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December, Day 3: An open letter to Cambridge

3.December 2010

Dear Cambridge,

I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now and keeping it all bottled up because we were having such a good time and I didn’t want to go and screw up a good thing, but I’ve reached the end of my rope.

Now, I understand that you’ve got self-image issues and that you’re trying REALLY hard to live up to your namesake across the pond.  The older Cambridge is awfully picturesque and antique looking and quaint.  And I really do appreciate the old-timey charm and pop of color that brick sidewalks add to an otherwise sort of ordinary cityscape.

But, Cambridge, it’s time you admit you have a problem.  The bricks have got to go.  Not because they’re not pretty and not because you don’t deserve nice things.  It’s time you grew up and realized that your average temperature hovers around freezing for FOUR MONTHS OF THE YEAR.  And before that there’s at least one month of rain, during which the leaves fall from the trees, as they do all over the world.  Did you know, Cambridge, that wet leaves on brick sidewalks are just as slippery as snow on brick sidewalks?

Finally, Cambridge, I’d like you to think about the kinds of shoes that women wear these days.  Did you know that  when a young, fashionable lady skids across the brick sidewalk after slipping on snow OR a wet leaf, sometimes the only thing that keeps her from sliding right into traffic is one of her very fashionable, expensive heels getting caught in the cracks of one of you beloved brick sidewalks?

Anyway, Cambridge, I’m not breaking up with you yet, but if you want to keep me in your life (and I know you do) please either do something about the bricks or the weather.  Because I have a hunch that you only make it snow and be gray and rainy as much as you do because of some Dickensian image you have of that other Cambridge across the pond.

And if you’re really dedicated to that image and continuing to be inhospitable to human life from November to March, then ADIOS and I suggest you look into coal smoke as an accessory to complete the picture.  And street urchins.

Hugs and kisses,

Darby O’Shea

P.S. This is what I like to eat when you, Cambridge, make me pouty.

Bad Mood Beef Stew

  • 2 lb boneless chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 leek, the white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 c vermouth or dry white wine
  • 6-8 large crimini mushrooms, halved
  • 2/3 c pearl barley
  • 1 smallish butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 5 c broth (or 4 c water and 1 c very strong stock)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Season the beef with salt and pepper.  In a large (6 quart or larger) pot, heat olive oil and brown the beef on all sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan and cook the garlic, carrots, onion and leek until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the flour and stir until veggies are well coated and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the vermouth or white wine and stir, scraping up all the brown bits.
  6. Add the beef and mushrooms to the pan.
  7. Add 5 c broth (or water and stock), stir in barley, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.
  8. Add butternut squash chunks.
  9. Bring this all to a boil, then cover and place in oven.  Braise for one hour.
  10. Check periodically and add up to one more cup of liquid if necessary.
  11. Double check salt level before serving.
8 Comments leave one →
  1. 3.December 2010 13:55

    Wait, did you fall? Are you okay? (Hi! And happy almost-birthday!)

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.December 2010 13:56

      Ha – no, not yet this year. This was one of those post-scheduling mishaps. Mulled wine and art were on the docket, but got pushed to next week, so you got my disgruntled beef stew instead. :)

  2. Christine permalink
    3.December 2010 13:58

    Das hat mich wirklich zum Schmunzeln gebracht. Und außerdem habe ich gleich neue Wörter gelernt. And by the way, you could write the same letter to Hamburg. Surprise! It’s snowing, which normally never ever happend here in Hamburg. We always have sunshine and 30°C in December… Don’t know what some people are thinking sometimes…

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.December 2010 14:38

      Aww. Es freut mich immer so, wenn Du Kommentare schreibst. Schade, dass HH Scheisswetter hat – hier kalt, aber bisher ohne Schnee Gott sei Dank.

  3. 3.December 2010 17:26

    Art coming soon! I’m a bit relieved that you postponed as I am having a recovery-from-stress day, but hope I wasn’t the whole reason for postponement.

    Ya know, Cambridge could use all its residents with innovative minds (*ahem*, GSD, *ahem*) to come up with a solution to old-fashioned slippery brick, while still retaining its boho character. Might I suggest concrete brick? Concrete bricks are inexpensive (but shhh don’t say “cheap”), can be pigmented to look brick-colored, and have a textured surface that makes them less slippery than brick.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.December 2010 17:28

      I think they have concrete brick right around MIT because I stop slipping all over the place when I cross Main Street and am officially on their territory. They’re so innovative.

  4. 4.December 2010 10:00

    I could not agree more! When my husband lived in Cambridge for school, I would loathe any time it rained, snowed, or even looked a little shady because I would always be the one who ended up on my butt on the sidewalk. And forget about wearing anything like flip flops in the summer!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      4.December 2010 11:02

      Hah. Yeah. It’s really annoying. I’m constantly tripping on rogue bricks that stick up a half inch above the others, too. Very irritating.

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