Monday 13 August 2007

And furthermore.......

The 'what IS cooking?' debate carried on over dinner last night, and we teased out a few more strands of an idea - in part following on from Joanna's comment that food should be properly cooked, and consumed sitting down, around a table. There's definitely a social aspect underlying the idea of cooking - it's something that you do for your group. Which perhaps goes someway to explain the sense that non-cooking is somehow mean - perhaps it denotes a smallness of spirit, or an ungenerous mind?

The Technical Department then started off on a tangent all about families that 'graze' from the fridge rather than sit down together to eat as a group - and as it threatened to turn into a 'the problem with people today is'.....rant, it seemed better to move on. Before we did so, though, we definitely concluded that the 'food as job' exponents should be removed from the debate, as they 're really in a different category, and only muddy the waters. I'm talking about the Ramsays and Delias , here - essentially, I think of these as technicians, in whose recipes you never come across references to childhood food memories, and things learnt at their mother's knee, as you do for example with Raymond Blanc or the inestimable Mr Loubet. No, I haven't explained that one properly.....just because a person wasn't brought up around cooking doesn't mean they can't develop the sense of it for themselves later in life. This is definitely an idea that needs more thought.........

We're off up to Brancoli this afternoon, for a couple of days' R+R. Since it seemed a good idea to replenish our stocks of Brancoli wine at the same time, in preparation for the next grappa distillation, we cleaned out the requisite carbuoys in order to do so - and found amongst the dregs in the bottom of one of them a Vinegar Mother. Not a thing of beauty, but quite a practical discovery. Having decanted it into an appropriate bottle, all we now have to do is to add the remains from future unfinished bottles of wine, and it will beaver away and provide us with splendid vinegar ad infinitum, in the months and years to come. Hmmm. I knew there had to be a drawback. 'Future unfinished bottles of wine.....'? In this house...?!?

Tonight's Dinner:

I am reliably informed, will be courtesy of La Mora Restaurant.


Joanna said...

Do you think - as my family evidently does - that this is an age thing? A grumpy old person thing? I was hugely encouraged that your discussion came close to a rant, as I was definitely guilty of that in ours. And I very much like your idea that those who cook are veering away from smallness of spirit and ungenerosity of mind (well I would, wouldn't I?) ... although it's not quite what you wrote!

Changing the subject, could you explain about the vinegar mother, as that sounds like a good project (except for the same problem as yours ...)


The Passionate Palate said...

I just ran across this paragraph in a Slow Food Los Angeles email and thought I throw it into the mix of this discussion as it seems apropos:
"If Brillat Savarin's assertion that "the destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed" is correct, then America is in a state of crisis. We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet we are also one of the unhealthiest. Our current approach to food, while steeped in a system with the potential to eliminate hunger in the world, has reduced the quality and diversity of legacy American foods, moved us away from the positive conviviality of the table, and distanced Americans from the source of their food to the detrimental effect of food, farmers, producers, the environment, animals, and humans."

I will also add, that it is very possible to cook for oneself with as much love as one would cook for a group. And, dining alone can be a wonderful experience when one really DINES. Of course, I agree with you and Joanna that the conviviality of a group over food is one of the best feelings in the world.

Pomiane said...

PP: I agree that cooking doesn't have to be for other people - on one level, isn't it the height of glorious self-indulgence to cook something you particularly like, open a decent bottle of wine, and sit down to enjoy it in the exclusive company of a good book.....? - I can't say I've done it very often, but I wouldn't knock it. At the same time, I wonder if one would maintain the same attitude towards cooking if it was always and only ever a solitary pleasure?

Joanna: An age thing? Um.....I'm tempted to give out a cautious and grudging 'maybe' on that one...but then pull myself up and remind myself that , No - it's all a matter of standards! Perhaps, for the most part, one only comes to cooking with age, and so there's a false association in your 'grumpy old person' idea.....

I think you only get vinegar mothers in untreated wine - although I believe you can also buy them commercially. So, I guess you either need to sidle up to a wine-maker, or go the mail-order route. The process is as simple as feeding the mother with more wine, and leaving some exposure to air so that the volatiles can disperse in the process of vinegar production. Not sure how long it takes - the Technical Department has taken it on board as a 'technical' project.

Joanna said...

Thanks for the note about the vinegar mother.

What I meant (and I'm also struggling to work out exactly what I think about all of this) is that my children think I'm ridiculous for saying you shouldn't eat in the street, you shouldn't watch TV whilst eating, we should all sit down together to eat whenever possible, there should be no grazing from the fridge. None of it seems reasonable to them - why not eat in the street if you're hungry and in a hurry? why not watch your favourite programme while eating if you're on your own or with someone else who'd like to watch it? why not just get something out of the fridge if you're hungry? And I find it hard to answer, so I really do have to sort out what I think so that I CAN answer. Otherwise it really does become an age thing, and I just seem like a grumpy old fool.

Very interesting ideas from PP