here was the challenge that faced me today, when i returned home after a 7 mile speed walk to spend a rainy afternoon reading in one of my favorite cafes in the city, followed by a very brief book talk by john mcwhorter, who was peddling his new book about the wonder and joy of language (i’ve had my share of consternation and points of agreement with mr. mcwhorter over the years — always from afar — so it was interesting to listen to him wax philosophic about the plurality of language, all 6000+ of them, and underscore the relatively minuscule lifespan of the written word as compared with vast and various oral traditions that have kept languages alive for millenia):
- 1/2 bag of frozen peas
- 2 naked quorn cutlets
- a box of frozen winter squash that may have been in my freezer since before i moved in, but i was determined to make use of it!
instantly i thought of the 1/4 bag of rice penne that i had in the cupboard and went to town making a one dish wonder — i know, it looks like wet pea noodles in the pic above. but after simmering, poaching (the cutlets), seasoning, and adding in the remaining jarred pesto hanging out in my refrigerator door, i actually had something that was creamy w/o the addition of dairy, hearty w/o the addition of weigh-me-down starches, and protein-tastic! i finished the whole thing off with some finely chopped cilantro i had left over from the other night, a squeeze of lime, a handful of pistachio ‘nut meats’ (they are really called that), and a pinch of kosher salt for good measure.
although my bb camera phone truly is the worst, the fruits of my hunger-induced labor may still come across in this blurry pic. so before this turns into another incarnation of my short-lived attempt at a foodish blog, i redirect this latest foray into purging back toward the nugget of an idea i introduced above, and that is the privileged role of writing in the world. much like my recent approach to making do with what’s there to accomplish the goal of preparing a meal for myself, i think of the vast array of communicative resources human beings draw on to make themselves understood in the world, to others both known and unknown. and how mis-communication can have dire consequences. this non-sensical, meandering line of thought is still tethered to the goings-on across the uk — my mind still filled with the images pouring out of various channels including bloggers holed up in their apartments, frightened and shocked tourists, reporters who continue to share the story as it unfolds even as their cameras are stripped out of their hands and their heads are bloodied, and ordinary residents anxious and eager to return to the business of the day. im purposefully not linking to the sites to which these descriptions refer because in part, what is the point? a simple search will yield these sources and much too many more. so rather than signal a hackneyed phrase and suggest that these last few days and nights are merely lemons out of which a sweet-tart beverage can be made, i am instead curious about what’s next. is the image of the tinderbox the persistent one, the correct one? are we, as a global society, so fragile that we implode and cause our own destruction? but perhaps that’s the problem: that we don’t see the world as a “we” but rather as a collection of haphazardly thrown together “theys” with whom we have little in common. we could go on like this, i suppose. but i reckon if chefs ruled the world, we’d have greater fusion and less division.
utopian? sure. fine. i accept my scarlet U. but whereas an increasing number of people, cooks and chefs chief among them, are seeking out ways to bring flavors and ideas and techniques together, there continues to exist tribal — that is to say, isolationist, separatist, segregationist — mentalities that resist the natural and organic blending that results when distinct elements come together. in my pea-and-winter-squash pasta medley, each ingredient’s character is present and alive. the herbs and spices serve to augment the unique characteristics while still allowing the elements to function as a single dish. i think we worry so much about “losing culture” and assimilation (as a result of a stance of openness toward other cultures, practices, and realities) that we inadvertently promote the very provincial and at times horrifically hateful thinking that fuels events like the unthinkable shooting in norway a few weeks ago. clinging to the familiar, regardless of consequence, is a kind of loyalty that will destroy more than it restores.
my lesson today was simple: go ahead and put the winter squash together with the pasta and a squeeze of lime. it wasn’t bad. in fact, it was even kind of good.