In an ambitious mood right before a road trip, I purchased vegetables for the next round of kimchi.
I’d decided to branch out, so I bought a tremendous amount of daikon, mei choy, leeks, and carrots. I also found some bird’s eye chilis and a precious jar of genuine wasabi powder.
(Items labeled ”wasabi” are often plain old horseradish colored green and mixed with hot mustard. I had originally planned on using fresh horseradish as the wasabi component of my kimchi, but there was no fresh horseradish, so I was delighted to find genuine wasabi.)
I ran low on time before the road trip. I was in a quandary. The vegetables would be worse for wear after a week in the fridge. During the early stages of fermentation, vegetables require a lot of care. If I jarred them up and left them for a week, they might bubble up, and overflow the brine, leaving the top vegetables dry and susceptible to mold. I needed to start the vegetables in a big container and include enough brine to protect them no matter how vigorously they fermented.
The day before I left, I set the vegetables up to self-brine in a 2-gallon mixing bowl. I sliced the vegetables and mixed them with salt to draw water out of the vegetables and make the brine. I stirred them every few hours to disperse the salt evenly. That evening, I added leftover brine from an earlier batch of kimchi and stirred some more.
Right before I left town, I put a plate on the veggies to weigh them down and topped with a generous quantity of salt water. Ordinarily, I try to self-brine as much as possible and keep the salt water to a minimum. In this case, I wanted to make sure that the vegetables would be okay on their own for a week. I covered the bowl and went on my trip.
I returned home to the smell of fermentation. I peeked in the bowl and saw nice bubbly brine without any signs of undesirable growth. I went to bed untroubled and slept the sleep of the just plain tired.
The next morning, I got out my half-gallon jars, canning funnel, pickle weights, and air gaps. I went to work.
I sliced a couple apples and a big ginger root and layered them in the first jar with the fermenting vegetables.
The second jar got spoonfuls of vegetables interspersed with handfuls of bird’s eye peppers (about half an ounce of dried peppers).
The third jar got lots of vegetables and occasional careful sprinkling (less than a teaspoon total) of wasabi powder.
I had only a hazy idea of proper quantities of any of these seasonings.
Blearily, I boiled a kettle and set about making tea.
The lid of the teapot sat, wrong side-up on the counter, broken along the lines of a six-pointed star. Right in the middle was the round button handle of the lid, right-side up. It looked like a strange pottery flower that someone had deliberately created and left as a message to me.
It also looked like it had fallen gently and broken during normal use and been left there so I would know it was broken and not waste time looking for it.
I decided to make myself a cup instead while I pondered the mystery of the broken teapot lid.
My husband denied everything and prophesied that no one else would admit to knowing how the lid broke, either. Other potential informants were still sleeping. I was tempted to awaken them, but did not.
I threw the broken lid away.
We've broken tea crockery before. I knew that you can't buy a replacement lid for this teapot. I had made a mental note to save the lids of any broken teapots. I couldn't recall whether I had ever actually done so, and, if I had, where I had put them.
The teapot was somewhat worse for wear and tear. It had lost the edge of its inner rim, but the damage was stable, and it still worked perfectly fine. I could buy a whole new teapot, but I didn't want to.
I rummaged through likely corners, finding a white lid from a slightly smaller teapot. The fit was precarious, particularly with the broken rim of the teapot. Digging deeply through the top shelf of another cabinet, I found a teapot lid the exact size and color of the one that had broken.
My husband watched my victorious hunt while he spread peanut butter and raspberry jam on his morning toast. We chatted all the while, and he returned to his man-cave, toast in hand.
My sleeping son stirred, and I moved to the side of his bed to see if he would awaken. As soon as he opened one of his eyes, I spoke.
“Do you have a story about how the teapot lid came to be sitting broken on the counter like a perfect flower?”
That one word told me the rest of the story.
“It almost looked like it was sitting there and just decided to break. All the pieces were right there, so it must not have been much of a shock or there would be pottery shards all over the kitchen.