by Kate Heyhoe
Much as I love seeing the snow caked on the tall pines and the animal tracks printed deeply in the white powder, there are some winter days that can be downright dreary. On occasion up here in the mountains, the fog gets so thick you can barely see ten feet and the effect is much like being cocooned in a misty pod. It is during these times that my cookbook collection comes to the rescue.
Cookbooks are like story books. They can take you to places you've never been, introduce you to the peoples and faces of faraway lands, and bring the warmth of the spice islands into your own kitchen. Taste the flavors and dream. Look at the pictures and see yourself in them, fork and knife in hand. Read the recipes and savor the melding of foreign ingredients. Whether you cook from them or just dream from them, these books are like magic carpets, able to whisk your spirit off to a distant place. Inhale and you can almost smell the aromas now.
Recently, I received some of these magical books which are especially well-suited to obscuring the realities of a dreary winter day. We invite you to join us as we leave the mountain, snow and fog behind and don cotton t-shirts, hoist our back packs and travel the globe on an inspiring culinary journey.
Right now, it is summer in Australia. Think of it: a table for two at the beach, white walls and white table cloths crisply bouncing back the sun, which you tame with the dark lenses of your reflecting sunglasses...Join me in a Barossa Valley Shiraz. We can watch the Pavilion's main attraction: the moving picture of the waves hitting the hot sand of Sydney's Balmoral Beach. The salty spray splashes like glitter in the wind. This morning we were treated to the perfect breakfast: Sweet Baked Ricotta with Glazed Peaches, accompanied by big cups of cafe latte. Very comforting. Did you know this? The Bathers Pavilion is a renovated memory of 1928, when it first opened as a changing shed for sea frolickers. Today, the charm of its age has earned it designation as an historic monument, but the foods it serves are totally contemporary—skillfully melding the influences of Asia, the Mediterranean and its own chef's character. Taste some of this, the Chilli Salt Squid...yes, it is amazing what you can do with fresh ingredients. And so colorful, too. Tonight, when the evening grows cooler, we shall try the Spicy Beef Salad, or maybe the Crab, Tomato and Lemon Grass Broth—both encompass the bright, vivid flavors of Southeast Asia. Why is it that food always tastes better outdoors?
Hear it? The Coqui serenades the emerging darkness. The Puerto Rican tree frog sings ko-kee! ko-kee! ko-kee! to a backdrop of red and yellow sunsets...soon the salsa beat drowns out its call. Let's dance a bit... There, now we have an appetite. Mi casa es su casa, so please, have some Spicy Taino Chicken. Smell the cumin, the saffron, the paprika and oregano? Tomorrow we visit la mamacita's for everybody's favorite: red beans and rice—but these are even happier, they are Red Beans Stewed in Wine Sauce! What do you say we get up early and stop at the beach? I want to buy some fresh pulpo, octopus, from the nets for an Octopus Salad. You can see the flaming red blossoms of the flamboyan tree along the way. I hear you come from a cold place. I have a Sancocho, a Puerto Rican Beef Stew full of good foods to warm your home and your heart—plantains, chayote, corn, butternut squash, big chunks of beef and lots of garlic and ginger. You see, we are a nation of many influences, and you can taste them in our foods, and hear them in our music. Come and join us then! Buen provecho!
It is not unusual to find a chef that paints or a painter that cooks. Both create with the same passionate spirit, and each is easily inspired by the other. Let's go to a museum today. Not just any museum, but the National Gallery. What a collection of Western masters it has! No wonder the great chefs of our time have responded to these classic works with menus and recipes equally as inspiring. Look over here: Julia Child has created a picnic menu for Toulouse-Lautrec's Partie de campagne, featuring a refreshing Celery Remoulade. Down the hall we meet other kindred souls of the same era, Vincent Van Gogh and Auguste Renoir. For them, Alice Waters prepares La Bouillabaisse Chez Panisse, with a Provencal rouille as lively as the gray-green strokes in Van Gogh's The Olive Orchard. Now, let's climb the stairs to the contemporary wing. Dessert provided by Wayne Thiebaud's Cakes, with a special creation by Nancy Silverton of a Devil's Food Cake with White Mountain Frosting. How festive these artists and chefs are—as if they speak the same language, across space and time. Paula Wolfert celebrates Matisse, Jeremiah Tower toasts to Pierre Bonnard, and Marion Cunningham co-hosts an Afternoon Tea Party with Mary Cassatt. Prepare your palate and your palette—it is time to feast the spirit! Winter doldrums begone!
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007
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