Meatball Melancholy — Musings on the eve of a second winter in Berlin

27 Oct

As summer changes dramatically to fall, we apprehend the imminence of winter, our thoughts gliding through a track worn smooth by centuries of ancestors who faced the move towards cold and darkness. Is there an inherent truth to the identification of winter with a turn inward, a time of self-examination, or is this merely a juxtaposition conveniently arrived at by us melancholic types? Regardless, we often find our thoughts, in these days, contemplating mortality–our own and that of others both loved and strange to us. A typical stack of books on the table might, in the middle of autumn, contain Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne, the just-published-in-English Suicide by Edouard Levé, and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, one of the few books at the library down the street that looked interesting. At other times, inexplicably, our minds are filled with one overriding sensory image:

the ideal

Perhaps it is the memory of the comforting warmth of a stomach stuffed with meatballs and marinara sauce to the point of indigestion, or fond recollections of the many occasions preceding or leading up to the devouring of such a treat. We try to analyze these thoughts, to trace them back to their source, but all such attempts fail sooner or later, stopped by memory’s recession as if into an impenetrable cloud of sweet-smelling smoke. Anyway, is it not better to savor the feeling in all it’s complexity, surrounded by sense-memories and scores of vague connections to other times and places, than to attempt to pin it down like the lonesome lepidopterist, left only with the husks of his beloved moths and none of the dusty movement-in-flight?

These twin ideas–the memento mori of the season and the wonder of the Subway Meatball Sub–played over our minds like the play of sunlight over a gently moving shallow pool. Days were spent in the kitchen, alternating endless games of solitaire with cooking all varieties of bachelor food as we moved zombie-like under the spell of this obsession. Yesterday, something happened. “Ian, I think today’s the day for tempeh meatball subs.” It took a moment for Jason’s words to sink in as I hadn’t yet had a cup of coffee, but I was soon in accord.

We had a plan, and it went something like this:

Grind up some fennel seeds with your mortar and pestle, mince a clove of garlic, squeeze the juice out of a lemon. Put these in a bowl with some oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, lots of soy sauce and maybe some warm water with veggie bouillon. Crumble a block of tempeh into this marinade and let it sit for a good long time, absorbing! Toast some of that super dense moist bread that’s been sitting on the counter in a vain attempt to dry it out, then crumble this. When crumbling proves fruitless, grind it up with a stab mixer!
crumbing bread through a hole in a cloth
Have Jason slowly add bread crumbs and then a beaten egg to the tempeh as you mix it all together with your hands to the right consistency. Meanwhile he’s been making a marinara sauce from a base of onion, garlic, carrot and celery, with a can of diced tomatoes thrown in a few minutes ago, and then all blended together with our friend the stab mixer. But you, now, should be forming Subway Meatball-sized balls out of the tempeh mix and getting them ready to bake for about ten minutes in the oven you preheated earlier. This, we’re pretty sure, helps them hold together better. Out of the oven, put them in the sauce so they soak up a little flavor and you’re almost there!
aren't they so cute in there
Slice up your little brotchen (bread roll) and get some meatballs in there. Don’t forget to ladle on extra sauce! Maybe you want a slice of cheese or some diced onion on your sandwich; perhaps you have a lot of arugula lying around that Aaron has been insisting you eat. Go ahead, don’t be afraid.

Yum yum. Now there’s nothing to worry about in that cold world.

Appetite temporarily sated, we accept that, ultimately, we live our lives alone and no amount of companionship can entirely bridge the gap between us and another. More sauce please!


5 Responses to “Meatball Melancholy — Musings on the eve of a second winter in Berlin”

  1. Amanda October 27, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    i just got a “stab mixer” for my birthday. can’t wait to try it out on this recipe. also, i’ve had this same kind of thought process over the last few weeks, but my food fixation was mac & cheese.

    • jasonbox October 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Nothing gets me through winter like a good stab mixer. Happy birthday!

  2. wolfsharksarereal October 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm #


    • bHerb October 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm #


      • jasonbox October 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm #


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