Minced garlic, chopped rosemary, grated ginger swirl as the wooden spoon twirls around the lamb with the trio. It is Sunday. Lamb Stew’s on the menu. I look into the large pot at the raw ingredients wondering will it work?
I open the oven and the pot glides in independent of me like it can’t wait to get all warm and cozy. I set the timer and wander off to wait the two hours. I should grade. I should plan. I should fold laundry. I should pack for my upcoming trip. I ignore all my “shoulds” and glide onto my couch to get warm and cozy. Lamb stew, I think. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten or made any form of lamb aka my definition of soul food. Half an hour passes, and that familiar scent penetrates the apartment. The herby, earthy, scent blended with the ginger-garlic mix pulls me back to my birth place. The place where I roamed free and ate the best food in my life. The place where I saw dad prep our dinner from a live chicken to the cooked chicken on my plate.
Before I moved to America, I lived in a wonderful, magical land known as India. My last years in India were spent in a small country town of Karmanghat. This town was surrounded by farmland. If you walked West, there were cows. If you walked North, there were fluffy sheep and their faithful shepherd asleep against a large rock. Past the sheep farm, were hills we hiked when family visited. Goat, lamb, and sheep were regular meals on the weekends.
Filled with nostalgia I began to research stew; I quickly realized it is a dish that comes from countless countries rooted in much history. Every country from Iran’s Ghormeh Sabzi to Irish beef stew. Stew, it turns out, is a common thread that joins us all no matter the roots; it’s trademark being that you allow all ingredients to simmer for a lengthy period allowing the flavors to develop gently into rich satisfaction.
This trademark got me thinking about my role at my work. This year, I chose to co-chair my department. For the past 7 years as an English teacher, I have allowed many ideas to stew and felt that I was ready to bring our department to the next level. Obviously, I had all the answers and all I had to do was execute: 1. Set up guided reading room 2. Pilot a program using Nooks 3. Vertically align all curriculum among the 3 grade levels 4. Sit back, relax, watch it happen. I started the year thinking, 4 easy goals, one task at a time, everything would be accomplished.
Three months in, reality has descended upon my department. We haven’t even accomplished step one! I have realized three truths:
1. Meeting once a month it is nearly impossible to grow a department
2. Working as a full-time teacher without an extra planning period to complete departmental tasks like check on our budget, order supplies, pass on information, is also nearly impossible.
3. Being Department Chair means I have meetings, meetings, meetings which drains me and leaves little energy to be effective.
Sunday’s stew, which by the way I’m still eating because it’s so delicious, reminded me that simple brilliance takes time. Try as you might one cannot achieve the delicious flavors without allowing it time. As a grad student, when I was asked to create a metaphor for being a teacher, I chose chef because chefs learn with each dish and adjust and modify every time they cook. Thus, I’m taking a little lesson from my lamb stew: turn the heat down = slow down, set my timer for 2-3 hours = give it time, enjoy for many days the simple comforting soupy goodness = your department will be the best.
Our department needs time to develop its flavors; this may equate to a couple of years, not just one year. I think schools are so stuck on making quick changes and then looking for results that same year without giving it time. I am getting unstuck from this idea that all changes can get accomplished and executed in one year. Time and the right ingredients, which by the way my department already has, will make just the right stew!
Here’s the super easy lamb stew recipe:
Make the meal was simple and asked for minimal prep: Leg of lamb (I got my butcher to chop it into stew-sized chunks), rosemary, garlic, ginger, zucchini, baby carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper. There’s something really exciting about a no-hassle meal.
Click here for another recipe that I love by the one and only Pioneer Woman!