Tag Archives: cooking

Gehenna on Earth

Exceptionally endowed with those qualities which make for great gastronomic achievement she had, under the direction of the king of gourmets, the lord of perfect eating, lavished upon them the rarest of sensations, the most thrilling experiences; she exalted them, blissful souls, to the highest peaks of cloudless joy (17).
– Marcel Rouff, The Passionate Epicure

The nature of a perfect doughnut is one whose center of satiation is everywhere, its circumference nowhere,

The nature of a perfect doughnut is one whose center of satiation is everywhere, its circumference nowhere,

Who is this “lord of perfect eating” ? the fantastic, if fanatic,  M. Dodin-Bouffant whose brilliant chef, has suddenly died, much to his distress. He is thrown, at the start of the novel, into a search for a replacement, to restore meaning to his life.

We have learned by bitter experience that there is no crisis, no illness, even no death that can equal in suffering and horror the weeks imposed upon us by those sawbones, those abominable “cures” which leave you weak, sick, and breathless. Whatever may lie in store for us, we are henceforth fully enlightened upon the worthless deceit of diets (159).

Okay, so perhaps an out-of-print book (Actually, Ruth Reichl did reissue it as part of the Delectable Modern Library Food Series, so the novel based very loosely on Anthelme Brillat-Savarin had a second life) on the reverence of French cookery is solely my kind of summer reading, but, well, it meets the requirements – fun and delightful. Not  unlike a doughnut made to near perfection (not difficult, but you’d never know that by the travesty of doughnut shops not worth my breath…oh but my latest batch!…when I presented my creation to my daughter, well – we nearly wept with joy – they were sublime, ahhh cloudless joys!…but I digress…happily, but still). M. Dodin-Bouffant’s search, discovery, and philosophy is, in my opinion,  the very stuff of sumptuous summer nights.

When confronted with a choice between a luscious young female candidate, to replace the late Eugenie Chatagne, but who is, tragically, of uninspiring ability compared to another candidate, the  luscious chef, Adèle, who is, regrettably, of uninspiring physicality. A moment of weakness overcomes the hero– but just a moment:

To possess this girl was to sign an irrevocable contract, it was the abandonment of his reputation to the unschooled hands and uninspired soul of an apprentice incapable, alas, of any improvement. 

A man of priorities, indeed! I came across this book amongst the rare book collection of one of my workplaces and was taken in by Lawrence Durrell who wrote the forward. At once frivolous and excessive, it is also beautiful in its purity and fidelity to the importance of reaching for greatness within one of the pleasures afforded us humans – cuisine.

Adèle Pidou could not restrain herself; she began, for no reason at all save the pleasure of touching them, to seize the handles of frying-pans and skillets, of copper saucepans, to stroke the rounded flanks of the earthenware pots, to feel the bottles of spices, the boxes of ingredients, to open them, sniff them, examine the stove, inspect the spits and the fish-kettles. Dobin, throbbing with hope, allowed her to pleasure herself (78).

Needless to say, she gets the job. What’s more, when a more lucrative one tempts her away, Dodin immediately and hilariously propose marriage. Ah, love!

The joys of the senses are well represented in the visuals of art, the sound of music, the touch of physical love, but the smell and taste of culinary pleasures are sadly relegated to a lower, greedy order. Certainly, as Dodin discovers, moderation is necessary, gout hurts! still, it is my firm belief that while less is more, the less need never be compromised. Compromise is truly the only Gehenna on earth.

Cuisine is still victim of low and deplorable prejudice. Its most noble geniuses have not yet conquered their rights to sit between Raphael and Beethoven, and before some modest learning could be recognized in this humble collection of stories, we should have to write a fat book to maintain in theses, antithesis, and synthesis the view that the gastronomic art, like all other arts, comprise a philosophy, a psychology and an ethic, that it is an integral part of universal thought, that it is bound to the civilization of our earth, to the cultivation of our taste, and thereby to the superior essence of humanity (161).

* title inspired from pg 155: The afternoon seemed delicious to the epicure emerging from his Germanic Gehenna. – In other words – Dunkin Donuts.

 

 

 

Gallery

Sicula

This gallery contains 10 photos.

My daughter, Victoria Accardi, had the opening for her show, Sicula: A Cultural Retrospective Through Portraiture this past weekend. The series of portraits explore her upbringing in the American-Sicilian culture of her father, (Sicula is an Italian word that denotes a quality … Continue reading

Portrait of a Baker

IMG_0425 Break up the butter in the bowl

once more, a diversion, a

delusion, a hopeless ardor.

Fast fingers work cool

to keep down the warmth

that’s there with its longing

and existential angst.

But a moment

slips

and the quick hands skip,

throwing all the effort on a

wasted hip.

An insatiable desire,

for the sweet yes

one aspires.

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The fruit clings to their stone,

IMG_0434like a love with no home.

Press the dough flat

keep the bits to yourself,

and with sugar, so nice, all

arranged and devised, hell,  you just

might  belie that what won’t be

denied.IMG_0442

The Unbaked

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rhubarb and almond paste crust tart

chartreuse at your heart
peeled away, cut up and bruised
there is a bitter taste
undone
what you left in my mouth

Working A Short Story

‘Does your grief sleep or not?’
‘Grief does not sleep,’ I replied.

– Nikolay Leskov, The Make-Up Artist, A Story on a Grave (162)

IMG_0046The Penguin Book of Russian Short Stories, is a collection of twenty short stories by different Russian writers. I began reading, as usual- at one of my jobs, with Pushkin’s The Shot which was about a steady and patient revenge. In between drying dishes and filling out forms, I read the quick tale. Unlike Eugene Onegin, this story is, sadly, not in rhyming verse, never the less it has a charmingly perplexed narrator doing his best to understand a puzzle of a man. When I was finished, it was time to deal with the commode, it’s the sort of task that is undignified all around- do not consider, just do. I think it’s best that way.

‘I don’t want to know! Do you think I’m going to let a sawn-off nose lie around in my room…you fathead!’ – Nikolay Gogol, The Nose (29)

While ironing in the basement I giggle at the weird Gogol and his ridiculous tale of a nose gone wild. No matter how hard I look before, I always find the odd stowed tissue in the shirt sleeves or pockets of the laundered clothes. Usually it comes out in flaky dried up bits I have to crawl around the floor collecting, but this day, the tissues separated into perfectly flat sheets pasted on the clothing. I had to spend some considerable time peeling them off my client’s fluffy bathrobe, too bad poor Kovalyov didn’t consider static cling as an adhesive for his wayward nose.

Later in the day I wandered the yard in search of suitable flowers to cut for the guestroom, I had only just finished Bezhin Lea, a truly beautiful tale by Ivan Turgenev:

I was at once surrounded by an unpleasant, motionless damp, just as if I had entered a cellar. (73)

A sleeping man privy to the fairy tales and superstitions of a group of boys chatting deep into the night. The writing was so beautiful- the story is just lovely good. His power of description and sentiment is wonderful. A short story is such a marvel- precision and economy are vital,  a phrase such as “motionless damp,”  is arresting in its original yet flawless description- it’s quite perfect.

My pride increased over the years and if I had ever actually come to the point of admitting to someone that I was strange I think I should have gone straight home that very evening and put a bullet through my brains. – Dostoevsky, A Strange Man’s Dream (99)

I probably don’t need to cite Dostoevsky with that excerpt. Gotta love him- There are more than commodes not to consider. Too true, my dear.

‘”You’re a foolish girl,” she said, “who does want to at first! Why, life is bitter, but grief’s poison is even more so. But if you quench the burning coal with this poison it will die down for a moment. Take a sip, quickly, take it!”  – The Make-Up Artist (168)

Some days there isn’t enough silver to polish or toaster ovens to clean to quench the burning coal. Based on a story that he heard as a child, The Make-Up Artist is absolutely devastating. Naturally, I loved it. Heartache is the sort of condition that, while turning one’s heart into stone, remains an eternal burning coal. There is nothing to do, nothing with which to douse, no deceptions of perspective that smolder.

The pansies need to be dead-headed. I’ll contemplate my plan for dinner, maybe Tilapia in a white wine sauce with sauteed zucchini, my client loves that.  There will be another story tomorrow.

The Shot, Alexander Pushkin translated by David Richards
The Nose, Nikolay Gogol translated by Ronald Wilks
Bezhin Lea, Ivan Turgenov translated by Richard Freeborn
A Starnge Man’s Dream, Fydor Dostoevsky translated by Malcolm Jones
The Make-Up Artist, Nikolay Leskow translated by William Leatherbarrow

Fallen Scout

photo
Why would one make a Girl Scout Samoa?
A group I was thrown out of, maybe I told ya?
Reprobate at heart
They were clued-in from the start
By my resistance to green polyester
And a preference to shy self-sequester.

Badge one for the cookie was easily had,
Badge two melting caramel wasn’t so bad,
Toast your coconut nicely for badge number three
Burn your fingers on chocolate if you do it like me.
Put it all together for badge number four,
Then share them with friends who wish you’d made more.

Why would one make a Girl Scout Samoa?
The leader of my troop could not have been colder.
So the badges I have were hand-made on my own,
Needle and thread to my heart they were sown.
But now that I am decidedly older,
I thank you sashed lady green soldiers:
Abandonment, it would seem, makes self-sufficiency bolder.

JA/2013 Photos of cookies taken by Donna Golden, cookies made by us both. With love.

Aperture

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Lost in a noun signifying nothing
cut from the center representing something
the one identifying everything
of all that is expressing anything
is this: the hole that was given to me.

Cruller and Cruller

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Scald my heart, breath so tight,
the trick’s in keeping the heat just right.
Permeate from bottoms to cheeks,
in the oil we’re immersed-
I am  luscious, annular, crispy sweet.
But the peril of saturation
is a danger not oblique-
why must I drown in this pot of an
absorption incomplete?

I’ve never yet made it right,
just a simple fool for pure delights.
Bitter greasy memories that stay
hellish, cold and crueler every day,
So I try my might and scald my heart;
I’m told the trick’s in keeping far apart.

JA/2013

Prolixity, Thy Name is S.A.T.

DSCI0018
Evanesce the pain,
of sitting at the skimpy school desk
gently holding my brain.
Trying to repair the wreck
I wrought; maybe staking a claim.

All the hard looks that say-
you don’t belong here,
are nothing new today.
Never mind the end’s not near,
over the Rubicon I’ll stay.

Another hurdle’s shown,
despite all of my loves,
(someday I’ll have it honed)
it’s the same as it ever was-
I just go it alone.

JA/2013

*Post-SAT fare. Kids, my fellow test takers – don’t try this at home: Spanish Cava and Punitions (a French butter cookie).

Siren’s Call


The sweet song of seduction,
caught up in the curling scent.
Listen.
Bright crooning aroma;
down beat falling in
a rhythmic amour –
come to me come to me
come to me.
I’m yours.

Cranberry scones
*close up taken by Augie.