Saturday, October 22, 2011
Thanks, Prometheus - and Julia, you too!
I did not enjoy cooking until I was well into my thirties. What was all that about? One of the great gifts of my marriage was learning to cook. My husband was a great cook; he encouraged me to give it a go so often I finally did - and discovered how much fun it is.
I love chopping, stirring, bringing to a boil, then simmering. Equally satisfying is mincing garlic, listening to the white wine sizzle when I pour it all of a sudden into the pan, sniffing the delicious aroma of the fennel, leeks and celery as they soften in olive oil with bay leaves, star anise and other spices. It's a rush watching the soup turn brick red from the tomatoes and saffron. Oh yeah. This is why I love to cook. I fancy myself some kind of mad scientist (of sorts) anytime I indulge in the alchemy of nutrition. Later on, people will sit around the table, partake of the results of my efforts. That's always the best part.
Today I'm brewing a big ole batch of Mississippi Goddamn** Bouillabaise for the Literary Feast dinner we are hosting tonight at the house on Tennessee Avenue. It's for a good cause, though I don't quite remember what that cause is.
I'm thinking about the discovery of fire which necessarily preceeded the discovery of cooking. According to the people who create the stories we call history, roasting was discovered by accident when animals fell into roaring firepits. The people around the pit were hungry, so when the flames died down, they ate. Can you imagine the scene and how quickly the word spread afterwards? Boiling, by comparison, was a much more sophisticated discovery involving fireproof cauldrons and the inspiration to add water to whatever was being cooked. When did baking begin? I don't know the answer but it's interesting to think about.
By now we in my society are very precious about cooking, well, at least I am. It's a precise art, it is. Too much salt wrecks any dish, though not enough produces bland, boring food. Onions must be sauteed before adding them to soups, to keep them from tasting bitter. I have a lot rules around all of this, of course and may I say I'm not the only one!
I've made the rouille and the stock for the soup. Pretty soon I will add the seafood, finish with a few tablespoons of Pernod. Et voila! Dinner.
May all your hungers be satisfied! May you be well fed! So may it be. Shalom.
The theme of our dinner is Nina Simone's autobiography, "I Put a Spell on You."