Monday, February 23, 2015


We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb. - Thomas Alva Edison

 The lights flicker in the kitchen, dulling the dull brown of the cabinets, muddying the muddy yellow of the tiles in the dimness. A row of bulbs above the sink, stretching from refrigerator to stove along the top edge of the wall, just under the ceiling, are inconsistent things, not a bright bulb in the lot. Like the great bulbs in the great neon signs standing high above the roadside in those classic films that shudder, flicker and pop, on off on off, these bulbs do the same, and although it is expected that one or the other bulb will flicker and dim before humming back to life, it is always a disappointing surprise. Unpredictable bulbs, so annoying. Flicker, blink, wane, darken. Then jump back to life.

 A kitchen tenebrous as I stand at the counter and handle a bowlful of bulbs, a head of garlic, a handful of shallots, long and narrow or short and plump, and onions. I shuffle and rub the onions, garlic, shallots in my hand, between my fingers, the flimsy, brittle layers of skin fall away. Slice off the ends and peel away the fresher, firmer skin, the oniony odor wafts up and tickles my nose, bites at me, threatening. I toss in handfuls, fistfuls of chopped onion, brush pinches of garlic, shallots off the blade of a knife glittering with the reflection of the bulbs overhead. Sizzle. Sizzle.

 Those damn lights, those cursed bulbs. How unpleasant it is to work in a kitchen with the lights on the lights off the lights on the lights off and one never knows when. Bright lights invigorate the cook, dim bulbs depress. My favorite kitchen was my favorite kitchen because of the lighting. Office lighting. Long, narrow neon bulbs (are they bulbs?) screwed into cream-colored metallic boxes, long and rectangular. The apartment had been offices before we moved in and renovated and I demanded those lights be preserved, not replaced by any number of bulbs, no matter how fancy the fixture. Those neon lights were bright and perfectly white, the better to shoot photos of food under, the better to stand at the counter and cook, cheered on as if listening to jazzy music.

Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep. - Carl Sandburg 

 Fussy little buggers, bulbs are. How many ways to chop an onion so I don’t cry? I try, I do, but I blubber like a baby no matter taking precautions. All those Old Wives' Tales. A toothpick between the teeth, wearing a bandana over my nose and mouth, wearing goggles. chilling the onion before cutting. I have done it all. I breathe in and out through my mouth, tongue out. Stick a piece of bread between my lips, chill the onion in the freezer first or cut under running water. But to no avail. Up against a bulb, I burst into tears. Bulb-shaped tears.

 Occasionally, I bump into my husband as I dash out of the kitchen, tears coursing down my cheeks, nose running, arm pressed across my eyes, sobbing. What’s wrong?! he asks, “What happened?!” Ah no, I am simply cutting onions, I say as I fling open the nearest window and stick my head out. 

 Shallots have the same effect. French shallots, oniony shallots.

 For many years onions no longer made me cry. I never understood why. But now they do again.

Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn.
- William Arthur Ward

 We once took a trip to Holland. A road trip, we drove through tulip fields, through cities and countryside, Amsterdam and Haarlem and Leiden and The Hague. We bought packets and little mesh bags of bulbs for my mother-in-law who planted other bulbs, onions, garlic, shallots, radish bulbs and crocus and dahlia bulbs. Tiny, little brown bulbs, orbs no bigger than those big playing marbles, the shooters, my brother and I used to play with when we were kids, a jumble of pale brown bulbs dressed in crinkly skin. We bought a selection for my mother-in-law who loved gardening; tulips, a gift from Holland.

 She snipped open the packets, the tiny mesh bags, and out tumbled the bulbs no bigger than those glistening white bulbs, pearl onions, that keep cornichons company in brine, that find their way onto cocktail toothpicks among the platters of pâté. Papery skin, crinkly, like the skin on raw onions and shallots, those other bulbs, layers that slip off between one’s fingers leaving a trail of dirt and dust across the table. Bulbs huddled together in the palm of her hand, bulbs planted in pots to be kept indoors when icy weather threatened, pushed outside to be buried in a long, narrow row along the shrubs edging the garden, the tiny brown bulbs pressed into the dark, damp earth, to be loved and tended by a woman who loved her garden.

 Bulbs pushing their way above ground, first a tiny green bud, and leaves, arms waving, checking the air, checking the temperature, then bursting forth in ostentation, tulips yellow, pink, red, white, mauve. From a tiny, papery, brown bulb, this.

How Many Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

 Buxom fennel bulbs, creamy white tinged with green, springtime running through her veins. How I love fennel bulbs. Tough outer layers giving way to tender layers, superimposed, protective of the heart, layers overlapping elegantly like a cache-coeur (hide the heart) sweater that overlaps across the heart. Chop through the layers, the bulb is firm and crisp and allows the knife to slice through thinly, those thin strips almost transparent, translucid, opalescent. I rub my hands over her smooth surface, follow the curves, and breathe in her perfume.

 Feathery greens capping the bulb, waving, a brush of green, fennel fronds, chopped off and fed to Piggy the guinea pig who adored fennel bulb greens. Slender stalks likes arms raised above the head, the bulb. Pull the arms and crack off layers.

 A hefty fennel bulb somehow not hefty but voluptuous, zaftig in Yiddish, because there is something so elegant, so feminine about the fennel bulb. Slice through the bulb, take a bite of the crunchy fennel for a hint of licorice, anise, sweet yet not.

 My husband adores celeriac, that other bulb that I can easily call bulbous. Unlike the smooth, creamy, alabaster fennel, this bulb is ugly, gnarled, splotched with brown. A rustic bulb. A thick, hardy splay of green sticking out of its bulbous, knobby head, an outer skin tough and rough and earthy. Lusty to fennel’s sensuous, celery to fennel’s anise.

 I love fennel bulbs, slivered into paper thin slices and tossed in a salad, or chunked and roasted drizzled with olive oil until sweet and sexy, or simmered in a big pot of chicken soup until so tender it is falling apart, imparting a deeper, smokier flavor than any onion could.

 My husband adores celeriac as the French do, grated and smothered in mayonnaise. Or prepared like those other peasant roots, potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, grated, chopped, roasted, baked or simmered and puréed.

Radishes, small, pink and peppery. When I see radishes, I think of my father but not because he was small, pink and peppery but because he loved them. And so do I, eaten like they are; dipped in salt, in salads or on bread with fresh butter is a treat but I also like them roasted like this, milder but still crunchy.


A bunch of radishes
A sprig of rosemary
Good balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil

   Clean the dirt from the radishes and cut off the leaves. Divide in halves and put in a bowl, add salt, 1-2 tbs balsamic vinegar and 4-5 tbs olive oil and then mix it all well before pouring it all in an oven-proof form. Bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C/390°F) for 15-20 minutes.

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Monday, February 16, 2015


Kill the Fatted Calf

 Fat spitting angrily, bubbling and seething, hissing and spattering violently. No matter the fat, like a woman scorned, it begins cool, calm, and collected. Quite placid. Some fats (butter) smell oh-so sweetly, fresh as the morning dew. Cool to the touch, that fat invites tasting, allows being handled, rubbed into flour for crusts, crumbles, and biscuits. At room temperature, that fat is oh-so smooth, spreading across a slice of fresh brioche, whipping into frosting or cake batter, whisking into a sauce, adding body and shape. Luscious, velvety, a beautiful pale yellow the color of tulips or roses. Sexy fat.

 Some fats (olive oil, vegetable oil), may have a sharper smell, a bit wild, of the outdoors, some none at all, like an unknown, a mystery. Slick and slithery, shining and glittering, that fat shimmers down as a waterfall, flavoring what is bland or balancing what is too robust, binding groups of ingredients together into the perfect vinaigrette, mayonnaise, pesto, cubes of tomato for bruschette, a swirl into a bowl of soup. A drizzle, a stream, a smattering, a hint. Slick and slithery, no better beauty product, rubbed into the skin for softness and glow. Or a massage. Sensual fat.

 Other fats, pure, white shortening of the big, blue can, gooey and viscous, unctuous (a bit like Uriah Heap), glossy, like brilliantine, is so innocent, even-tempered and bland. Remember when you and your brother smeared it into your hair, shaping it into spit curls and a bouffant style. Or horns. Fat melted and stirred into batter or whipped, replacing butter when necessary. But only when necessary. Lard? Also. Fat Cat.

 Yet heat it up and beware! What was so placid and peaceful, so smooth and seductive, just put it over a flame and watch the transformation. It froths and foams (toss in the chopped onions the meat the veg the beaten eggs doughnut dough pancake batter cold liquid) and it sizzles and seethes violently! It spits and bristles, biting into skin, burning whatever it jumps onto. Fat flares up angrily like a shrew, tempestuous. Oh what a little heat will do.

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. 
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. 

Stuff it till Christmas and make a fat hog. 
Home again, home again, jiggety jog. 

 Low fat? Full fat? Always the dilemma. We love full fat fromage blanc, fromage frais, cheese and ice cream but as we get older the full fat of what we love to eat ends up… full fat on us. Slipping into my favorite jeans is like trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube. And so we eat low fat. Milk, cheese (we often wonder if it really is cheese), ice cream, sour cream, quark. They are each a little bit flimsy in the consistency department – add a bit more gelatin to the mix when making panna cotta with low-fat milk, and tiramisu or mousse with low-fat fromage blanc? Smile and think of the calories we are not consuming. And I readjust my halo.

 Low-fat cheese, milk, ice cream, fromage blanc makes us feel so very saintly. And, in our own peculiar reasoning, allows us to (gives us the excuse to) drink a glass or two of wine with dinner, sneak in an extra slice of bread, toss a handful of smoky lardons into the pan when preparing sautéed something or other. It allows us to (gives us the excuse to) order both a first course and dessert when dining out.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat. 
His wife could eat no lean. 

 I have a finicky son, who does not like fat. Jack Sprat. He refuses to eat veal or lamb for the fat, and he will only eat cuts of beef or pieces of chicken that contain not one iota of anything that he perceives to be fat. Gooey, sticky, stringy fat.

 He is incredibly wary when served, surveying the food on his plate like a detective whose very career is at stake if even the tiniest detail is overlooked, a clue missed no matter how insignificant, then, knife and fork in hand, picking apart each dish with the patience, concentration and skill of a surgeon.

 My culinarily persnickety son has a certain sobriety in his eating habits that, genetically, I have yet to trace. Gastronomically austere. He eats almost no vegetables, refuses soups and sauces with chunks of anything in them, he snubs cakes in which he perceives minuscule flecks of green or orange, and he dissects meat and casseroles to remove every last hint of fat or anything remotely foreign with a minutia that would make a forensic scientist proud.

 It is no wonder that he is rather like a stick figure. A long, tall drink of water, my mom calls him. Not an ounce of fat anywhere on his body. There is nothing corpulent, beefy or fleshy about him. No fat.

 Yet although he spurns fat on his food, fatty foods are his mainstay. French fries and breaded and fried anything, as long as there is no fat fat, piles of buttery chocolate chip cookies, pizza and burgers, slice after slice of cured, spicy sausages, pepperoni, chorizo, merguez, no matter the glaring presence of chunks of white fat stuck in the red, no matter the greasy fat that oozes from those meats when fried. “You should balance those fatty foods, your fatty diet with something healthy," I admonish. “Fruits and vegetables.”

 “But mom,” he reasons, “I’m not fat! You think all of this food is going to make me fat?”

It Ain’t Over Until the Fat….

 We are not a one-fat family. Butter ooh la la butter the French way, butter from Normandy cows, butter for cakes, pats of butter for creamy mashed potatoes, purée, tossed into grains for couscous, smeared across slices of toasted brioche and melted onto crêpes. Butter, the French fat, matières grasses. Gros - gras, like fat baby legs and grandmère’s arms.

 Or butter à l’américaine, sticks of butter, sticks of fat, melted onto pancakes, oatmeal, Poptarts, cornbread and for making mac & cheese oh yeah! Butter whipped into sugar for cakes and cookies galore. Eggs fried in butter.

 Olive oil, grasso mamma mia! Oil from the olives that grow across the boot, pressed and fragrant, strong and peppery or mild and sweet, green to gold. Oil, fat, for tossing into pasta, drizzling over chopped tomato bruschette; we used olive oil, of course, before moving to Italy but rather became addicted to it as a fat for cooking and eating both while living in olive oil country. Warm white cannelloni beans, a bit of salt and pepper and chopped fresh rosemary heady with olive oil. Carpaccio, topped with shaved Parmesan and thin slices of violet artichokes and rocket, rucola, all bathed in olive oil. Big fat gnocchi. Eaten simply, drizzled with olive oil. Spaghetti olio aglio peperoncino, slithery, slurped up, my husband’s favorite dish.

 But, ah, butter for risotto!

 Vegetable oil for baking. Moist and tender fat. Duck fat or chicken fat, schmaltz. Oy vey. Schmaltz and gribenes! Mmmmm rendered chicken or goose fat and the crispy chicken skin… like Bubbe used to make! A big pot of homemade chicken soup, Jewish penicillin, cooled, the fat skimmed and saved. Chicken fat and chicken skin fried up with onions and what a treat, fat from the Old Country! Better than bacon, at least for us Jews! Then schmaltz, the chicken fat, is used for traditional chopped liver or kugel, for making chicken or egg salad, dad’s way, or just spreading on bread, Challah or rye. The fat of my youth.

 Fatty Fatty two by four…

 Around my house, I’m known as the Risotto Queen. I learned the art of making risotto from our elderly Italian neighbor, matriarch of a large family, when we lived outside of Milan many years ago. I have been making it ever since and quite often, all year round. Once the basic recipe and the method for achieving a creamy, tender risotto is mastered, the variations are endless, from the traditional to the unusual, and following the seasons. When you are in the mood for something flavorful, rich and just a tad decadent, you must make this risotto with Gorgonzola, gooey, creamy and fatty, a bit salty, rather fruity, somewhat mellow and perfect when blended into a mild risotto. If you want a sweet touch, add sautéed pear! Forget the diet and enjoy. 

Serves 4 for a nice meal

350 g Italian rice for risotto, preferably Carnaroli or Arborio
1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
2 Tbs (30 g) butter or half butter-half olive oil
100 ml dry white wine
About 5 cups (1 ½ liters) vegetable broth or bouillon
250 g Gorgonzola cheese, cubed
1 – 2 Tbs (15 – 30 g) butter & 3 Tbs finely grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1 – 2 Tbs (15 – 30 g) butter & 1 - 2 ripe pears, optional, peeled and cored, halved and in thin slices or small cubes

 Sauté the onion or shallot in the butter until tender. Add the rice and stir until coated in the fat and cook until the grains become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed and the alcohol evaporated. Begin adding the broth, a ladleful at a time, stirring until each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next. Continue cooking this way for around 18-20 minutes until all the stock has been added and the rice is cooked and creamy, with a slight bite.

 Add the Gorgonzola off the heat and stir until it is melted and blended in and the risotto is very creamy. Add the butter and Parmesan; return the pan to the heat for about 2 minutes and stir well until heated through.

 In a separate skillet, heat butter and cook the pear slices or cubes for just a couple of minutes until hot through and tender. Top the Risotto with the pears and serve.

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Monday, February 9, 2015


toast toaster

My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody. - Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White 

 I once read that it wasn’t the discovery of fire that differentiated man from beast, elevated man to a higher, more cultivated level (if I can say) but rather it was that man used fire to transform his food. Cook it. Roast it and toast it. Man stuck it on a stick and stuck it into the fire. (And I think that this is still, in some very primitive, primal way, our favorite way to cook and eat.)

 Campfires were always an integral part of Girl Scout Camp and really the only part of Girl Scout Camp I enjoyed. Real pork sausages (verboten at home) slid onto a stick and held over the blaze until the skin grizzled and bubbled and charred, the juices drip drip dripping into the flames with a sizzle. And marshmallows! Toasted marshmallows! Toasted marshmallows of Fourth of July barbecues with the family, toasted marshmallows of summer clam bakes at the cousins’ house up north, toasted marshmallows of youth group retreats following messy Sloppy Joes, toasted marshmallows after dad was done grilling the burgers and dogs, what meal cooked around a fire is complete without toasted marshmallows? Okay, I have to admit that those roasted sausages and those toasted marshmallows were the only leverage my parents had, the only reason I agreed to go to Girl Scout Camp. Marshmallows puffing up, bubbling, charring, burning lips and tongue but dive in one must! Blow once, blow twice and bite, the gooey mess barely held together by the charred outside slips down onto your chin, slurped up as quickly as the heat allows, fingers sticky.

 Now. Why are meats and sausages thus toasted not called toasted but roasted?

 Toast at the house, in the toaster, of course, but in the oven under the grill. That’s how my husband had always done it. And toasted open-faced sandwiches bubbling merrily under the grill, or baking sheets of day-old bread, too stale to be enjoyed as is, toasted under the grill and placed at the bottom of an empty soup bowl, onion soup, ugly and rustic but oh so fragrant, ladled atop, a generous amount of grated cheese and bake under the grill. But this time not toasted but browned. Go figure; something to ponder while blowing on one’s soup. The toast now growing soggy and melting into the broth.

 Toasted almonds, toasted pine nuts, toasted pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds. Toasting adds an earthier depth to those nuts, a richer, more intense nut flavor while developing a toasty taste! Croutons, buttered or oiled, maybe rubbed with garlic, tossed and stirred in a large baking pan and toasted until crisp. Toasted whole spices for curries, the toasty, spicy aroma filling the house.

 Toast. The toast of the town.

toast rack

Warm as toast.

 How did toast become the essence of comfort food? Warm and simple, it embodies something pure and childlike, that modest slice of toast. My mother would bring me two pieces of toast when I wasn’t feeling well, toast and tea or toast and fizzy soda to settle my tummy. Just butter puddling in the center of the hot bread, a knife to smear it around, that salty butter. And a banana. Toast and banana and a drink.

 Toast. A restorative, gentle on the tummy. And warm. Somehow so reassuring in its plainness, its earthy flavor of toasted bread, a flavor of toasted nuts.

 As I got older and became an adult, toast has always and still is my comfort food, light, uncomplicated, with just a bit of butter or even peanut butter melting against the heat of the toast. And a banana when not feeling well or when a headache has me curled up in bed. Now my sons know just what to prepare for me, bring to me, warm toast on a tray.

 Or not. When I am sad or when I am frazzled, when I am savoring the sweetness of a moment or two alone, I simply crave toast. With butter or sometimes with peanut butter. A book open on the table next to me, two slices of white bread slipped into the toaster, two slices of toast being buttered quickly while the heat still has the power to melt that butter. Or peanut butter. Sometimes I’ll be lured into dusting the buttered toast with cinnamon sugar like when I was a kid, a special Saturday morning treat.

 Now my husband has brought a twist on that tradition of warm toast into our home. French Toast. Ah! Pain Perdu, they call it, lost bread. Instead of just toasting stale white bread, brioche, or wheat, otherwise lost, revivifying and giving new life, a transformation to that stale bread, he drags it through milk, through egg and tosses it into a heavily buttered skillet and… toasts? Fries. Less comforting than decadent, say I, for French Toast was always a special Sunday night treat for dinner! With maple syrup! But for a Frenchman, French Toast, pain perdu, is comfort food, plain and simple.

 And he looks at me, his smile as warm as toast.

toast jam

The privileges of the side-table included the small prerogatives of sitting next to the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people's one. - Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

 I’m always hungry. Since I was a kid, I rarely ate, rarely eat only three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner but in between! Snack time, some call it. I call it necessary sustenance. And it usually involves toast. I’m a carb addict. Toast with cheese – melted or otherwise – toast with butter – salted or not – toast with jelly – mainly, necessarily cherry except twice a year when only bitter orange will do – toast with peanut butter – creamy or crunchy, this is my best comfort food.

 When I was a kid, toasted Poptarts was what I ate. Unfrosted, of course, usually cherry. I would toast the Poptart and, when it was still very hot, I would place a thin pat of salted butter on it and watch it melt then eat my salty-sweet treat. The next best thing was hot buttered toast with a lavish blanket of cinnamon sugar; the crusts and edges stay crisp while the center sinks, a layer of buttery wet atop a toasty underneath, giving a wonderful yet delicate crunch. Now, in a fit of nostalgia, I will toast white bread and eat it with slippery, melty peanut butter or buttered toast topped with jam. But a baguette toasted – a chunk cut off, sliced in half lengthwise and shoved sideways into the toaster – is for when I’m feeling like a grownup.

toast cincin

I propose a toast to mirth; be merry! - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

 A glass of wine at dinner is almost a daily thing, a ritual of sorts. And more often than not, we raise our glasses in a toast. To us! These days, we have quite a bit to toast, to happiness to health to the hotel to love to success. 

 Always look into the other’s eyes while making a toast, say the French, and maintain eye contact throughout and when securing the toast with a drink from the glass. Tchin tchin! Whatever you do, never put down the glass once the toast is made until you have taken that sip. Through the teeth. Past the gums. Look out stomach, here it comes! Down the hatch!

 And we clink glasses. And drink. A room full of friends, around the table, corks are popped and we toast to friendship, luck, health, happiness. Clink clink clink everyone’s glass touches everyone else’s, a ritual, a tradition, we cannot miss one! Mess up a toast? If eye contact isn’t made, isn’t held, if one’s glass doesn’t clink against every other glass ooops that means seven year’s bad sex, say the French. You’re toast! Does the sound of the clicking clinking of glass, of crystal, drive away the evil spirits? One would hope so for when we toast we toast for love, luck, friendship, health, success.

 Cheers! Tchin tchin! Sláinte! Bottoms up! L’Chaim! Salute! À votre santé! Skål! Prost! How many ways to toast? For he’s a jolly good fellow!

 Yes, husband and I are in the habit of toasting whenever we sit down to a meal and pour a glass of wine, one for him, one for me, or when we gather together with family or friends. It is a tradition, a ritual, somewhat of a superstition, for good luck. And these days, we do need it.

 I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table. - William Shakespeare, Macbeth

toast recipe

 There are so many things you can make with toast, it is like a blank canvas invented for the creation of sweet or savoury dishes, or just honest plain toast which, at times, nothing in the world can beat as the best comfort food in the world. I'd like to propose a fresh lunch toast with shaved fennel and radishes topped with toasted pine nuts, black pepper, salt and extra-virgin olive oil. It is as simple as it looks!


This is so simple I have to write a recipe sketch instead of a regular recipe: Trim a fennel bulb and cut it into quarters and cut each quarter into thin slices lengthwise (because it looks nicer!). Trim some radishes and slice these thinly as well. Now you can either heap these directly on the slices of toast you have ready, rustic bread is best, sprinkle pine nuts, lots of black pepper and salt over and then a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to finish it off or you can put the ingredients in a bowl and mix before you put them on the toast, the choice is yours!

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Monday, February 2, 2015


Flour Power 

 My great-grandfather milled flour. He lived in a small town in Russia where he owned two mills, one for flour, one for schnapps, both from grain, salt of the earth, manna from heaven. For who can live without flour and alcohol, bread and drink? 

 And this great-grandfather would travel from town to town, milling grain into flour, expert that he was. But he wouldn’t always keep his nose to the grindstone, so to speak, for he had a reputation as a lothario, handsome and wealthy that he was. He would dust the flour from his lapels and court the young women until, of course, he met the woman who would become my great-grandmother, a beautiful young woman close to thirty years his junior. 

 Did he woo her with, shower her in flowers? In flour? 

 My other great-grandfather made and sold ice.

 I would stand at the long, wooden kitchen table and knead dough for bread or pizza once, sometimes twice a week and the dog, a tremendously large, unusually tall boxer named Kikka, our pet, would hover around, quietly observing me work. Flour, water, salt, sugar and yeast, eggs, honey and milk when making Challah for the Friday night meal, but always flour, water, salt, sugar and yeast would be blended in a large bowl and then pushed out onto the table onto a heap of flour poof.

 And I would knead and knead, dusting, scattering a fine blanket of white across the mound of dough, scoop up the dough and fling a fine blanket of white across the wooden surface of the table like a snowy landscape. And knead.

 In a cloud of flour.

 And then I would notice the nose and the tongue. While I had been concentrated on my dough, spellbound by the rhythmic movements of my kneading only broken by the quick scattering of flour, Kikka would have noiselessly approached the table, nose up, enthralled by the scent of the flour, and, my attention elsewhere even as she was just at my feet, place the side of her snout against the edge of the table and silently begin licking the flour that had been nudged to the table’s edge. Large pink tongue would flick out and flick in, how she loved flour.

 Now I have a much smaller dog whose snout, much less his tongue, would never reach anywhere near the countertop where I now blend flour, water, salt, sugar and yeast into dough, where I scatter a find dusting of flour atop the mound of dough and across the work surface and knead and knead once, sometimes twice a week. But he, like his predecessor, adores flour, can sense when I am working with flour, can detect the odor of flour whenever I pop open the plastic box filled with the white flour, whenever I am baking. Yet scolded once too often for insinuating himself under my feet, he waits (im)patiently until I am done, dough resting or bread in the oven, the box of flour stored away, and he scurries into the kitchen just to lick, not silently as did Kikka but rather snuffling lustily, the flour from the floor in the spot where I was standing. For there is invariably, always, a fine dusting of flour on the kitchen floor in the spot where I bake.

Flowers (flours) are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. - Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

 “Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king.” once said the novelist Louis Bromfield and if he be right I say flour is the king of the kitchen, all else is merely the court. What can’t flour do, what magic does flour not create? From breakfast to dinnertime, from snack time to dessert. Pancakes and waffles, cinnamon toast. Or crêpes! Batter thickened, breads made, rounds sizzling on the griddle, a thin thread of steam rises from the toaster, inhale the aroma of breakfast.

 A spoonful of flour or a just a bit more and butter or milk, soup or gravy transforms into something else, thick and rich and worthy of a meal. Béchamel. Roux. Ah, the French, how did they know to add flour? Soup or gravy, from thin and watery thickens into dinner.

 Biscuits abundant with flour, and breads, muffins, scones, teatime! Sandwiches for lunch, blinis elegantly supporting a glistening mound of caviar or smoked salmon, crackers scooping up dip. 

 Pound, pestle, grind, flour from wheat, rice, chickpeas or chestnuts, each enriching whatever is made from such a simple ingredient, an innocent powder with a distinct texture, a unique flavor. Cake, what is cake? Cocoa powder, eggs, butter, milk and sugar but what without flour? Ah, a flourless cake! More a pudding, less a cake! And my clothing, my skirt, my shirt, my apron, my face and arms covered in white floury handprints. His or mine?

 Almond flour, sweet, earthy, nutty. Flour? Ground almonds, almond powder. Corn flour, so American (when not polenta and Italian), corn flour and I make him corn bread, corn pone, spoon bread, all-American. When he wears that shirt of cornflower blue it brings out the cornflower blue of his eyes. Sparkling.

 And the tenderness, light as water and as flour. – Pablo Neruda

 He offers me flowers I offer him flour, homemade with love.

Rolled in Flour

 Fish filets and chicken tenders dredged in flour, dragged back and forth, flipped and dragged back and forth again. Thick chunks of beef chucked into a shallow bowl of flour and tossed, pushed and swirled and rolled to coat. Lift out the fish filet, the chicken tender, the narrow tail end pinched between thumb and forefinger and shake off the excess flour. Scoop up the chunks of beef and, fingers slightly splayed, give a gentle shake to rid the meat of the excess of flour. Flour turned to paste clumped on the tips of my fingers, just impossible to shake, to push, to pick off. Flour turned to glue.

 Meatballs! Meatballs of beef or lamb or chicken or fish always tossed in flour before being baked or fried or simply tossed into sauce, the flour giving a golden, crispy coating and thickening the sauce at once. Some will call it alchemy, I can call it wizardry because the powers of flour, all the things flour can do never ceases to amaze me.

 Chickpeas become felafel; chickpeas ground and blended with onion and garlic, parsley and coriander, spices of Middle Eastern origin and shaped into balls in between the palms of your hands and rolled in flour. Fried chicken. I love fried chicken. Chicken rolled in flour and fried.

 Roll berries in flour, nuts in flour, chocolate chips in flour before stirring into batter will they sink or swim?

 Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine. To roll someone in flour. To trick, dupe, swindle, mislead someone and once again the French just know what to do with flour.

Crêpes are the basis of a very simple, homey and fun meal; we stir up a bowl of crêpe batter when the refrigerator is bare, no dinner plans have been made, and everyone is hungry. Everyone pulls up a stool to the kitchen counter and crêpes are made and handed out one by one. This recipe makes very tender, rich-tasting crêpes, perfect eaten with either a savory (crème fraîche & smoke salmon, ham and grated cheese…) or sweet (jam, fruit butter, sugar or Nutella) filling. But my favorite ways to eat crêpes are given below the recipe. 


250 g / 8.8 oz flour
250 ml / 1 cup milk
250 ml / 1 cup cream
2 eggs
Pinch salt
1 Tbs sugar

 Whisk the eggs and the flour together until smooth, slowly pour the milk and cream into the flour and eggs, whisking continually until there are no lumps. Stir in the salt and sugar. Cover the bowl and allow to stand for at least an hour. Heat a skillet or pan (preferably nonstick) or a crêpe pan, rub butter or margarine around the entire surface (we use a paper towel rubbed across the surface of the butter or margarine then rubbed around the skillet); when the butter sizzles pour on a ladle of batter, swirl and tilt the pan until a thin coating of batter is spread evenly over the surface of the pan. Flip the crepe when the surface is bubbling and the underside of the crepe is browned. Cook until both sides are a golden brown. When making crêpes, the first crêpe is usually blond or very pale… the French say that this first crêpe is for the chef.

 I have two favorite ways to eat crêpes:
Sprinkle with sugar and squeeze on some lemon juice, fold into quarters and serve/eat.
Or smear the hot crepe quickly with salted butter, sprinkle on sugar, fold into quarters and serve/eat.

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