Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Love Affairs

There are some dishes that I can never tire of. That I can eat again and again and each time feel so satisfied. At least for a month or so.

You see, my love affairs with foods come in spurts; larger than being on a kick, where one cant get enough chips and salsa or eats the same pasta five nights in a row. No, when I discover a new food love, it lasts awhile.

Such love affairs start out rampageous--I must have it, night after night, thinking about dinner at breakfast, waiting eagerly, and drawing such pleasure from the very thought until lost in the smells, the taste, the feel of it. Nothing else matters, nothing feels as good as that first bite, and i melt into the meal. Slowly though, reality sets in: there are other foods out there, different flavours and recipes to try, but I still want it. So I wean myself of it, eating it once a week instead (though that simply means, at first, that I spend seven days pining for it, rather than twelve hours each day), until it begins to matter less, or seems too routine for passion and fades awade without my noticing, really. Or, I move.

Thinking of this addiction dispersal of mine, I realize it is very much connected to where I am living, and as I have moved quite frequently in the last four years (until now, I have not lived in the same city for longer than eight months), my dinner addictions have also changed.

The first I can pinpoint is from Lethbridge, AB. I was there for University, learning to be a teacher, majoring in English. What I really learned however, was how much I loved English and literature, and how much I really never wanted to be a teacher. More importantly, I learned how much of a refuge I found in cooking. Each night I would pack up my books from the library at around 6:00pm so that I would make it home with a chance to unload my body weight in books and essays to turn on The Ellen Degeneres show, dance with that hilarious woman and then begin cooking dinner. This was hown I would unwind before beginning to read again for the night, and would most often do so to a stew from a recipe book my aunt and uncle favoured while I lived with them in Vernon, BC. It was a vegetable dish chock full of eggplant, sweet and red potatos, tomatos and herbs. I loved it, and it felt healthy after sitting all day with highlighting textbook pages and walks to the washroom my only exercise. But then, back in Vernon with the same aunt and uncle, I decided not to return to school, or eggplant stew.

At that time I worked at an Italian restaurant, first serving then moving into the kitchen for my first official online job. Staff meal then meant Sambuca mussells...I am allergic to mussells. This was short lived.

Enter Halifax and another Italian restaurant job. Enter Linguini Romesco with Prawns. Spicy, nutty, tomatoey, plus seafood and was perfect. I made a fresh pesto every night for a long while, sometimes during the day if I would be working the dinner shift, tweaking and perfecting my recipe, though never (regrettedly) writing down the perfect combination. Then, as the produce of spring and summer rolled in, I devoted every monday to romesco (to beat the monday blues of course) for four months straight. But I discovered more than an amazing pasta sauce in Halifax: I did not want to go to Dalhousie University there for Journalism as I had inteneded in the move, I wanted to cook; after all, I had not written a single thing since landing, but had I ever cooked alot.

Back to Vernon and to pasta with zuchinni and basil, or zuchinni and truffle oil, or zuchinni in an omelette with thyme and goat cheese, or just zuchinni, with mint and garlic. Partly it was to deal with the overwhelming bounty of summer squash coming from my a&u s garden (some the size of my thigh), partly because it was quick, versatile, and fresh.

And now I have found another way to prepare it. I am on my own now, in my own little place, and a garden of my own with, unsurprisingly, far too much zuchinni. I deal with it now however, alla puttanesca. Whores pasta, as they call it in Italy, and how fitting with the fleeting affairs I have with meals. I first tried this in the (detailingly discussed) trip to Vancouver with Jeanine, and it blew me away. Being a salt fiend, I loved the chunks of olives, the bite of capers and the robust anchovies. Adding zuchinni to my new go-to pasta gives me vitamins and an excuse to use more sauce. I have also tried it with tuna instead of anchovies, as suggested my an obvious foodie at the table next to Jeanine and I in the restaurant, with the addition of mint or basil to the usual parsley, on top of steamed cauliflower with plenty of bread to sop up salty juices, and again in linguine with eggplant instead of zuchinni. And although I am only on a once or twice a week puttanesco dosage--there are other veg in my garden, not to mention far to many at the farmers market, after all--I still cannot get enough of it. Next, thinned with white wine and poured over arctic char and sprouting brocolli--I will let you know how it goes. For now, give the standard a shot; I hope you fall madly in love.

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