Wednesday, March 24, 2010

orange soy braised pork ribs

I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately.
Maybe it was Turkey. She loved to go to interesting places, and while her friends would go hang out at their condo in Florida, she and my grandfather would be off on a folk dancing trip to Bulgaria. When it came to travel, she was a woman looking for real experience.
Or maybe it has something to do with what has been going on since I got back. A few days after my return, Joey and the girls and I went out to be part of a group photo to support a local library which may soon be extinct. As we were leaving the library and heading over to take Sadie to dance class, a few friends called me over.
"You know how you were thinking about running for the town select board a few years ago?"
It was true. I had considered it, but it just hadn't felt like the right time.
"Well," one friend said, "it's time."
So here I am, running for the select board of my little town. Although I usually end up frustrated when I attend town meetings, I'm going to attempt to step away from apathy and see what happens if I can get a seat at that table. It's a small town, but it is my town, after all.

My grandmother loved Great Barrington with all her being. She and my grandfather moved up here in the early 70's to start their bed and breakfast, and they both lived here until the end of their lives. They were all about participating in their community- between the two of them, they were centrally involved in everything from arts organizations to adult literacy, to the formation of our local co-op market.

I grew up here, and I never thought I'd come back after college. I was at the middle school when the occurrence of knife fights and eighth grade pregnancies was at its highest, and I just couldn't roll my pants or fringe my bangs the right way. But it turns out that as an adult and a parent, this is actually a pretty great place. My children were both born here, and this is their world, too. I'm here for good, and like my grandparents, I'm feeling inspired to put some time into it.
Still, I must say, seeing my name on the ballot at the caucus last night was totally surreal. We went into the fire station after dinner, and the girls cheered that we were "going to vote for mommy!" I know it's a small thing, but I'm just getting used to the idea. The final vote will be on May 10, and I'll be doing my best to refrain from holey jeans when I walk down main street until then. And when people question my sanity for getting into this process, I just think to myself that I'm channeling my grandmother, at least a little bit.

If I'm going to be doing my grandmother's work, I need to be eating my grandmother's food. I think that I've shared this with you before, but it bears repeating: My grandmother was a vegetarian who ate ribs. She never cooked them at home, as my grandfather was a vegetarian who did not eat ribs, but when ever she had the opportunity to sit down in front of a messy stack of ribs, she would roll up the sleeves of her button down shirt and get to work. There was not an ounce of squeamishness in her when it came to ribs- she would suck every thing off those bones, gnaw on them a bit, and then go back to being an avid vegetarian. It was her way.
The night before I left for Turkey, I made these ribs. We ate them with rice and a big pile of greens, and as Sadie sucked on the bones just like her great grandmother Shirley, I knew that they would nourish her through the ten days ahead of pizza and grilled cheese and whatever else lay before her.

Orange Soy Braised Pork Ribs
adapted from Gourmet, January 2005

serves 3-4

2 1/2 pounds pork ribs, separated
2/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons grated ginger
a tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle ribs with salt.

Bring orange juice, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and pepper to a boil in roasting pan over medium high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add ribs in to the pan, using tongs, turning to coat, and cover pan with a lid or foil.

Braise ribs in oven until very tender, about 2 to 3 hours.

Before Serving: Reduce oven temperature to 200°F.

Transfer ribs to a baking dish, arranging them in 1 layer, and keep warm in oven. Make glaze by boiling liquid, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Brush glaze generously on ribs.


  1. I made these ribs last night, and they were a stunning success. I had two grown men squabbling over the last piece, and silence afterward as everyone slumped onto the couch, full and content. Thanks for sharing!