Christine Madden

journalist | editor | dramaturg | literary translator

Tag: January

Witches’ brew

A big pot of broth is a potion in more ways than one

It’s that time of year when just looking outside, never mind stretching a tentative finger out from under the duvet, makes you feel shivery and chilled through. Even multiple cups of fresh, hot tea aren’t always enough to tempt you to shed your blanket. The winner every time, though, is the promise of a rich and aromatic cupful of steaming broth.

I used to absolutely hate making broth. It was always an insipid disaster. Every so often I’d try making broth again, and every time it would be the same watery slop more reminiscent of rinsing water than anything else. I’d have to heave spoonfuls of powdered stock mix into just to be able to drink it.

Then, suddenly, magically, it worked. After having tried and tried again, having a go at various tips and recipes, a large potful of various ingredients suddenly turned into something incredible – rich, flavoursome and so warm and comforting. It was like magic.

What made the difference this time was treating it almost as something alchemical. I think of the people in history, wise men and women, who understood about plants and animals, fungi and minerals, who learned how to combine these things into nourishing, healing and restorative broth – potions – and how this knowledge made them respected and frequently feared.

It’s the alchemy of cooking that keeps me interested in it (as well as the daily need for something tasty to eat). Every time I make a yeast dough, I actually get a thrill observing how the ingredients physically transform during kneading from a big, swampy slosh into the elastic and resilient ball. It’s perennially exciting to watch a variety of ingredients interacting with heat, physical intervention and each other to metamorphose into something you’d not only instagram but also put in your mouth and consume with pleasure.

Treating the individual ingredients and every step reverentially – from meat and bones to onions, carrots and herbs – seems to draw out and combine the individual energy of the ingredients into something extraordinary. I think of how people were pursued for this knowledge as I watch the various colourful ingredients of the broth bubble away in the water and am grateful to live in a time of ample provision, and a time in which scientific curiosity in the world is not persecuted and punished. Of course you can get all kinds of broth in all kinds of supermarkets, any time of the day or night. It’s frequently a lifesaver to have that convenience in days filled with work and stress. But there’s something especially warming and nourishing about making your own. You won’t be changing lead into gold, but then again, in a way, maybe you will.

Ice dream

MUNICH has frozen in the grip of the coldest January for years. Sub-zero temperatures have sent many cowering into their duvets. Others – hardy, warm-blooded snow and ice enthusiasts – are emerging from hibernation and taking advantage of the arctic conditions for an increasingly rare chance at local winter sport.

In November, optimistic purveyors set up sheds along the Nymphenburg Canal, hoping that this year they might get lucky. In previous years, the shacks remained boarded up and lonely alongside the stubbornly liquid waterway. But this year the weather complied, sending the mercury plummeting and freezing up the canal, which stretches eastward from Nymphenburg Castle.

On one end, where the canal opens out, skaters skid and twirl on the ice in front of the Hubertusbrunnen. Further down, the canal is portioned out for curling. An ice version of boules, curling involves sliding a heavy disk down to a target. Strolling down the path along the canal, you can hear the skates and curling stones scraping across the ice, a sound like marble masonry. You also hear cheers and laughter as the players celebrate their success – or just their joy at being out to play under a cobalt blue sky, walking on water. Their large thermal bags of provisions and steaming mugs show that they’ve come prepared. The odd burgundy splash on the snow and ice indicate that the hot beverages they’re drinking aren’t just coffee.

Curling on the frozen Nymphenburg Canal, Munich. Photograph: Christine Madden

Curling on the frozen Nymphenburg Canal, Munich

Leaning into the next shot. Nymphenburg Canal, Munich. Photograph: Christine Madden

© 2018 Christine Madden

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