I took some flack from readers and friends for missing the “Modernist Cuisine” event the other night. And of course, they were right. I should have gone (see the video at the end of this post).
But family life can at times be a bit overwhelming. I didn’t have the energy to go, and there was nothing I could do about that. I have a theory about parenting that I developed from my elementary-school understanding of photosynthesis.
Just as we breathe out carbon that the trees turn into branches and leaves, so do our children absorb our energy and grow. I swear I can see my daughters gaining in height as I exhale each day. I know, it’s a bit crazy, but it is how I feel. Of course, just as the trees give us back the oxygen we need to live, children return to us love that we didn’t know we had.
I may have missed out on seeing Nathan Myhrvold in action, but I did get to read John Lanchester’s review of the book in The New Yorker. I found his take on it very interesting, for a number of reasons, but the one that mattered last night involved a point he made about comfort food.
… the acquisition of tastes is a kind of dance between the person at the stove and the person at the table. The dance between the cook and the eater goes on longest at home, which is why we grow up loving a food from our first and most sustained encounter with it: nothing will ever beat your mom’s chicken, or meat loaf, or whatever it was. No food can ever mean as much to you as that food once did. That is why most of all the cooking in the world is comfort food. It is food designed to remind us of familiar things, to connect us with our personal histories and our communities and our families.
Last night Santa Maria was out of town on a business trip, and I was feeling a bit melancholy. Putting the girls to bed and enjoying all their fantastic affection was a bit of a balm, but I was in need of something else.
The house was very quiet and I was hungry. I needed to make myself dinner. I poked about a bit in the kitchen, to see what was on hand. I had a hard time making up my mind, but I soothed myself with the sound of the refrigerator door opening and closing. Eventually, I decided to a sauté a chicken breast, make a bit of fried rice with some leftovers, and steam some cauliflower and smother it with cheese.
The cauliflower was what made me happy. When I was a child, I loved eating it with melted cheddar. These days, I’m more apt to roast it (because it is delicious that way, and, more importantly, that’s the way Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria go for it). But because I was on my own last night, I could step back in time.
Steamed Cauliflower with Melted Cheddar
- Slices of cheddar
Rinse and cut the head of cauliflower into small florets.
Put a little less than an inch of water in a pot, cover it, and bring it to a boil.
Drop the florets in and put the cover back on.
Steam for about five minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender, yet still firm.
Drain the cauliflower and place in a small bowl.
Drape the cheese slices over the top of the vegetable, and then cover the bowl with a plate.
The heat from the cauliflower will melt the cheese by the time you have assembled any other ingredients for your meal.
Here's an interview with Myhrvold and a taste of the action from the "Modernist Cuisine" event:
View more videos at: http://www.thefeast.com.