There are many things that can influence our cooking: ability, knowledge, budget, hunger and appetite, upbringing, politics, location or region, time and energy, psychological state, family — both present and past, weather, occasions and holidays, religion, mood, availability of ingredients, the kind of kitchen and cooking implements and appliances we have, the season, health, allergies and sensitivities, time of day, traditions, imagination or lack thereof, desire to gain or lose weight, our desires in general, boredom or excitement, our interest in and relationship to cooking in general, quality of ingredients, personal expression. OK. I could go on, but I'll stop there.
A good friend is spending most of the month of May without his wife and daughter who are off in another country visiting relatives. "How's it going?" I asked him recently. "Not too bad," he answered, laughing. "Actually, I think I've gone a little feral."
I'm a cook and so therefore I like to mess with things. I've always been this way. When I was little, I would run to the bathroom as soon as I heard the phone ring because I knew my mother would be occupied for a while. I would climb up onto the counter, pull up the silver knob that closes the drain on the sink and start "cooking." In would go a little toothpaste, thinned with some mouthwash and followed by a glug of Bonnie Bell's 10-0-6 lotion or maybe a dollop of creamy eyeshadow to add some color. After mixing that up with a nail file, I would sift in some baby powder and a pinch of Epsom salts and fold. And there the fun would end because I didn't quite know what to do with my 'mixtures' once I was done mixing, lacking the convenience of an oven in the bathroom.
"This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn." from The Hour by Bernard DeVoto
The violet hour, that time of day roughly starting at 5pm when cocktail hour begins and we start the transition from day into evening, from work to home, from labor to (hopefully) relaxation. Unicorns spotting or not (I'll have what he's having!) it can be a magical time, especially if there is some deliberateness, some sense of ritual in your actions. The violet hour doesn't have to involve alcohol, of course, although it is nice to make an effort and concoct something special to drink.
"The problem of sustainability is simple enough to state. It requires that the fertility cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay--what Albert Howard called "the Wheel of Life"--should turn continuously in place, so that the law of return is kept and nothing is wasted. For this to happen in the stewardship of humans, there must be a cultural cycle, in harmony with the fertility cycle, also continuously turning in place. The cultural cycle is an unending conversation between old people and young people, assuring the survival of local memory, which has, as long as it remains local, the greatest practical urgency and value. This is what is meant, and is all that is meant, by 'sustainability.' The fertility cycle turns by the law of nature. The cultural cycle turns on affection."
-- Wendell Berry
Anticipation is the best sauce, or so we're told. I keep repeating this to myself as I begin my yearly Spring ritual of craving things that aren't quite here yet, an activity which is decidedly outside of my usual appreciate-what's-right-here-right-now mode. This daydreaming is taking place in many areas of my life, but it seems to be coalescing around food today. Yes, it's spring and yes, the asparagus is arriving and pea tendrils, too. Favas! Fiddleheads! Nettles! Amazing, fleeting, delicious stuff.
I'll admit that I have a romantic notion of what is often thought of as the European/urban way of shopping, eating and keeping food. This involves owning a very small refrigerator and shopping almost daily for fresh ingredients, often on foot. It's contrasted by the American/suburban style of shopping, eating and keeping food which involves pushing a cart the size of a bathtub through acres of grocery aisles, then driving home to cram them into a refrigerator roughly the size of my first apartment. (PS I know that there are large, acres-of-aisles-style grocery stores in Europe and I know that there are people in America who shop every day on foot. In general, though, I think the categories still apply. Please, illuminate me in the comments if you disagree.)
In my hometown this morning, the day is as bright and gold and delicious as this slice of lemon and candied kumquat tart. It has rained here (pounding, torrential rain) for a week and now the whole city is washed sparkly clean. It's a glorious day and not a moment should be spent indoors! Unless you are me, the unfortunate one. For while my neighbors ride their bikes and rake out their gardens, I'm stuck in bed with a nasty flu. Needless to say, this doesn't leave me with much inspiration for today's post.
"I want to love the things as no one has thought to love them" - Rainer Maria Rilke
Take these turnips, for example. They sit there on my cutting board, their lush green tops posing as many questions as the cheerful white globes themselves. What to do with them? Raw or cooked? Whole or chopped? Simply roasted or something more elaborate? Glazed? Wilted? Steamed? Pickled? Served together or separately?
The other day I was hanging out with a couple of friends. It was pouring rain and we were stuck indoors, lounging about on couches, flipping through magazines and drinking hot tea. Occasionally, we'd comment on what we were reading and sometimes this would spark a conversation, like this one: