Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back Link The Art Of Cooking (Part 2)

A year or so ago, I decided to do a sound-seeing tour (a podcast of sorts) for my family and friends. It was called, The Diary Of A Notorious Café Goer*. The idea of the sound-seeing tour was to mix music, stories, poems, and background sounds and create an audio collage about my love of cafés.


(*I actually suspect that I didn’t move to Germany after finishing my university studies for professional reasons, but for the opportunity to spend an eternity sitting in wonderful cafés. The only downside to German cafés is that they are still smoked-filled. If ever, this country’s laws forbid smoking in restaurants and cafés, I will be living in paradise.)

While doing the podcast, I interviewed Dirk, one of my favourite cooks at a restaurant we love to go to. When I asked him what he loves to cook more than anything else he said “meat”, which for the vegetarian I am, was a bit of a let down. When I asked him what he thought of coriander as the queen of all spices, he poopooed this suggestion and said only wushes used coriander.

What I realised after interviewing him, is that he is a meat person. Thus he loves the meatiness, the muscle, the blood, the bones, the subtlety and substances that meat has to offer. For each season of the year, each mood of the moment, he thinks of meat and how to prepare it creatively. After reading Ms. Glaze (here) for the last year, it seems that meat is the nonplus-ultra of many chefs.

I, on the other hand, am an every-sort-of-lettuce, beet, pumpkin, couscous, spicy, hot, and yes, occasionally, coriander type of person. I’m what is growing locally at this time of year, what do I have in the refrigerator, and what-the-heck let me just throw it all together type of cook.

What I am not is the type of person who says “Let me look in a cookbook and see if I can find a recipe that uses the condiments presently available in my cupboard and my short supply of patience to produce a fantastically good meal”. No, what I need is a cookbook that allows me to choose what to cook according to my present mood. If my mood is light keep the food light, if heavy, than heavy.

I want a cookbook that tells various stories, suggests the appropriate background music or possible topics of conversation, pampers me when I am feeling vulnerable, or spurs me on to take risks when I am feeling bold and reckless. The chapters wouldn’t be divided up under meats, fish, soups, salads, but melancholy, joyful, flippant, or, jazz, candlelight, salsa. Just as I choose what book to read, music to listen to, what movie to watch, according to my present mood; I’d like to choose what to cook as well. Does that make any sense to you?

When you think of it, there are many fictional books written, whose narrative development are centred around or are accented by food: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler, Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes by Colette Rossant, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, to name only a few that spontaneously come to mind. And movies, a whole slew of them: Mostly Martha (one of my all time favourite films), Strawberry & Chocolate, Babette's Feast, Bread and Tulips, Eat Drink Man Woman.

If food can be an integral part of a movie or book’s storyline, why can’t cooking be meshed in storyline, mood, atmosphere, and music? It’s just a thought.


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