Prometheus Bound

by Donald Wilson on May 3, 2011

Chicken Liver Pate with Pancetta and a Balsamic Glaze

PROMETHEUS was the Titan god of forethought and was entrusted with the task of molding mankind out of clay. His attempts to better the lives of his children brought him into direct conflict with Zeus.  First, he tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, acquiring the meat for the feasting of man. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he stole it from heaven and delivered it to mortal kind hidden inside a fennel-stalk. As punishment for these rebellious acts, he was arrested and bound to a stake on Mount Kaukasos where an eagle was set free to feed upon his ever-regenerating liver (or, some say, heart). Generations later, the great hero Heracles came along and released him from his torture.

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I have seen the eagle approaching for sometime now.   I knew from the start that it would eventually arrive and, on some level, I understood that I had brought this punishment onto myself.  For the most part, though, the eagle has kept its distance. It has been content to hover on lofty breezes that blew gently over distant horizons. I’ve even been able to wonder at its beauty and imagine that it would be the future harbinger of something so natural that I wouldn’t even feel its talons as they tore at my flesh or the piercing of its beak as it sought to carry off the very core of my being.

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We didn’t have much time to get ready.  Andrew and I got home from Mexico late Monday night and he had to be repacked for San Francisco by Wednesday.  His eighth grade band was leaving for a long-planned culmination of three years of working together.  The trip promised to be something Andrew would remember forever.    I still remember my own band trip to San Francisco.  The feeling of being on my own with friends in the big city is as fresh today as it was then.  I had been to San Francisco many times before that trip, but seeing the City without the guidance of my parents’ biases and personal San Francisco history transformed the experience and the City into something new and exciting.

Andrew and I have done quite a bit of traveling together, but this was his first trip without me and I was very excited for him.  That statement is not quite true.  Andrew has taken trips without me, but they have all been to see grandma and grandpa, but those trips were different.  I always knew that he was being cared for and loved as much as he was at home.  I knew that I could call anytime and there would be someone to pick up the phone.

As I dropped Andrew off at the school, we put his suitcase among the others and secured his clarinet.  We were alone and he let me pull him in close and give him the “Andrew acceptable” kiss on the top of his head.   I told him I loved him and he even offered his own, “I love you too.”  Like I said, we were alone; there wasn’t another student in sight.  However, as he walked away I suddenly remembered that he didn’t have a phone.   I panicked.  How was I going to call him?  How was he going to call me?  The worst part was that I was the one who had taken his phone.   My sudden inability to communicate with him was really a situation of my own making and I began questioning my own wisdom.

Andrew used to have a phone.   I don’t really believe that 10 or 11 year olds need a phone, but Andrew was getting on a city bus every morning on his way to fifth grade and, even though the trip was short and direct, I gave him one for my own peace of mind.   Once he entered middle school, his school was close to mine and I have been able to drive him.  However, the phone stayed.   Like all middle-school kids, it got used mostly for games and texting, but the convenience of being able to reach him when I needed to won out over my discomfort with the possibility of abuses.  And there have been abuses, but that’s a topic for a very different posting.  The decision to take away the phone didn’t come from the abuse of it, but from the disuse of it.

I received a phone call about 4:00 p.m.  I was holding a meeting at the school and when I saw the car pool number come up, I excused myself and answered the phone.   She asked me if Andrew was at my school.  When I told her that he wasn’t, she told me that when she went to pick up Andrew at school he wasn’t there, and she left to go to her other stop.  She went back to get him, and still no Andrew. I tried calling his phone, but no answer.  I texted three, four, five times.  No answer.  I called Andrew’s school and asked the principal to call him on the loudspeaker and waited nervously for an answer.  The principal told me she did all she could to locate him but to no avail.  I really started to panic.  Not the little momentary panic you feel when you think you have forgotten to turn something off or left something behind.  No, this was full blown panic and I could barely catch my breath.  I raced away from my school and towards his, desperately trying to think where he might be.  I imagined the worst.  Andrew was capable of many things, but I knew my son and I knew he would not have missed the carpool without calling me.  I couldn’t think of anyone to call, and just when I was about to call the police a thought occurred to me.  He was in a study group and I had one number for a friend in the group.  I knew they had kindled a new friendship; perhaps he might know.  I called the number.

A few rings later, a very familiar voice answered cheerily on his friend’s phone, “Hellooo Dad.”

It was Andrew and try as I might a torrent of emotion, both anger and relief came out.  Andrew swore he had called and texted me multiple times that he was going to a study group, but when I checked none of the texts were there.   I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew he was telling the truth.  Still, I couldn’t hold back and regaled him with all I had been through.   In the future, I told him, he had to actually talk to me before acting on a change of plans.  Luckily for him, the drive to pick him up at the study group was forty minutes away and by the time I got there all anger had dissipated.   The text had actually showed up, albeit two hours later, and all I could do was hug him in gratitude that he was safe.

I was sure he had learned his lesson and felt that it wouldn’t happen again.  The third time that it did, I took away the phone and decided to save money on a phone that only got used for texting.   That’s how I found myself watching my son walk off on his first solo adventure without an easy way to communicate with him.  Suddenly Zeus’ chains started to bind me to the rock and the eagle was precariously close.

“Andrew,” I called out, “don’t forget to call me.”

“I don’t have a phone, remember?” he answered as he continued down the hall.

“Someone will have a cell phone and you know you can borrow it,” was all I could muster.

“I’ll try,” came the slightly exasperated reply.

I watched him walk off and knew what I had to say, “Andrew!”  He finally stopped and turned towards me waiting for another plea.

“Have a wonderful time; I hope you enjoy every minute of your trip.”   With that, we both turned and walked off.

I haven’t heard from him since he left three days ago and don’t expect that I will.  It means that he’s having too good of a time to even think about home and that’s the way it should be.  It’s what I want for him even though it hurts.

It seems unfathomable that Prometheus could endure Zeus’ wrath: Bound to a rock to have his liver torn out, only to have it grow back each night and wake to the same fate every morning.  Yet, he brought it on himself, braving the wrath of the gods to bring fire and abundance to his children.

With each act of love, we as parents, reach out to steal Mt. Olympus’ fire.  With each effort to shield our children from the world, we ensure our own future pain when they go off into the world.

But I get it.

It hurts, but we endure because we know that our capacity to love them enough to let them go grows back each night and we are ready for another day.  Perhaps, like Prometheus, Heracles will one day release us from our bonds.  However, if my own parents are any indication, we will always carry a bit of this rock as a reminder that once a parent, always a parent, and that we owe a debt to our own parents for being bound to that rock for us.

Andrew is home now.  He got about three hours sleep over the last two day, went against my ban and drank many Rock Star energy drinks, ate poorly, listened to Beethoven, marveled at architecture, and won first prize in the band competition.   I’m sure there’s more that I don’t know about and may never know, but he’s growing up and I can start to see the wonderful young man he is becoming.  Once again, my heart feels safe, but Prometheus’s eagle still hovers precariously close and I know it’s my job to invite him back again and again.

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Chicken Liver Pate Unbound

Chicken Liver Pate Unbound

Believe it or not, liver and more specifically, Pate, is one of Andrew’s favorite foods.  Give him a bagguete and a slab of pate and he’s good to go.  I remember liking liverwurst as a kid and this just kicks it up a notch or two.  I know most people will take one look at this recipe and not ever think about making it, but for those who love liver, here’s a relatively easy pate that is great for a party and is packed with flavor.   Note:  You must start this at least one day before you plan to serve it.

Chicken Liver Pate

3 pounds chicken livers

6 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

4 ounces pancetta in small dice

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme leaves

1 tablespoon dried savory

6 tablespoons cognac

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

½ cup cream

5 eggs

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt

½ to ¾ teaspoons ground pepper

8 slices bacon

3 bay leaves

For serving:

A few ounces of pancetta or bacon, fried and cut in small wedges

Sliced baguette

Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400

Wash the livers and trim any white parts and dry on paper towels.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the onion and the pancetta over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and herbs and saute a bit longer.  Next add the livers and balsamic vinegar and cook until cooked through, about five minutes.   In a large bowl, mix the liver mixture with the rest of the ingredients and puree in a blender or food processor.  It might be easier to do this in batches.  Be careful to not over process.

Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or two smaller ones with the bacon.  Arrange the bay leaves in the bottom of the pan.  Pour in liver mixture.  Place the loaf pans in a larger roasting pan and fill the pan with water to about half way up the loaf pans. Bake for 1 ½ hours.

Lining the Pan with Bacon and Bay

Filled and ready for the oven

Remove the pate and cool completely on a rack.  Refridgerate, covered, overnight.  When ready to serve, loosen the edges with a knife and unmold.  Carefully peel back the bacon and bay leaves and smooth out the pate for presentation.

To serve, toast small slices of the baguette and brush with olive oil.  Place a portion of pate on the sliced baguette and garnish with a piece of the pancetta and drizzle with a bit of the balsamic glaze.

To make a balsamic glaze, simple bring about a ½ cup balsamic vinegar to a boil and reduce by half.

Provecho!

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kergan Edwards-Stout May 5, 2011 at 2:57 am

Yum! Sounds and looks a lot like a pate I make every Christmas, which I got from the Red Lion Inn cookbook (Stockbridge, MA).

I totally get where you’re coming from… Mason is 11 and sounds very much like Andrew!

Take care,
K

P.S. Not sure if you saw, but your blog is posted on my site, under mine/share, must/share, literary… Can’t wait for your next post!

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Maud July 2, 2015 at 6:12 am

Oh yeah, fauulobs stuff there you!

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