risotto


a little risotto for the night, just about a ladle of rice, vialone nano is what i have on the shelf, 4 cups of intense chicken broth and to start the rice, over medium heat, a spoon of my good olive oil, coating the rice, in fact i want it a little browned tonight, on the verge of scorched and just before the grains begin burning i mete out hot double broth, calming the roil in a tick. nicely bubbling up on the first gain of the ladle, making that shsshsssh sound, stirring rightly with a new heat proof, orange nylon spoon, the old wooden faithful, made of italian olive wood, half cracked, though still sturdy, going on forty years, is now retired to the back of the drawer, where ancient chopsticks, ladles and gruff old spoons lay in wait and hope to get used again, if in a pinch, once more once.
and so it goes. risotto wants time. each ladle of liquid must wait for the rice to absorb the earlier one. and always stirring. and stirring in a round way, nicely down from the sides, mustn't waste a grain, and on and on. some half hour later the rice has that look of a smooth, glossy soup, grains just translucent, still sounding off to the stirring spoon. not creamy yet, but it's time for the mushrooms, tiny shitake, each small as a nickel, to run along with the gooey rice. a lump of butter melts in an instant, so does the parmesan, half an inch off of its rind, kept in store for this very notion, rasped to a fine grate fusing the flux.
i'm not italian. not by half. i have it from a sicilian friend that a fork stuck in the mound must stand up straight or it isn't considered risotto. but for me, who once was in love with a bolognese, risotto has to be all'onda, like a wave, creamy, in flux, and when she made her risotto, my fork always fell over.
so, the heat is now off. the scalding rice has cooked the mushrooms, a few more turns of the spoon, and my risotto flows to the plate, a glass of wine raised for a toast to the old cook. my fork's falling over and i'm ready to eat.