My fiancée’s ex wife has a poet for a husband. She is one herself, and reading her recently published second collection of poems engendered deep envy and admiration both, for me. Nothing to do with food, I know. Except this past Wednesday her poet husband came to dinner with my sons and my eventual step-son, and my recently proclaimed fiancée.
I cooked a really good spicy Algerian inspired vegetarian dish served with couscous: leeks, onion, cumin, saffron, baby marrow, chopped tomatoes, carrots, butternut, chickpeas, garlic, rose water, Clementine rind, chopped dates, vegetable stock, chermoula, honey…..just remembering it now I smile at the appreciative comments and the second helpings and even third they all went back for.
And I remember a moment as I listed the ingredients and method to my lover’s son who is the vegetarian, when the poet said: “I did not know that you were so obsessed with food!” and so I had to tell him about my love for cooking and feeding people and everything that goes together with that…. And almost equal to that, I told about my love for writing and reading about food(well, writing and reading in general of course)….
He promptly offered to buy me a book at a little book store he loves(he is visiting Johannesburg from out of town) “Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink” edited by David Remnick, though at the time he could not remember the exact title: just that he had seen this book on that day of browsing books, and it made an impression since he too is somewhat of a sybarite despite a rather sparse and frugal lifestyle living on a farm and growing vegetables for the table(and commuting into a town to teach the beauty and importance of words) and thought immediately that I would love it.
And so, by last night I had the book in my hands: a sturdy 582 page hardcover chunk of exceptionally good food writing. I read the title chapter written by MFK Fisher to my lover last night, in bed, out loud. Everyone who ever dreams about writing about food of course should have read her… not only her writing in this particular book, but a host of other well known people: from Anthony Bourdain to Woody Allen to Dorothy Parker no less: and others whom I had not heard about…and a delicious selection right at the end of food related short stories by luminaries such as Roald Dahl, John Cheever no less, Italo Calvino, Julian Barnes and a handful of surprising others.
I have been dipping into it, and will take it with me on my flight to Canada in a week’s time. Yes, I am going over to Toronto to meet the family of the man that I love. It is the season for him, and now for us, for a yearly almost month long visit of a mother and sisters and a brother who have been living there for more than 10 years now. I dropped him and his son at the airport tonight: I’m flying out in a week and will join them there for ten days, and then him and I, sans son, fly back via Paris for a week: my 50th year on earth gift to myself: Paris with a man I love….
A book of good food related writing: as satisfying for me as cooking I think. Not the exact sensual experience of smelling fresh bread and tasting tangy horseradish and seeing the satisfying melding of mozzarella and basil pesto and roasted pepper and zucchini and fat juicy slices of panfried big brown mushrooms for a vegetarian sandwich; and roast beef and horseradish and mustard and gherkins and schmaltz and tomatoes on rye and seed loaf for the non vegetarian option, as I wrapped sandwiches for stopover munching for my lover and his son earlier today: but mouthwateringly close!
And within the month I shall be able to blog about food in Toronto…. And then about that which every food writer still probably aspires to experience: French food in Paris..an impossible generalisation: but I shall write about at least one meal in each destination.
In the mean time I shall be reading….