An old friend, after overcoming his amazement that I have a blog (actually, I think he was just shocked that I know how to write) suggested that I take a look at FXcuisine. The writer lives on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and is from the Valais, near the Italian border. English is obviously not his first language, but this guy knows how to write about, and take photographs of food. The occasional minor error just highlights the fact that he speaks several languages, and his English is better than that of some native speakers.
I love to eat. I love to eat good food. I love to eat to excess. But sometimes, I just get tired of the constant bombardment of food during holidays, or those weird long weekends when friend and family visits overlap, and it seems as if there is a contest to see who can put the most rich food on the table. Sometimes, I just want to sit down with a simple meal, a nice glass of wine, and relax and chat. Why does everything have to be a food brawl? Oh, don’t answer that, because I really enjoy those brawls. But in the rush to overload the table, sometimes we lose sight of the pleasures of good food, good drink and good company.
Today was a good example. But for some reason, a few of us gravitated away from the table and toward a comfortable set of sofa and chairs and sat for an hour or so, speaking of absolutely nothing important, eating nothing and nursing a few glasses of good wine. And it was lovely.
Maybe that is the advantage of a more formal dinner party? The food and drink is brought out at a pace designed to maximize pleasure; gustatory, alcoholic and intellectual, so one’s liver isn’t overwhelmed. I think I will test this hypothesis. Of course I have the perfect dish around which to build this liver-saving meal — Cassoulet!
I used commercial pesto on the pasta last night. I know, I know, it’s so easy to make, why didn’t I just whip up a batch? Because I AM NOT A CHEF! Sometimes I feel like eating out of a jar or a can or a package. And I’m willing to bet that most people who consider themselves cooks will, occasionally, pop open something made in a factory. I used De Cecco Pesto alla Genovese, which I found at a very nice local deli. It had an interesting minty quality, no doubt because of the variety of basil used. Basil and mint are in the same family, so this wasn’t a surprise, but I like the less minty variety that I am used to cooking with.
If there are any toxicologists in my vast audience, perhaps she would like to respond to this post with some comments about estragole, which is found in basil (among many other plants) and is a carcinogen. I’m not worried, just curious. My guess is that I would have to eat pounds of basil every day for any real risk.
Just in case you thought that my cooking failure was limited to dinner, we ran out of cold vodka for martinis and had to mix. And not just any mix, but two different brands made from different carbohydrate sources! We blended cold Stolichnaya, which is a Russian wheat vodka, with Luksosova, a Polish potato vodka. With great success! I think that blending is the next step in vodka production — there is already a high-end vodka that is a blend of rye, wheat and potato vodkas. It is called Ultimat, and it is very good, and obscenely overpriced.
I did redeem myself as a cook by making the kids a great dish of sautéed pork chops over rice with mustard sauce that they licked off their plates when I wasn’t looking.
I just got a call from a relative, asking for a bit of help with a dinner she is planning. They have invited the owner of their favorite restaurant, his wife the chef, and his nephew the sous-chef over for dinner. It’s a serious restaurant — these folks can cook, so a bowl of chips and a steak isn’t going to cut it. Or maybe that is exactly what these folks want? They are around food six days a week, probably twelve or more hours each day, so perhaps the perfect meal is a bag of Doritos and some take-out Chinese.
This reminded me of a similar circumstance in my youth, when I wasn’t quite the (sometimes) good cook I am today. I had befriended the owner and chef of a local restaurant that I really enjoyed. We became friendly and I invited them over for dinner on one of their rare days off. I realized as soon as I had extended the invitation that I was incapable of cooking anything like what they prepared every day, but I tried anyway. Needless to say, I failed, but the evening was a success, because we had a nice time. And that is the point, isn’t it? We invite people to our homes to enjoy their company, not to provide sustenance. The meal is just a nice bonus. And if the food is boring? so what!
Of course they reciprocated, and proceeded to serve a spectacular meal that I still remember. I guess being a chef does have its advantages.
The Girl Who Ate Everything is a very simple, very amusing blog. And its title explains everything. She is definitely worth reading for a chuckle.
For all of you who are fasting, have an easy fast and a Happy New Year.