Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The many lives of a potage parmentier

What a lovely day in central Georgia. We were promised 70 degrees and raining, but it seems yesterday's violent thunderstorms (complete with two sessions of marble-sized hail) drained the reserves, because what we have today is 70 degrees and sunny. I would be outside all day, but I have a lot of interviews to do for the article I'll be turning in on Friday. So I'm stuck (most of the time, anyway) to my desk.

The s.o. is watching Dania Jai Alai on his computer, and I can hear a soft "whack-pock-squeak-pock" coming from the speakers, interrupted every so often with the announcer talking about trifectas, superfectas, etc. Our vacation in Florida can't come soon enough.

Those of you who frequent my other blog, Manor Menu, may have seen that I have decided to move the food-related content over here. My reasoning is that food is a massive part of my life--the one thing dearest to my heart, probably, other than family and dogs--and that it seems awkward and pointless to sequester it the way I have been. It made sense at first, when Manor Menu was an unadorned record of everydamnthing I ate, but now that I am more selective and I chat about the food, it's silly.

("C'mon, three! Let's go, three!" the s.o. is cheering.)

Also, lately it's become increasingly difficult to know where to write about events. For example, the zucchini incident would have been just as appropriate over yonder as it was here. And I have even omitted talking about things because I wasn't sure where to put them. This week I devoured John and Karen Hess's The Taste of America on the recommendation of the lovely Bakerina, and it was (if you will forgive the expression) a lot of food for thought. It mourns the fact that most Americans have forgotten what real food tastes like--a point that was proven many times over by the unknowing cashier at Ingles. That's been on my mind a lot.

I have also been reading Mireille Guiliano's bestseller French Women Don't Get Fat, and while it didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, it was a charming read that reinforced all the things I've been doing right lately and gave me inspiration to continue on. I highly recommend it. Her main thesis is the opposite of what most diet books preach: Instead of limiting your foods to a certain few bingeables, you should explore as many tastes as possible and revel in little teeny bites of exciting, perfect, decadent food. Eating half a rotisserie chicken for lunch every day (which, I am informed, a publisher of mine does in order to stay Atkins-appropriate) is a sure way to sabotage your appreciation of food and make things worse in the long run.

She's nuts about nuts, this Mireille person, and she spends a lot of time talking about freshness and quality. Stale, borderline-rancid airplane peanuts aren't worth eating, in her opinion; freshly shelled Oregon hazelnuts are another matter completely.

That's why even though the grocery store staff are incompetant, my visit the other day did give me a ray of hope. I was just leaving the produce department when I saw a thirty-something mother with her daughter. The little girl had picked up a plastic bag of pecans and was asking her mother, "Mama, do you like nuts?"

"When they're straight off the tree, yes, I do!" said the mother, smiling and gently putting the package back on the shelf.

A person who knows fresh from packaged! A person who would give the Hesses and La Femme Guiliano a reason to smile. She doesn't prefer the facsimile to the real thing.

So before the title of this post becomes completely irrelevant, I'd better at least mention the leek and potato soup I made yesterday. No use talking about where I got the recipe, since Deborah Madison and Julia Child agree on almost every detail. You take a couple pounds of peeled potatoes and a couple pounds of trimmed, sliced leeks, and you simmer them until they are soft. Then you puree the whole mess, season it, and drizzle in a little cream.

Mine wasn't exactly like that, though, since I had boiled down the carcass of a Psycho Chicken the night before. I had all this delicious broth, and a bunch of little chicken pieces-parts. So I strained out the bits of meat, set them aside, and used the broth to simmer the vegetables in. Then, after the pureeing, I stirred the chicken bits back in. It was awesome.

As soon as the s.o. and I got up today, we knew that it was the perfect day for a brunch on the back porch. The soup would figure centrally in it--that was all we knew.

I needed to cut down the old winter sorrel out in the herb garden in order to encourage the new leaves to grow, so I took Julia Child's advice and stirred in a bit of julienned sorrel as I heated the soup up. Anyone who's not into sorrel yet, get online and buy some seeds at whatever seed place you prefer. It's stupid-easy to grow, and it's perennial. My favorite herb/vegetable of all time, or at least a close competitor.

Meanwhile, I laid out some thick-cut bacon in a jelly-roll pan and stuck it in the oven at 350 degrees. The s.o. and I like bacon. He especially is passionate about it. You know the dog-treat commercial where the dog sees only bacon, no matter what Rorschach blot he's shown? I think he feels a little like that.

I brought some water to a very low boil and poached two eggs. I floated one in each bowl of soup. Meanwhile, I toasted two slices of crusty bread.

I don't think I even need to say how good it all was. There's still more soup. I wonder what form it will take on tomorrow...

Damn, now I have to get back to work. I have a long, handwritten fax about a challenging marine canvas project that I need to decipher before...um, seven minutes from now.