The way I felt about my Ovaltine ice cream was precisely the way I feel about Christmas-- what was initially a simple, delightful, and comforting idea had transformed into something complicated, annoying, and stress-inducing. This little exercise in making a malted ice cream became, in it's own way, an unexpected gift-- I realized that it wasn't Christmas (or my ice cream, for that matter) that I had grown to loathe, it was all the the other stuff-- the irritating marshmallowy fluff-- that gets in the way.
Thanks to Rosetta Constantino's My Calabria (written with Janet Fletcher) and the interest it has sparked in me, I feel as though the old toe is finally beginning to heal. The book is a long-overdue source of pride and celebration for those of us whose families emigrated from there. For those who are not of Calabrese heritage, it brings this remote area of Southern Italy closer; it sheds light upon the cuisine of a region that has been largely ignored by the rest of the world.
Let's pretend for a moment you were asked to translate yourself into a plate of food.
If you were to turn the phrase "You are what you eat" on its ear and attempt to eat what you are, what exactly would you be eating? What would it look like if you laid bare all those little bits of yourself-- your own, personal ingredients, I suppose-- and put them on a plate for all the world to see?
The crowd was ripe for people-watching, with its delightful mix of food-lovers, the tragically hip, the merely tragic (feel free to ask me about a certain alarming combination of silicone, facial reconstructive surgery, and a gigantic purse with a working clock face), lots and lots of gay men (I am very comforted by the fact that it's become fashionable for us to eat again publicly), and a vast number of nice people looking to chow down for a good cause.
And then, of course, there were the roving hordes of foodies, who a twitter friend of mine once described as people who "would stand outside a mediocre sandwich place for two hours because of a Yelp buzz."
I should state clearly that these are not Neiman Marcus popovers. Since it was a Porky Pig cartoon that lead me to this post, I've decided to make them, well, porky-- butter has been replaced by bacon grease and the addition of chopped bacon to the tops not only gives a bit of added oomph but, like a Western Diamondback's rattle, serves to warn away unsuspecting vegetarian grazers.
The Greeks-- at least the old ones-- know about starvation. To let anyone who comes under their roof go hungry is to shame an entire culture. It would break the laws of philoxenia (hospitality) or, worse-- it would break the heart of their dear, sainted yia-yias.
Perhaps that last statement was a little melodramatic, but it's the Greeks we're talking about here. I mean, they invented drama. I can't say I blame them for overdoing it on the food.
And then I thought about my cocktail and how it lead me to my current state of mind. A Death in the Afternoon is made of champagne--the drink most closely associated with celebration, and absinthe-- the drink of forgetfulness. I thought it an odd combination; a conflict of emotions in a glass. And that damned drink had the opposite effect on me-- it lead to the dredging up of painful memories that I certainly didn't feel like celebrating. It is a drink that caused me to become acutely aware of what was absent from my life.
Bastilla. Real bastilla made with real Moroccan pigeon. Of course, I thought that the pigeons caught and prepared for my meal might very well have been from some other country and merely had the misfortune of landing in the wrong spot at the wrong time, but I let that go. I was about to eat them baked with almonds, spices, and eggs into the flaky pastry of my favorite Moroccan dish of all time. And in Morocco, of all places, too. I longed to nearly suffocate myself under it's heavy layer of powdered sugar and cinnamon.
I considered other Oscar winners for that year, but they just didn't inspire cooking. Yes, I could have made a Sergeant Yorkshire pudding, but that seemed ridiculous. And under no circumstances was I about to make anything with the name Suspicion in it. In terms of baking, I firmly believe that anything Joan Fontaine-inspired is to be avoided, since the result will either be weepy or worse, too bitter to eat.
Avocado (for dry skin), tomato (for those dreadful oily patches), and lime (for flavor and eye-irritation). Both the girls enjoyed mashing the ingredients together.
Zelly was game for smearing the mush on her face, but India would have none of it.
"But India, it'll make your skin soft and beautiful," coaxed Zelly.
"I already have soft, beautiful skin," countered her sister.
I was about to explain that it would do her a world of good by making her look years younger until I realized that a five year-old might end up looking like a newborn and therefore wouldn't find that appealing in the least. I let the matter drop.
"What if I made a sweet vermouth caramel sauce?" I asked myself as I pretended to find the father's joke about the hugeness of their dessert both amusing and original. "Would it be disgusting?" There was only one way to find out.
To purists, I imagine poaching a peach might seem like celebrating the 4th of July on the 30th of June. If you just hold tight and go about your business, the proper time will come.
If you're as impatient as I am however, poaching is still a wonderful way to treat a peach-- especially a stubborn one.
If you are one of those people who wish to believe that this dish was inspired by the sight of Tatar horsemen placing pieces of meat under their saddles to tenderize it because they couldn't find the time to stop and do it properly what with their hectic nomadism and all, you would be in the wrong. The Tatars did, in fact, placed meat under their saddles, but it was to help heal and guard against saddle sores for their poor, overworked horses.
Sweat-soaked, sore-healing meat. Sounds delicious.