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Friday, March 2, 2012

Merging the Life of Cooking and Writing: Sense of Place: Part Two

Read Part One. The World With-Out


Readers, Merci, for visiting and as an explanation of the what-is-this-post-type, I hope it will suffice to say that on the Planting Cabbages blog, I hope to convey the bones about the two very different places I live. And you too, if you are a writer or other creative world maker - you surely recognize the terrain. One world, the world with-in, is where you create your art and the other is where you walk and talk in a linear world, perhaps on the way to a 9-5 job, and where you make your life in the outside world.

I want to learn what it is like in your creative world. What is your number one struggle? What day, oh horrible day, did you almost give up? How do you share and encourage yourself and others to go on?


This time of year – February thru early June the writing path, the World With-In at Planting Cabbages is also very busy.


For the world with-in is where the writer in me longs for quiet. The writer in me is pensive and boiling. Secretive and sly. In the language of food she works best and never tires as a garde manger or "the cold kitchen." This garde manger land is the hand-numbing corner of the french kitchen where beautiful tastes are dreamed up from scavenged bits and morsels too small to interest the poissonier (the fish and seafood chef) and the rotisseur (the chef who manages a team that roasts, broils, and deep frys) And just like the intensity of the "hot line", the garde manger takes pleasure in her work, in rendering what were once only visions and temptations into compositions solid and satisfying. And she does this, more or less, alone. 

How will, how can she imagine that this terrine she’s building will hold together? 
But she remembers the veal shanks, sawed apart to reveal the marrow - and she knows with a surety within her bones that the aspic will work this time; it will be clear enough to read the fortune lent by tarragon leaves. The other kitchen workers pause briefly at her wood table; they want to understand but then they see her myriad ingredients, they shake their heads, muttering crazy fool and quickly slide off to the rotisseur station, where they know they will get a nice hunk of roasted veal. 

She looks up, has someone just been by to see her? But she quickly returns to her craft; the intensely layered terrines and rolled and stuffed galantines and ballotines delighted  to be full to the brim with treasures she's gathered from the rest of the kitchen.

And to be sure while the rest of the kitchen is busy, so is she. It's lunch service and the orders roll in, like waves ~ announced by the aboyer, the expediter. When the grillardin chef lays lengths of flaccid pork over the hot coals, she takes his long boning knife and quickly trims bits of veal (certainly it was no more than that!) from the tied roasts ready for the flames and scurries on. Around the corner, at the poissonier station she steals glistening roe edged scallops and slides spines of carp and flounder in a pot to extract a few drops of precious jus. In the frigid holds of the boucherie the scent of blood even sounds metallic. She holds her nose long enough to snatch pig innards that she will set in jelly and sharpen with sherry vinegar.  She slides along a row of stacked boxes spilling onions and carrots, and rounds the last corner, back to her cold kitchen. After a moment and an oeufs mayonnaise to keep her going, she pounds the pink flesh of veal, blankets it in rolls of thick and forgotten bacon, the flavor crisped with piment d'espelette pepper.

The beautiful place where these two worlds meet is the garden. 


The potager, the soup cook, heads out the door to the trellised plots for parsley. Looking up to the mumbling grey sky, he twists off the new leaves. A tomato-stained side towel drops from his apron where the tiny seeds have been planted. The ground is warm,  today. I taste the bright green tops of radishes and turnips. Moist deep beds will bear golden beets, Swiss chard, and Jericho lettuce. If it doesn't snow. Spring onions with your blue green fronds, so brave in spring, come with me.

Refreshed by the garden I can again return to the world with-in to finish the terrines, the stories. 


The writer in me keeps a watchful eye going always, and perches over the roasting pan; where a fat pork belly sizzles with spring onions. I tumble in the pilfered but cleaned and diced turnips, the "too big" carrots, discarded shallots and green garlic pulled from the ground at dawn, before the gardener was even awake. These will render and enrich, encourage a reflection on the plate. An appetite sustained. 

The writer in me knows that the carrots are spent and the bouquet garni won’t make it to the table. 


You might not see them, but I hope you will taste them, and the long hours spent on the slice of terrine with jewel bright asparagus and delicate scallops edged in smoked paprika, will be felt. And you may not recognize or know it immediately, but when you rest, the pate de compagne with its green garlic confit, will visit you again in your dreams.


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