Let’s be honest about how spoiled we are as Americans; our kitchens, whether we cook or not, are enormous by the standards known and embraced by the rest of the world. We have stuff for nearly every task – even if we only do this task once a year for Thanksgiving. My new friend Ellen, who came for homemade roasted chicken and dumpling soup a couple of days ago, gave up on ‘being American’ more than a decade ago, she moved to Croatia a year ago, recently moved to Split to be with her fiancé. Over lunch Ellen was trying to explain this dome-shaped electric oven thing she has to cook in which came with the flat of the man she is engaged to (which belonged to his parents before he occupied it and near as I can figure this “thing” must date to Tito’s rule over the former Yugoslavia). (Incredibly enough she managed to make an absolutely brilliant Thanksgiving meal from ‘this’ shown at left.)
On the flight from Washington to Munich The Lunchbox was amongst the offerings to be watched – and I was struck by the size of the ‘kitchen’ from which the heroine worked to create Indian culinary magic.
I am currently living in a holiday flat. It is outfitted with flatware, dishes and glassware, a spatula – better used for the grill, a slotted spoon, two wooden spoons, one ice cube tray, two cutting boards, a grater, a ladle and a handful of knives – thankfully sharp – and some perfectly functional cookware. There is no Cuisinart, nor charming Hohner harmonica outfitted Chantal teakettle, no measuring cups and spoons, no antique pottery bowls nor German knives, and certainly not a four burner gas range with an oven large enough to roast a 25 pound turkey, with room left over for the chestnuts and Brussel sprouts, stuffing and sweet potatoes. But as someone who cooks – I am relearning how to without the convenience. While I thought to pack my lemon squeezer, and despite hauling more than 150 pounds of luggage with me, I neglected some rather practical considerations and my various girlfriends scattered across the United States responded to a dismay posted to my Facebook wall at neglecting to pack Demerara sugar, celery seeds, Miracle Whip, Coleman’s Dry Mustard with an offer to send these things. There are gorgeous cabbages everywhere and fresh fish – coleslaw is in my future! To Christina (Kiki) Kelley and Jan Wheeler I can’t thank you sufficiently – copies of the book I am supposed to be here writing will be yours once it’s published.
My landlords have given me license to their citrus trees – mandarins, limes, and LEMONS! So the prudence of packing my lemon squeeze has turned into glorious sunshine to drink.
This morning I tackled a leek tart, as much like a quiche as I could make it without the “right pan”. What I had to work with were truly gorgeous eggs, (world famous) Pag cheese, a large leek, ground golden flax seed and Tibetan sea salt that I brought with me, some whole milk, butter and flour purchased in Trogir. I found a medium size plastic bowl and an enameled pan with a handle in the cupboard, and my landlady let me borrow her rolling pin (mind you no waxed or parchment paper). I had a leftover 500 gram yogurt container, this chart, and my eyes to guide the process. I managed to outdo myself. My friend Ken Herron maintains that I create food porn – this blog is the only way I can share with him, (sending you love Ken!).
You don’t have to be the Barefoot Contessa to make beautiful food. You need to carve out a space of time to provide nourishment that is authentic and close to the earth and the sea, you need desire and you need passion. Whether a neighbor is next door or thousands of miles away our world contracts or expands according to your beliefs and attitude. You go to places outside of your normal experience to live deliberately – like Thoreau.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau
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