an economic, easy, warming and nutritious dish to serve up and unfortunately cover quite a few styles and cuisines.  Casserole, goulash, chili, one pot, hot pot, pizzaiola, braised whatever – all stews.  The trick is not to use the ‘s’ word without due caution or at least some kind of preamble of how this stew isn’t actually a ‘stew’.

The husband explains that this stew phobia comes from having an Irish father for whom the dish is both an integral part of their cultural heritage and their cooking repertoire.  Stew was a guaranteed regular visitor on their dinner table growing up, recalled with minimal affection and hereby described as ‘brown and boring’.   The most interesting part is the meat and gravy apparently but the vegetables that accompany the soft, sludgy browness were the definite downside.  Peas, carrots, swede – still not on the other half’s list of edible foods.  Potatoes – bearable.  His face wrinkles up recalling the offending, repellant article.

No offence to his Dad’s cooking, of course, because he hates everybody’s stews.  Similar dishes appear at my side of the family’s dinner table but they’re no longer on offer when he’s around.  Everyone knows to avoid the ‘s’ word.  The peas and carrots may be acceptable with a roast drowned under an ocean of gravy, no lumps please, but not in a stew.

But you see that’s what I don’t get.  Meat is probably the only ingredient that hasn’t featured in one of my whatever-you-care-to-call-it-but-just-don’t-use-the-‘s’-word dishes.  I don’t eat it.  Barring vegetarian mince of course in chilis.  We rarely have in the house what we’ve come to call the ‘English vegetables’ – things like the loathsome peas, carrots, swede.  All of mine involve some spice or chili pepper, never mind any other seasoning.  Most of them probably include tomato.  And pulses are a regular visitor.  Not exactly the ‘stew’ of his childhood.

But no, we go on tiptoeing around the issue and now the slow cooker is here, and here to stay, I’m going to dig out the thesaurus and get inventive about just what exactly is going to come out of it.  Because it won’t involve the ‘s’ word.  Or rather, can’t, for the sake of domestic bliss.  Although reading through this post has caused hubby to reflect that chili is rather stew-like.  Hopefully this is progress rather than a new limitation.  We will see.

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