Just clearing the bits and pieces clogging my brain so I can fully embrace 2020.
These are the desserts that need only a spoon. The rest, fork and spoon please!
Left: Lemon posset with raspberries - 1960s demitasse, Arzberg
Right: Raspberry sorbet by C.M. - "custard cups" c.1910
Must accept that I can’t change the world. (Who’s listening?)
At restaurants, at check-outs, I'm still being asked, “So, how’s your day been so far?” Sorry, I don’t know you well enough to tell you. (Management training needed?)
Still not given a fork with my dessert cutlery, only a spoon, so I’m expected to use my thumb. (Surely this wouldn't increase staff wages.)
Cheese (festooned with garden debris and chocolate-coated strawberries) still being arranged on hefty boards that are too heavy to pass. Is this the idea? If it can't be passed, it won't be eaten. (It is OK to put cheese on a plate.)
I felt anger on receiving an invitation to celebrate International Women’s Day with Champagne and a decadent three course lunch. The fizz is nice but actually domestic (not Champagne) but a decadent lunch? Why is good food decadent? This is so puritan. Guilty pleasures? If you feel guilty, you shouldn’t be doing it.
It was easy to decline as I was asked to launch a new venue (fare) at the Whitmore Sparkke hotel and brew house run by women, the restaurant kitchen headed by the joyously talented Emma McCaskill.
What did I learn in 2019?
I learnt to save some pasta cooking water, re-adding it to the drained pasta, stirring for creaminess. (See cacio e pepe)
Where is the natural?
I am sick of labels, labels, labels on food; vegan, gluten free, lactose free, artisanal, hand-harvested, healthy, even no cholesterol. I thought “cholesterol” went out years ago. (Did you know that salt is gluten free, lactose free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, sometimes hand-harvested, healthy and contains no cholesterol? No need for labels or even use-by dates.)
"Eat food, not too much, mainly plants" - Michael Pollan
Known Since the Dawn of Time
I’m suspicious of heirloom vegetables (and flowers). In the main, they are multi-coloured hybrids; carrots, tomatoes are the main culprits. Nothing wrong with them but they’re hybrids, not heirloom. They are not the carrots eaten since the dawn of time. I've tasted some ancient apples and pears in the "potagier" of Versailles, (I've never actually been to the palace). They were amazing in their variety, some tasting like a spritz in the mouth of Guerlain's Mitsouko. Sadly, both the fruit and Mitsouko have been "silenced" by market forces and the EU.
(David Austen roses are lovely but they are modern hybrids, grown to look “old-fashioned”.)
Not sure these will replace my Negroni (cucumber, kale & vodka, or kombucha & peach cooler)
P.R had just hosted one of the opening parties of Writers' Week. He had checked the drinks, chatted with guests, welcomed "names", spruiked for subscribers and thanked sponsors. Later ordering a pre-dinner drink, "wellness" was the last thing on his mind. That morning I had read that bartenders/mixologists are creating cocktails now to cater to the demand for "healthier" options, supposedly. You think I’m joking? Kombucha margaritas, açai mojitos and best (or worst) of all, cucumber, kale & vodka spritz; all are being trialled in a bar in our fair city. Who’s kidding whom?
Future Gourmets, Future Environmentalists
I worry where the next batch of gourmets will come from.
It could be a nice to take children to a restaurant. What a shame that the dreaded screen, phone or iPad is seen as the table “baby-sitter”. This defeats the purpose of sitting together, learning to chose what you want to eat, learning to hold your cutlery, learning to be part of a conversation and most of all, learning patience.
I have a great tip for kids. My brother and I learnt early that when we went out or when our parents’ friends came over, if we sat, listened, and stayed very, very, very quiet, we got to stay up very, very, very late and heard all the adult gossip. Bliss. I recommend it.
Left: Summer pudding - flavour and awesome technique - Alan Weiss, emeritus chef of distinction, not afraid to be perfect or simple.
Right: - greatly appreciated (note spoon AND fork)
Cooking with Love
This year I’ll continue to love cooking but I’ll avoid the “cooking with love” syndrome. I'm gagging over books of syrupy memoirs; lazy lunches beneath flowering walnut trees, their nuts yielding the oil that bathes our foraged salad, crusty bread from the ancient village wood-oven, the artisanal goats cheese, the groaning platters of barely recognisable fruit charmingly dappled (à la Caravaggio) by coddling moth and hail, happy children to the left of me, nonnas to the right.
Love? I'll stick to good ingredients, knife skills, flavour balance, cultural expressions, invitations and conversation staging. I think along the way, there will be love generated.
Do the "love" cookers ever share with others and actually invite people?