To perceive is to suffer.
~Aristotle

This is not meant to be some hefty harangue or diatribe on writing. To the utter contrary. But, it does seem like the revered trait for writers is not will, bravado or grit, but rather vibrant prose, empathetic and fluid storytelling, rich and beloved character creation.

A blank screen or paper alone can be daunting (have been there and done that), leading to lengthy stares, dire anxiety and idle fingers. Then comes disjointed prose, inapt words or topics, insipid imagery, worthless metaphors, and feeble punctuation. Writing, as with many art forms, is just really arduous labor; a brutal, almost crippling, job.

So, a poetic lilt, even just an enlightened brief passage or paragraph, lifts souls and so often makes us return to re-read, even aloud. Think of Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, John Barth, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, David Mitchell, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, Umberto Eco, Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, Victor Hugo, T.S. Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, John Updike, Kingsley Amis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stendahl, Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, André Gide, Jorge Luis Borges, et al. — this is just a smattering of prose writers and does not even mention the magical creations of preeminent poets. But, their words and perceptive imagery can flat illuminate your universe. By arranging selective words, creating characters, telling stories, and placing punctuation or not on a page, skilled novelists, poets and playwrights reveal their minds and extend ours. Even when disruptive to our psyches, their heedful art has unearthed and unveiled human nature, the bare bones of our biology, our anthropology. Alexithymia untethered, so thank you all so much.

So, why do I write about food and stuff? Well, repasts and convo are damned pleasing, and one of our primary hobbies happens to be cooking. The ruminations just came along for the ride. So, the blog seemed a fit, a natural, making little mention of Mom’s Joy of Cooking with her handwritten notes staring at me. Besides being a logophile, my mother gave me a sense of ardor, one of passion, even a feeling of the absurd. Enough of that, as I am not worthy.

Rapturous fare below.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH EGGS & HERBS

3 lbs root vegetables, cut into rough wedges (local multi-hued carrots, rainbow beets, new potatoes, turnips, white and red radishes, fennel bulb(s), zucchini, celery root — some peeled, other’s not)
1-2 plump, fresh garlic heads, cut transversely
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 bay leaves, dried

Local eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh herb leaves (rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender) torn and chopped
Capers, drained

Heat oven to 400-425 F.

Toss local vegetables with olive oil, garlic(s), sea salt, black pepper, and bay leaves in a heavy pan. Let stand at room temperature. Then roast, stirring thrice or so until slightly browned, about an hour. Discard the bay leaves.

Serve with fried eggs just sautéed in olive oil and partially cover the roasted vegetables, with egg spaces here and there, ground black pepper, then strew with fresh herbs and capers atop.

A vivid and savory tapestry.

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There is always something left to love.
~Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Perhaps the latest entry here should have included words such as el amor or amorda instead of los amigos. Hopefully, no utterances there hastened his demise although he “did not care about glory, or money, or old age, because (he) was sure (he) was going to die very young, and in the street.” Thank you for fooling us, our magus of magical realism — Gabriel García Márquez — who died yesterday at a ripe age, exalted and monied enough, at his Mexico City home.

Márquez’s work is flat mesmerizing, conjuring up images of his inventive vision, mythologizing the human condition, meandering into so many dreamscapes, and interlacing epic tales of memory and love. There was a Proustian tone to his prose, but his style also stood on its own among such literary luminaries as Joyce, Faulkner, Kafka, Borges and the like. His stories voiced superb power yet were rife with delicious comedy, oozing humanity throughout.

A native of Colombia, born and raised in the remote Caribbean town of Aracataca, Márquez would draw on his experiences there to later pen the imaginary town of Macando in One Hundred Years of Solitude. In this classic novel, Macando becomes a place where the phenomenal and hideous mingle and where the borders between the real world and fantasy eloquently collide — a lost village where ghosts roam, exotic flowers fall from the sky, a galleon with dirty rags for sails lies listless in the jungle, a child is born with the tail of a pig. A transcendent tale which cast a spell upon this reader.

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Márquez aptly, yet eeriely, remarked about unrequited love: “…they no longer felt like newlyweds, and even less like belated lovers. It was if they had leapt over the arduous calvary of conjugal life and gone straight to the heart of love. They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion; beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death.” Time for another re-read. There are other spellbinding works, of course.

Márquez’s craft is adroitly honed, vibrant, evocative, deft, and humorous. See you later, el maestro, Gabo — you have spoken to us all.

Dr. Juvenal Urbino in Love in the Time of Cholera had an affinity for asparagus due to the aftereffect aromas (speaking of Proust), so it seemed à propos

ASPARAGUS WITH SAFFRON BEURRE BLANC

Saffron Beurre Blanc
2 C dry white wine
1 C champagne vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
Pinch saffron

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Boil wine, champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, and saffron in small saucepan over medium heat until liquid is reduced to 4 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. Whisk in half the butter, piece by piece, until it forms a creamy paste. Set saucepan over low heat and continue vigorously whisking in a piece of butter at a time just as the previous piece is almost fully incorporated. The sauce should have the consistency of a lighter hollandaise. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm, so the sauce does not separate.

Asparagus
Cold water
Sea salt
1+ lb medium asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed off

In the meantime, bring a large pot with cold water to a boil. Add the sea salt and then asparagus and cook until crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and divide the spears evenly among smaller plates or platters. Tent loosely with foil, then remove and drizzle with the saffron beurre blanc.

Serve promptly and then just wait until the next morning. Dr. Urbino would be pleased.

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
~Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

EGG NOODLES WITH SWISS CHARD, MUSTARD & COLLARD GREENS

So often, things you learn to cherish have been so long overlooked—yet they often hovered right under your nose. For me, Amish country noodles are one of the new found delicacies that fall squarely into that category. Where had you been all these years? My passion for these hearty durum wheat and egg noodles almost went unrequited, but finally has been stirred. Now, I feel an obligation to share the love for this side thang.

To make this beloved tryst complete, sautéed chard, mustard and collard greens are commingled, mated with the noodles. Introduce succulent braised lamb shanks or fleshy coq au vin for nestling, candlelit chiaroscuro, some sonorous Luther V. serenades and voila!…you have a perfectly seductive “cooking Amish au naturel” meal. Unless, of course, you are one of those lingerie fanatics in which case a seductive silk chemise may be your apron du jour. Some food for the mood.

1 lb thick Amish country egg noodles
3 C water
4 C chicken broth
2 T sea salt

1 small bunch collard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch mustard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch swiss chard (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 t hot red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano-reggiano, fresh grated

In a large, heavy pot over high heat, bring water and broth to a boil. Add sea salt, noodles and return to boil. Cook until just al dente, about 10-15 minutes, depending on noodle size.

Bring large stockpot of water to a boil; add greens. Cook for 15 minutes and drain well. Then in a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the greens and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and become wilted and tender, about 10-15 minutes. During the cooking process, season with the salt and pepper to taste. They should be peppery.

Drain the noodles well and add to the greens, tossing until they are married. Serve, lightly topped with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.