Friday, 8 February 2013

February 8th - Edible perfume and greens from America

Dear Nigel,

I was doing a cleaning meditation - at least that's what I was trying to convince myself, dusting all the little bottles I choose to clutter my room with. I picked up one to remind myself of a wonderful day out last spring and caught something I hadn't recognised before. If food is the reason you live and breathe (OK one of them), then it stands to reason that you would want to surround yourself with it all day long. Your marmalade-scented house is another version of someone else's Grapefruit candle.

The perfume in question was Rhubarb. The next, Earl Grey and cucumber, the next Ginger and nutmeg. And there was coffee, and chocolate and Lime,basil and mandarin. Seems if you can't eat it then you naturally want to wear it.

I collect my friend Jill's linocut prints, so I was interested to see that Alice Waters the founder of Chez Panisse  in Berkeley, California uses them for the cover and throughout  her beautifully illustrated book ' Chez Panisse Vegetables'. Alice set up Chez Panisse over 30 years ago to share her love for honest simple cooking using organic  produce. Chez Panisse Vegetables, and the subsequent Chez Panisse Fruit, are her effort to share her recipes with us all. It's always good to see a different take on ideas from other cultures.

The first recipe I spot is one for wilted Amaranth greens. Now this is not a vegetable I have ever come across  but according to Alice 'the weed amaranths are very common, sprouting up in the cracks of sidewalks and in vacant lots, and taste much like their domesticated cousins.' The leaves are used in much the same way as other cooking greens. Alice says,'we make salads of small red amaranth leaves to accompany seared tuna and salmon tartare, and cook the larger leaves both alone and combined with other greens to serve in pasta dishes.' I wonder if some of these weed amaranths would grow in our milder west country climate. The variegated variety shown in the linocut plate has a very pretty leaf.

So this will be a cookery book to look after and treasure, unlike some of my old-and-abused Nigel Slater cookery books; dog-eared, stained, with folded corners, writing and scribbles. There is even one that seeks to pre-empt this kind of abuse by providing a vivid custard-coloured rubbery vinyl cover. This book is 'Thirst'. And, while at first glance one might imagine it to be a cocktail book for reading in the bath, or to aid the extremely pissed cook, it is actually a beautifully printed and photographed collection of healthy juices and smoothies. Wonderful combinations like Mango, Raspberry and Lime, and Grapefruit and passion fruit, which I would not think to put together myself. Obviously I go and look for the most unhealthy smoothie I can find and here it is, lurking in the back of the book: Strawberry Milk Shake. You say,'there is nothing remotely healthy about this. But then I see nothing wrong with organic ice-cream, full cream milk and fresh strawberries from time to time'. I console myself with the fact that all that calcium is good for young growing bones, and if i make a little too much for two small tots then...someone has to drink it up.


1 comment:

  1. I have a couple of Alice Waters books, they make me feel healthy just reading them.