Monday 5 February 2007

Musing: The Pear....

On occasion, I find myself playing the 'food' version of Desert Island Discs, where, instead of eight pieces of music, you have to choose eight ingredients as a basis for subsistence during a long-term enforced stay on a desert island. It's the sort of game that normally erupts at the end of a bibulous dinner, and is inevitably played by a group of loud and enthusiastically opinionated friends. And it never finishes.

I always get bogged down in trying to be too clever - for instance, if I choose as my one allowed luxury a flock of chickens, then I'd have a supply of eggs, as well as chickens to roast, fricassee and saute, as well as bones for stock......but then, maybe I get Eggs as one of my standard replacements for Shakespeare and The Bible? In which case, I'd be wasting my luxury on chickens, and so maybe a herd of Freisians would be a better bet. Or should I just not bother being clever and have a never-ending supply of truffles, instead (but, then......white or black?). It isn't easy....

One thing which I would definitely have on my list of eight, though, would be pears. Pears, in my opinion, are unlike any other fruit, and have a rare character that makes them stand out amongst foodstuffs in general. In a way, pears have a kind of primordial quality. Nothing else we eat is quite like a pear. The taste is unmistakable and unique. The texture is unlike anything else. When you isolate and consider the characteristics of the Pear, it ends up as one of nature's fundamental building blocks. And much unsung, at that. It never receives the focus that we lavish on peaches or strawberries or asparagus or steak or champagne. But in fact, in its own subtle and quietly complicated fashion, the Pear is quite simply exquisite.

How do I use pears - if not merely biting in and letting the juice run in rivulets down my chin? The list goes on and on:

      • Pear and Chocolate Tart.
  • Poached Pears - in Vin Santo, if we're in Italy, and in Port, if we're in London.
  • Pear Clafouti.
  • Caramalised Pears with Rum, inside Crepes.
  • Pears with Muscovado Sugar, baked with Marsala.
  • Pear & Ginger Pudding (thanks Liz!)
  • Tartine Perigordine - slices of fresh Pear, with Stilton or Gorgonzola
  • Pear Sorbet, with Lime.
  • Pear Souffle, with Apricot Sauce.
  • Pear Compote, with Figs and Raspberries.
  • Tarte aux Poires, with a Cognac-flavoured Creme Patissiere.....

Maybe Richard Dawkins should append a special chapter to The Selfish Gene, giving weight to Pears as a primordial force within nature. While he ponders it, I can consider whether or not I'm having Potatoes or Salt Cod as one of my remaining eight!

Tonight's dinner:

Alsatian Onion Tart: Phyllo shells, piled with an onion and egg cream and baked. Another old Pomiane favourite. How is it that something so simple and cheap can turn into something so unctuous and luxurious?

Boeuf Bourguinon.

Fresh Raspberries and Clotted Cream. About the only soft fruit that tastes almost as good in Winter as it does at its proper time of year.....Maybe it too will make it into the eight (But then, where does that leave Aubergines...........? Or Celeriac...? It's all too complicated....!)

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