wine, women and song – starfish club adventures

The young girl at the counter innocently asks, “What group do you belong to?  We look at her puzzled, “Group?”, we say.  She lifts her chin, taps her collarbone and says, “The necklaces.  You all have the same necklaces.”  “Ah, yes”, we say, “It’s the Starfish Club.  Have you never heard of us?”  We walk out laughing at, yet, another joke that was meant just for us.

What is the Starfish Club, you ask?  Well, it is a very exclusive club.  It is thirty-plus years of friendship; it is love, acceptance and complete permission to be yourself, whoever that is at the moment.  It is knowing the significance of red picnic tables, purple houses and “Blue Bayou”.  It is walking into a bar singing, “I Will Survive” in perfect unison.  It is knowing all the words to “Ophelia” and “Life is Sweet” and understanding the need to break out into song at any given moment, wherever you are.  It is not having to explain your every heartbreak and every joy because they are already recorded in the Club’s archives.  It is where you go to get a reality check because the other members of the Club often know you better than you know yourself.  I am forever grateful to have a lifetime membership in this Club.

I have just returned from a weekend with the Starfish Club feeling very full, physically and emotionally.  I have to admit to a great display of gluttony that involved the four of us and a buffet.  It was actually reminiscent of a scene out of Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”.  It wasn’t all piggery though because in the midst of all this eating, my spirit was nourished as well and I am never too full for this. Club “meetings” are always a feast for my soul.

This weekend the Starfish Club took a mini road trip to Chateau Ste. Michelle, a winery in Northwest Washington, to see Natalie Merchant and to immerse ourselves in her amazing voice, once again.  It has been fourteen years since the Club last saw her although her voice often fills the rooms of my house or blasts from the speakers of my old jeep as I drive down the road singing at the top of my lungs to the heartfelt strains of “I May Know the Word”; her voice and her profound lyrics resonating through and from me.  It was a wonderful concert at a beautiful venue.  I was very perplexed, though, to see all those people knowing and singing all the words to her songs.  Didn’t they know that this was “my” Natalie? Weird.

Natalie’s latest album, “Leaving Your Sleep” is actually a collection of poems by early and mid twentieth century poets with a few nursery rhymes thrown in.  It is a playful, insightful collection filled with many memorable moments.  There is a song on this album, adapted from a poem by Eleanor Farjeon (1861 – 1965), about a greedy young girl called Griselda.

“…Griselda is greedy as greedy can be

She snoops about the larder for sundry small supplies

She breaks the little crusty bits off rims of apple pies

She pokes the roast potato dish when Sunday dinner’s done

And if there are two left in it, Griselda snitches one…”

Who knew that this would become the theme song for the weekend because I certainly felt like “Greedy Griselda” as we sat eating plateful after plateful of food at that buffet.  Even though I didn’t think that I would ever be hungry again, I decided that I was going to recreate one of the best dishes from the buffet; the American Pot Roast.  This dish was among the most memorable and it was sooo good!  Oh no, I feel a Griselda moment coming on!

American Pot Roast

Ingredients
3 lbs Chuck Roast
3 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
6 cups water
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped

Directions
Salt and pepper the roast.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the roast on all sides.  Place roast in a crock pot and add remaining ingredients.  Cook on low setting for 8 hours.  The roast should be quite tender by this time.  Remove roast, veggies, bay leaves and thyme from pot and use the juices to make a gravy.  Perfect with mashed potatoes.

Note:  I used a moose chuck roast but the roast at the buffet was beef.  Both were very good.

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