Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gluttony, Bon Amie and Renewed Appetites

I like to think I’m a bit of a foodie.  Not that you would know it from the contents of my refrigerator—it has been referred to as:

 “the abyss,” Mother;

 “worse than a frat house fridge,” hungry friends who should have eaten before they descended;

“concentration camp canteen,” Anon.

I dispute that though.   I always, always, have a healthy stock of salad dressings, Branston pickle and week-old milk.  My pantry is adorned with my favourite unused tea towel.  Oh yes, it’s classy décor at Chez Eleanor.  The pristine white cotton emblazon with vermillion lettering reads: “I had a really nice dream last night about Daniel Craig.”  Mmm.  Let’s think about that for a moment……

Okay, yes.  Whilst that maybe the most exciting thing about the pantry, I do have some rather interesting relics from the cooking days: aged balsamic vinegar, par example, vanilla beans pods from my trip to India, Birds custard powder brought by Mother mule, when I claimed homesickness and that Americans having ice-cream with rhubarb crumble was just wrong, wrong, wrong!   

The lack of actual real food is just for waist and waste preservation.   I am a glutton.  A food whore.  A gourmand just busting to have a tastetastic party and suck the marrow with Anthony Bourdain.

Look at my book shelves.  Scans those spines, Baby!  Those cracked ones, with little white flecks.  That’s not advanced calcification; those books have been thumbed, bent backwards and thrown down on every kitchen surface imaginable.

I have lusted and drooled over the pages of Nigella’s eggplant involtini, her chicken soup and kneidlach, her chocolate fudge cake; I have salivated and swallowed at the thought of Jamie Oliver’s spatchcock chicken, warm bread salad of crispy pancetta, parmesan and poached egg, his many and varied lip-smacking “pukka” pastas; of Sophie Dahl’s whimsy, of Delia Smith’s practicality, of Claire MacDonald’s seasonality… the rapturous menu goes on.

Time was once when this food rapture would keep me up at night.  The cogs would turn through the roladex of culinary clippings; I would torture and tantalize myself by Taste Imagining.  (I blame Roald Dahl and Willy Wonka for this, by the way.)

And then I supposed I starved my brain.  I piled my books in boxes.  I threw the clippings away and made it focus on important things like Theatricks and BigamE and financial independence.  I suppose I rather forgot how much I loved stirring a creamy bacon and brie risotto with my silicon spatula, folding the arborio rice in from the sides and round and round my satin blue paella pan.  I disremembered how I used to delight in caramelizing the brown sugar on the top of the velveteen crème brulee.  I fooled myself with Jedi mind tricks: “Special K is nutritious and delicious.  It has real strawberries in it!  Oh, 9g of sugar, that’s not bad, surely?”

But this weekend, I got hungry again.  Ravenous.  My taste buds woke up, rasped against my hard palette and railed for more. 

It was Memorial Day weekend and I came face to face with myself—well, a younger, prettier, leggier, blonder version—who spent the weekend pouring over food magazines, clipping articles, Googling menus, trawling the non-farmers market market for the freshest ingredients.  She was a thing of beauty to watch as she chopped her heirloom tomatoes, whisked together a dash of lemon juice with a glug of extra virgin olive oil, a grind of freshly-milled black pepper and a crack of sel de fleur.

“Try this!  Try this!” she flapped with joy, proffering a hunk of fresh bread, be-daubed and glistening with her newest epicurean delight, $20 fig jam.  Her enthusiasm was infectious, her ideas were nothing short of inspired, and she brought a smile to my face and a pang to my stomach as I remembered what fun I used to have “creating.”

 My favourite repast was her casually thrown together lunch of treasures from the afore-mentioned non-farmers market market: fresh, pillowy-soft baguette sandwiching thick slabs of mozzarella, ribbons of delicate prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of fig preserve; heirloom, grape and cherry tomatoes in yellows, purples, green and red, mingling like jewels beside giant milky pearls of mozzarella and emerald green basil, swimming in the lemony olive oil elixir complimented with crisp, grilled bread for dipping.  She had thought of everything. 

The platters and bowls gleamed with fresh goodness; the air hummed with lemon and basil and it brought a table of hungry professionals, some known to each other—none known to me—together.  By the end of our "Gourmorial" weekend, I hope they considered this wide-eyed and tongue-tied outsider a friend.  Food does that, doesn't it?  It is the gastromic glue that binds us.

Today, I trudged down to the dark, forgotten basement.  I wiped the dust from the boxes and found the heaviest one.  With all the joy of a kidlet at Christmas, I rendered off the packing tape and gasped at the contents, clasping each shiny cover to my chest as if I were reuniting with an old friend.  I fondly stroked the cracked spines and restored my gastro-porn to its pride of place on the bookshelves.  Yes, look at them now!  Back where they belong. (Roll  1983 Joe Cocker.   Pour yourself a glass of cabernet, bite down on a wedge of apricot stilton and enjoy!)

 Cheers to gluttony, bon amie and renewed appetites. 

Bourdain, I’m coming to the party.


  1. Love the descriptive writing! I think I shall place your novels on my reading list now. Well done!

  2. Thanks Melissa! Ah, the uniting leveler that is food. Some of my happiest memories are cooking with my Dad; stirring, chopping, sloshing down a glass of wine, jazz in the background... *nostalgia*
    If I had to pick one gastro porn meal it would be a creamy risotto, maybe with chicken, asparagus and parmesan. Hmm. What would yours be?

  3. I would have to agree on the risotto Eleanor. I make a mean sundried to-maaaaah-to, mozzarella and chicken one. Lovely!

  4. Wow...the vivid and delicious descriptions actually made my stomach growl! I had a very gluttonous Memorial Day weekend as well. It actually began with that creamy chicken and broccoli risotto that you mentioned (Café Rinaldi), and it continued with a very nice porterhouse at Carl Von Luger’s. Obviously none of this wonderful food could be consumed without some delicious wines to help them down the esophagus. I used to consider myself a decent cook until about eight months ago when I was schooled by someone who actually was. Now I just need to become friendly with one of two people who can actually teach me how to cook. I’d love to learn how to do it properly.

  5. Good stuff, kid. What other talents are you hiding behind that smile?

  6. I'm elated that you've come out of the Foodie closet - er, basement - E.

    Memories made around the preparation and (gluttonous) consumption of fine food are among the sharpest.

    Thanks for whetting my appetite this fine morning.


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