EXCERPT: 'Cleaving' by Julie Powell

His suspicion hurt me – there was a time, just a few years before, when there was no trace of it in his heart. I knew I deserved it. But it was just so strange to have to try to explain; strange to have to explain anything to Eric at all. I'd known him by then sixteen years, almost literally half my life. I knew him when he was a beautiful, shy, blue-eyed teenager in baggy shorts, a stretched-out sweater and worn Birkenstocks, with a dog-eared paperback jutting out of one rear pocket. And almost at the beginning I picked him out, decided he was the one I needed. It took most of a school year to snatch him up from out of the swarm of pretty girls that seemed always to be circling – he so oblivious, he so sweet and gentle - but I managed it. God, I was invincible when I was eighteen. When it came down to it, I pretty much got whatever I went after. Want, Take, Have, that was my simple motto. And I was right - to take him, I mean. From the beginning we were interlocking puzzle pieces. From the beginning we nestled into the notion that our two lives were to be irrevocably woven into one.

I now slice off eight pretty burgundy flaps of liver. The cut organ releases a metallic tang into the air, and yet more blood onto the table. Changing out knives now, I delicately excise the tight pale ducts that weave through the slices. Perfectly cooked liver should be crisp on the outside with a custardy-smooth center. Nothing tough or chewy should get in the way of that sensual quintessence. Six of these slices are for the gleaming glass and steel case at the front of the shop; the last two I set aside, to wrap up and take home after work for a Valentine's Day dinner tomorrow. Once, I thought the holiday merited boxes of chocolate and glittery cards, but in these last few, eye-opening years, amid the butchery and wrenches of the heart, I've realized life has gotten too complicated for such sweet and meaningless nothings; I've even learned I'm okay with that.

Valentine's Day Liver for Two
2 1/2-inch-thick slices high-quality liver, trimmed of any tough veins or filament
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Spread flour on large plate.
Season liver slices with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour, shaking off excess.
Set skillet over high heat, and add butter and oil. When the butter foam has just subsided, add the liver slices. Sauté just until a crispy golden brown crust develops, about two minutes. Flip slices and do the same on the other side.
(Don't worry about undercooking them. Overcooking is by far the worse fate for liver.)
Beef liver cooked like this – I keep telling people in the face of near-universal scoffs of disbelief - is one of the most, well, passionate things you'll ever eat. I don't know exactly why this is. It's sexy as hell, but difficult too. Somehow faintly forlorn, like there is no denying that something was torn from something for your pleasure.

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