Last night's here and now was an experiment with Pissaladière, a Niçoise kind of open tart, or flat bread, filled or topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and black olives. We've invited our neighbours in for a New Year's glass or two of champagne and nibbles next Sunday and I'm playing around with canapé ideas - the usual meat, fish, vegetarian presentation. I wanted to see if the topping would hold up cooked on a sheet of puff pastry then cut into small squares. It does. But it won't. It's more a 'chomp on that with a glass of rustic red wine' kind of snack than a glass of champagne one.
To be honest, I seem to be thinking too much about this event, trying too hard to come up with little plates of food to welcome people into our home. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's a side-effect of lingering jet lag after flying back from Florida a couple of days ago. Maybe I'm focussing too much on wanting to impress people, some of whom I hardly know. A 'look at my perfectly original amuse-bouches, people!' approach that really isn't the way I normally think about food and feeding people at all.
Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about trying to be perfect at something, or for someone.
I recently bough Tamar Adler's lyrical and meditative An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, a book that is far more than a cookbook or a book about how we live and eat, but has so much to say about both, and more. I read it while sitting on a beach in Florida and so many times I had to close the book and close my eyes and let myself absorb the poetry of her words and insights. I know when a book is about to take up permanent residence in my life when I start filling the margins with notes and underlining words I want to remember. This is a book for writers who love food. Capers are as odd and wild as birds. (p.136) Yes!
And now I'm remembering what she says on p.215:
...the simple, blessed fact is that no one ever comes to dinner for what you're cooking. We come for the opportunity to look up from our plates and say 'thank you'. It is for recognition of our common hungers that we come when we are asked.
Now, some champagne and a few mouthfuls of savouriness are not dinner. There's no table sharing involved. But our get-together next Sunday is about companionship, about living in the same lane, about what we have in common and about the differences we accept in each other.
And now I start to think about food as tenderness, as an ordinary but sincere smile, as good wishes for the now and what's to come, as the grace in the title of Tamar Adler's book. That's a start. I can go forward from here. And maybe the Pissaladière* will find a place.
Happy New Year. Go forward with grace too - from the here and now and into what 2015 will bring for you.
*You'll find Tamar Adler's guidelines for making this on pages 147 to 149 of her book although there are hundreds of recipes for it on-line. But she is the only cook I've ever read who really understands the patience involved in caramelising onions. Do not believe anyone else who says 20 minutes, even half an hour, is enough. Prepare yourself to engage with them for an hour. 'Golden jam', she says. Yes.