The hardest part of writing about food is that it always, without fail, makes me hungry.
For instance, I’m sitting here at my desk this morning, going through a folder of some of my ‘recipes’ from way back in the days before I got serious about proper recipe development. This folder, which I tend to avoid out of embarrassment more than laziness, contains lots and lots of good ideas.
Unfortunately, those good ideas are housed in the olive oil-and masala-stained scraps of brown paper bags, calendar pages, paper towels, etc on which I scribbled notes listing fourteen ingredients (but no quantities), with instructions like ‘Cook til done’ (with no temperature or times).
Apparently, at the time of writing I believed that since the dish was good enough to write down, then the meaning contained in those vague scribbles would all be very obvious when I read them again in five years.
Yeah, right. For all their memory-jogging power, some of these recipes might as well be pages from The Voynich Manuscript Cookbook.
But as I said, there are some real gems in the rockpile, and as I’m sitting here sifting through them, I suddenly I realize that I’m absolutely ravenous. Mind you, I just finished breakfast about 20 minutes ago (a handsome blue cheese omelet with buttered, toasted French Country bread and this great, locally-made parsley & shallot sausage that…hey, you know what? I think there was one piece of that sausage left…)
Um, excuse me a moment. I’ll be back in two tics…
…Okay, I’m back. Sorry about the delay; I had to make myself another piece of toast, too.
As I was saying, it really is much harder than you might imagine to actually get any food writing done. To give you some idea, here’s an analogy: Imagine that you’re a travel writer in a closed, windowless office in front of a computer, writing about a beautiful white sand beach over which temperate tropical breezes gently waft while tanned, barely dressed (insert gender of your choice) natives cavort in the surf.
Now, imagine that the beach is right outside; all you’d have to do is leave your office, go down the hall and out the front door and there you are, on the beach. How hard would it be for you to sit in your closed room and write?
Well, that’s how I feel about my kitchen at times like this.
All those mysterious ‘recipes’ have made me want to start on what my wife wryly refers to as ‘a three-state cooking spree’, after which she replaces the food magazines on the coffee table with catalogs for institutional dishwashers and commercial double sinks with overhead sprayers.
(Note to young couples: drollery is an incurable addiction. If you’re not droll now, don’t start).
One of the recipes I came across (that I can actually decode) was for a cilantro-stuffed roast boneless leg of lamb with a garlic and chipotle rub. I almost went cross-eyed with the memory of how that smelled when it came out of the oven. Another was for a five-layer polenta ‘cake’ with a buttery Chianti sauce.
The paper bag it was written on was a bit smudgy, but I could still read the ingredients and get the gist of it: a concerto of mushrooms, zucchini, celery, carrots and onions sauteed in garlic and fresh basil, alternating with mozzarella and wilted greens in a spring-form pan between layers of Parmesan-flavored polenta, topped with slices of plum tomatoes and basil leaves. The presentation was magnificent, and it left a table of surprise dinner guests immensely satisfied, lingering to pursue the last fragrant traces of its rich, dark sauce with bits of crusty bread.
As I recall, it was an impromptu creation, since I had the basic ingredients on hand and…in fact, I probably do now. You know what? Let me just go check…and maybe put the water on to boil. This will only take a minute.
I’ll be right back…
Please join us soon to read our newest food and cooking article on HuggingtheCoast.Com: New Fish and Seafood Recipe Ideas and Tips on About.Com: February 4th to February 10th 2011.
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