Two years ago tonight I wrote about the loss of a great love in my life named Rachael. Looking
back I’m reminded of likening her to a guru – I had at the time, like everyone else, been reading Eat, Pray, Love, and learned that the idea behind having a guru is that the merits of your guru will reveal to you your own hidden greatness. I’ve never heard a better definition of true friendship.
Of course I have other friends who could be described in much the same way, but I’ll always miss Rachael. Her laugh. Her feet. Her wonky hair, and the way she lost only half of it, on one side, including one eyebrow. Her touchy-hugginess. Her stunning voice (that girl could sing). And her absolutely genuine enthusiasm for every little thing she’d come across in a given day, from the leftovers she brought to work for lunch to her rainy bike ride home. She was so enamoured with food that one day in late November, in the palliative care ward, barely speaking and having not had much actual food to eat, another friend fed her a perfect strawberry and she leaned her head back on her pillow and said the F word. I remember her laugh with perfect clarity some days, but as soon as it comes I worry that it may fade, like a photocopy of a photocopy, each time I replay it in my memory; that it might be tarnished and twisted into something that’s not quite right anymore. And other days I think about beet risotto.
Rach told me about a beet risotto she made once soon after we met – raved about it, even. It was in a copy of Australian Women’s Weekly or some such; she could never quite find it, but it always brought it up, oohing over how fantastic it was, how brilliantly coloured and just so delicious. She never did find me the recipe, but still I think about it more often than not when I pick up a beet.
I half-heartedly flipped through a few websites this morning to see if I could find one, but none jumped out. I kept thinking about it, and her, and when it came to be dinnertime and the boys were at the dog park, I decided that if I was going to think about it, and her, I might as well be peeling and grating a beet while I’m at it.
And that’s how the risotto came to be. I had a little over an hour before having to leave for my Artemis meeting, so it’s not like the evening stretched out before me in which to revel in creative dinner preparation. But risotto is the sort of thing that’s perfect to do while cleaning up Play-Doh, unloading the dishwasher, running down to the laundry, and jumping over to your laptop. You can step away from it. Just don’t forget it entirely while you check your email.
I gave the (large!) grated beet a turn in the pot with some butter and oil, then added about a cup of short-grain (Arborio) rice, and added a 1L tetra pack of chicken stock in bits, stirring as often as was needed, until it turned into risotto. I finished it at the end with a little blob of butter and a whack of grated Parmesan for good measure. I had a pork roast in the oven that had spent some time in a plastic bag with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and barbecue rub, and some mixed greens. Mike loved the risotto – very intense he said, very potent. I wasn’t enamoured at first, but it grew on me. When I got home from my meeting I managed to shovel a few cold mouthfuls in before bed, so I must have liked it. I’m not sure I’ve done Rachael’s recipe justice, but at least I finally made it. And had she not planted that seed, the combination would never have occurred to me. (I mean look at it – it resembles some sort of fluorescent red ground beef or sea coral or something.)