Sometime during the Christmas holidays, our expert of all things pig, Maxy, found himself in one of his most favorite positions ; completely surrounded by pork loin. Perhaps Maxy was tuckered out from enjoying the holidays and that caused him to do something he never does : He sent out an S.O.S. Code Blue...Have too much pig, please advise...stat.... Unlike poor Captain Lord of the Californian who saw the improperly fired distress rockets from the Titanic and most improperly (but most sincerely) concluded that since the Titanic was a ship where luxury knew no bounds he was just witnessing a display of midnight fireworks causing him to tell his crew to stay on charted path for port and go off to bed, I did realise Maxy needed help. So, being a pig fancier myself and married to even more of a pig fancier, I sent word promising help. But misconstruing an improperly discharged distress rocket is merely a horrible accident while promising to help someone and never doing it is a most dastardly act. I never made good on my promise to Maxy. Can you believe that? To make matters worse, as Maxy will tell you, I've been sending him emails every now and then saying "pork is on the way". "Ha!" he finally wrote back, in complete disgust.
I'm sorry Maxy.
Well now Maxy, pork is really on the way. The cold weather has completely set into our bones here, and some of us, well one of us, has found viral influenza has settled into his bones as well. And I've promised him help too and since it's the exact same help I promised you, I can now multi-task by killing two birds with one essay. Hooray!
Now, for the rest of you, when one has viral influenza one must ignore all save-the-world-and-your-body- quackery that masqerades as a college education these day and not fall for the idea that you must not challenge your body and planet in their great time of need and therefore choose to dine on ethically raised and braised vegetables and sip herbal tea until you're dead. In Boston, I once had a roommate who, when I came down with influenza, gave me tea to sip made from purple cone flowers saying it would heal me. Have you ever tasted tea made from purple cone flowers? Let me give you a hint : It is not tea. Two days later I crawled to the doctor's and he asked what I had done to myself. I told him about the purple cone flower tea. He said whiskey would have served me better. Do you know why? When you've got influenza, your body is dying for challenge. Not a challenge on the treadmill or rowing machine either. It wants a showdown with meat. You must fight fire with fire, waistline and cholesterol be damned. Otherwise, your virus will hang on much longer than it should and you'll probably pull up anemic in the meantime. Oh, and I wouldn't be surprised at all that by the time the virus decides to vacate the nice comfy residence your herbal tea sipping has given it, you find you've gone a tad effete too. Check your nails (if you haven't already taken to painting them). Do you see a nice pink hue underneath them with white half or quarter moons (depending upon your ancestry) down by the cuticle? No? Then there's only one thing to do. Head straight to your nearest steakhouse. Once seated, order a large whiskey (for purely medicinal purposes) a nice big juicy medium-rare NY strip, or my favorite, a Delmonico, and a side of creamed spinach. Repeat daily until your nails exhibit the proper healthy pink hue.
The last time Mr. P was struck with viral influenza, his doctor suggested the consumption of not just beef but pork too. And Mr. P, though nearly dead, was delighted. He loves pork and he especially loves a way that I have frequently prepared it for him since the early days our marriage : Pork with Celery. In this instance, Pork with Celery was a most excellent choice for his battered body. In the pre-pharmacological days the Greeks and Romans used celery to cure colds and influenza. Because I'm not a quack snake oil salesman promising medical miracles, I cannot say for a fact that Pork with Celery will cure the common cold or viral influenza, but it won't kill you. Indeed it will make you feel as if you are on the road to recovery and, it will also not tax your waistline. The beauty in the dish is its simplicity. You would never know it was of Greek origin. It is very satisfying and delightful for eaters of all ages. I enjoy serving it in soup bowls with a crusty loaf of bread that is not cut but rather passed from person-to-person with pieces being torn off with each passing and a good crisp white wine. Maxy, since your tastebuds are fond of very sharp flavors, I would suggest placing bowls of good olives (garnished with chopped fresh herbs and drizzled olive oil) and feta cheese on the table. For the potable you may want to go all the way with a Retsina. (The influenza crowd should stick to whiskey)
Pork with Celery
2 tbspns olive oil, virgin not necessary
2 lbs boneless pork roast, cut into several large pieces
For the cooking liquid
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 tbspns olive oil, again virgin not necessary
2-3 cloves garliv, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups chopped celery leaves and stalks (The more leaves, the better)
In a 6 quart Dutch oven (that's a pot with 2 handles and a lid), heat the oil for browning (this is why you do not want to use virgin olive oil - virgin olive oil has a much lower threshold for heat than regular olive oil. It burns easier and causes flame-ups too. There was a reason virgins were the sacrifice of choice among the cannibals. Contrary to what the Episcopal church teaches today, those cannibals really did know what they were doing...gosh...) and brown the meat both sides. Add all of the ingredients for the cooking liquid, except for celery. It should come up about halfway on the side of the meat. If it does not, add more chicken stock, or wine. Bring to a simmer and, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until tender, at least 1 3/4 hours. Add the celery and simmer another 1/2 hour. Uncover the pot for at least 15 minutes to reduce the sauce.
Serves 4 to 6 as a maincourse.