I start with bacon
Chopped, boiled, drained, rinsed, dried
Sautéed in butter and olive oil
I add the seasoned chicken pieces
Breasts, thighs, legs
Listening to the sizzle as they brown
I pour in the cognac
Light the match
The alcohol flames erupt, soften and recede
Leaving its residue in the pot
And its residue of light on my retinas
Like the sun in my morning window
Like the images of my grandparents on the wall
Like memory
Now the pot is ready for the addition of the rich broth
And the wine
And the seasonings
Bay, thyme, garlic and a dollop of tomato paste
Cover and simmer
Faint bubbling replacing the sizzle.
I pause as the spreading fragrance of chicken and wine
Takes up residency
Whetting appetite
The company of this sauce at special times
My father’s birthday, New Year’s Eve, the brothers’ reunion
Commingling to a blur
Or is the blur from the tears that flow
As I peel the onions
The slowly growing pile of small pearls
Waiting to brown in the hot oil
And braise in the seasoned wine
The mushrooms take their turn
Washed, sliced and sautéed in their own buttery oil mixture
The pieces in place
I remove the chicken and turn up the heat
The gentle simmer turns furious
I watch as the sauce recedes from the side of the pot
Concentrating to its essence
With bits of bacon as punctuation
An event, a feeling, a sensation
Distilled to a moment
Like the photograph of my grandson’s birth
On the refrigerator
A whole life to be made
With the ingredient of time
Now at the stove
My moment involves melting butter
And whisking flour to make a roux
That I slowly whisk in the potent reduction.
The thickened sauce finely coats the spoon
And the chicken as I pour it on
Soon, it will finely coat my tongue
I arrange the chicken, onions and mushrooms
Garnish with parsley
Then I pause
To savor, to inhale, to feel, to ache
Before I place the plate on the table