Three years ago a great tradition was started. A group of friends simultaneously realized that none of them had to work on Presidents Day and that one of them had just bought a house with a hot tub. Little thought more than that went into what would become known as “Boiled Butt and Baloney Soup Day”.
The first year found four guys sitting in a hut tub outside on a snowy February Day sipping whiskey and drinking beers. Food was an afterthought and everyone was left pretty worn out by the end of the day even though we did little more activity than lift ourselves out of the water to cool off. A good time was had by all, and it was agreed that a yearly tradition had been started.
I planned ahead for the second year. I bought a pork shoulder and, even though I would normally not pass up an opportunity to use the grill, put it in the Crockpot for barbecued pulled pork sandwiches. I was still keeping it simple and easy, so a pack of sandwich buns and a package of sliced sharp cheddar rounded out my offering for the day. We had begun to find a balance. Boiled Butt and Baloney Soup Day provided an opportunity for a group of buddies to eat and drink good food things that paired perfectly well with the comfort of an afternoon in a hot tub.
Looking back I am surprised that food was afterthought for us. The original group consisted of two chefs (one also a brewer) and two guys that are no strangers to good cooking and eating. Between the four of us, we all had pretty similar tastes in what we liked to eat and drink. As the month approached for the third BBABSD we realized that it was not going to be the same. The house with the hot tub was no longer available to us and we needed to decide what to do without it. A couple ideas were kicked around and they all involved food, and it was eventually decided that we would get together, cook, eat, and drink and not get into a hot tub.
The group this year consisted of the former hot tub owning chef , myself, and a gourmand. Everyone chipped in with ingredients and we set to work, working together in my kitchen. The first course was mussels steamed in shallots, herbs and white wine. We stood around my dresser-turned-kitchen-island and with fork and bread worked our way through the pile of bivalves and their wine and butter enriched broth.
Next, Chef prepared the deer loin that Gourmand brought and finished it with a balsamic pan reduction that was further enhanced with some of the left over shallots and broth from the mussels. This too we grazed over and chose to eat standing in the kitchen rather than sit at the dining room table. With what bread we had left, we were able to sample the sauce still hot from the pan.
For the final course we had tom yum gai, a chicken soup of sorts with coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass, which I had simmering on the range all evening. Finally we sat. In near silence we savored the flavorful soup as it worked its way into all the cracks and crannies that were left unfilled by late evening. The soup left us as satisfied customers in an opium den, lounging in the living room, euphoric from all that which we consumed.
I feel that BBABSD has changed for the good. The hot tub was always relaxing but it really could not compare to this meal, which really was nothing extravagant but had the benefit of three friends collaborating and sharing in food and companionship. I hope that the tradition continues, and if anything, no longer occurs only on President’s Day but becomes more frequent and expands to my other circle of friends. No need for anything formal. No need for menus, just find something fresh and good, and we’ll cook it up together.