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Moving, Mixed Feelings, and Chicken Madeira

Dear Joey,

Our little apartment is a disaster. But I don’t need to tell you that. You’re very aware of how cramped and awkward it is around here these days, particularly because our living space is slowly being swallowed up by moving boxes. As we empty the shelves, strip the walls, and sort through the accumulated “stuff” that fills our cabinets and closets, my heart already misses this place we’ve come to call home.

Our move leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m eager to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work needed for us to get into a home of our own. In a way, I know what to expect in the coming year. There will be good moments and hard moments, moments of grace and ease and moments where our burdens will feel so heavy that we’ll be convinced we’ll never make it to the other side. 
But after the end of this long stretch of time that will assuredly stretch our faith and endurance as well, where will we land? And will we carry with us the sense of home we’ve cultivated while living here, in this place where the four of us were first a family?

You once told me that faith isn’t in the knowing–it’s in the going. I’ve carried those words with me ever since the night you said them to me when I was unsure of myself and my place in the world. This is one of those moments when I’m holding on to those words, too, and living them out as I pack another box, another bag, another memory.

As I started to pack up the kitchen, I encountered a bit more internal resistance than I expected. So much of my day is spent in this too-small kitchen, which often irritates me, but usually makes me feel warm and happy. This is the kitchen where Addie learned to crawl, the kitchen where she started to learn how to help me cook, and the kitchen where Mia first sat contentedly in her bouncer and watched me as I chopped and stirred and braised my way to dinnertime.  It’s the kitchen where at any given moment, I might look up from the stove and see crayons, sippy cups, rattles and books strewn about, with two little faces miraculously entertaining themselves while I did dishes or put away groceries. So you see, I just couldn’t pack it all away, as if doing so would separate me from tangible reminders of some of the happiest moments of my days.

For one thing, I couldn’t pack all the cookbooks. Being surrounded by them, as it turns out, helps me to feel at home. The ones with splatters and quickly jotted notes are records of memories for me, and the hand-written recipes given to me from family conjure up images and smells of moments that link me to my past and the past of the ones I love most. These recipes remind me of the ones who have walked down this road ahead of me, and when I cook them, it’s as if I’m following their footsteps, following their lead, and going just like they did. Perhaps subconsciously I think that since things turned out alright for them, surely they’ll turn out alright for me, too. And by collecting the recipes that we make over and over again and putting them down on paper, I feel as if I’m somehow recording the history of our own family. Perhaps that’s why packing the cookbooks felt hard. To me, it wasn’t just packing away books; it was packing away memories.

I guess the good news is that old memories don’t have to stop being remembered, and new memories don’t have to stop being made. Sort of like a recipes, right? Old ones can be just as good as new ones. When I made Chicken Madeira for the first time a few weeks ago, I felt like I was making an old recipe, one that had been made for generations ahead of me, but in reality, I have no memory of anyone ever making it when I was growing up. This recipe was new to me, but I’m sure most folks have their own version of it, so it really is a classic. To me, it will always be a reminder of this apartment, and how you humored my experiments and enjoyed the results along with me over and over again.

Chicken Madeira
The first time I made this, it was the result of a bottle of Madeira wine I bought by mistake. I walked by a bottle in the store one day and grabbed it, thinking I read it was an ingredient in a recipe I had seen earlier that week. When I got home, I realized Chicken Milanese doesn’t even have wine in it, and so I tried my hand at Chicken Madeira instead. It was a happy mistake; everyone around here loves it so much that we don’t ever have any leftovers. Addie isn’t big on the mushrooms at the moment, but she could eat a whole chicken breast on her own if we let her.

Ingredients:
3 T olive oil, divided
4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
1 8 oz. package Cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups Madeira wine
2 cups beef broth
1 T butter
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb Farfalle pasta

Method:
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Then, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts; saute until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to the hot pan; add mushrooms and saute for two minutes. Add the wine, broth, butter, and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the liquid has turned dark brown and somewhat syrupy. Boil the pasta while this is cooking.

Serve chicken with plenty of sauce over the pasta.

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