What dish would you be on this menu? the woman at a table next to us asked her waitress. I wasn't listening in, but I heard that question and perked up. The waitress took a second but responded confidently- the house-made cavatelli: ricotta dumplings with chicken sausage, wilted greens and sage.
I loved the question and proceeded to think about what dish I would be. Not on that menu, but in life. Beef Bourguignon, the Thomas Keller version I concluded- a recipe that takes no less than a day and a half to make, not including the stock. It is simple but technical, bright but basic, complex but fresh, traditional, but deep. It is sufficiently pretentious in its preparation but at its core just a hearty comforting dish.. I make it, eat it, and identify with it.
Now, here is how my mind works... If I am a dish, this dish, then I interact and match with compatible dishes. Which are, what? And are those around me easily identifiable with those dishes? And what if they are not? Are we doomed? Will those relationships not work for the same reason that beef bourguignon doesn't work with kimche? Some answers came out of this string of questions.
First, this blog is about analogies- food analogies in particular. I have struggled to put my finger on what I am trying to say sometimes but I think I nailed it. In my universe, everything in life has a food analogy. It simply works that way. The stories and recipes blend together like a dish does- sometimes better than others, always trying to achieve the right balance of flavor, texture, and quantity.
As for the dish, I am not just Beef Bourguignon. No, no one is just one dish. If we were, relationships would never work. I love beef bouguignon but feeding it to my husband for the last ten years? And planning to continue the regimen as long as we both shall live? That sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.
I often made excuses for people leaving their partners based on chocolate. The rationale was: you can have the finest truffles from La Maison du Chocolat but every now and then you'll just crave a snickers bar. Are you following? That was my error and I stand corrected. I am not just one dish, or one chocolate. Hopefully no one is just one dish.
And if I were a dish today, I'd be this one!
Snap Pea and Fennel Salad
Ingredients: 1/2 pound snap peas; 1 medium fennel bulb; 1 medium shallot; 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the snap peas. Cut them lengthwise into thin strips, almost thinner than match stix.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to the water enough to make it taste like the ocean. Put the snap peas into a strainer and dip the strainer into the boiling water, keeping them contained to the strainer. Boil for about a minute and transfer into an ice bath. Strain and place in a bowl.
Shave the fennel thin on the mandolin [watch your fingers!]. Mince the shallot. Mix the fennel and shallots into the bowl holding the snap peas. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and add the olive oil. Mix it together and serve.
It should be bright, crunchy, fresh, and surprising- exactly how I feel now!
Photography by Jennifer Olson.