Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Julia Child is Laughing At Me

I peeled my first ever tomato today, but, no, that is not why Julia Child is laughing at me. After I peeled the tomato I had to go lie down for a bit, else swoon right there at the kitchen counter.

One of the very few good things about being unemployed is I have more time to cook. My 20-odd years of vegetarian diet prior to moving to Pittsburgh three years ago consisted mostly of pasta, rice, beans, ordinary salads, and, of course, vegetables...but only a few vegetables, and always raw because I hate squishy cooked vegetables and that is usually what happened when I tried to cook them. After moving here, and cooking for, and with, someone not afraid to try different things, I started to expand my repertoire. Soy in all its many forms started appearing in meals. Salads became more than greens and a cucumber. After learning the delights of steaming and roasting vegetables, I even started eating asparagus, a vegetable I thought I hated. Vegetarian cookbooks were piling up in my kitchen and dinner became an adventure.

So, this afternoon I was preparing a new recipe, one with an odd name, Moors and Christians. It is an adaptation of a Cuban recipe and the author of the cookbook, 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes (Judith Finlayson), says the name refers to the time when Spanish and Moorish were at war. That made me think of the book I just finished reading, José Saramago's The History of the Siege of Lisbon, a delightful contemporary love story with a goodly amount of historic blood and gore spilled by Portuguese and Moors (and yes I know that Portuguese is not Spanish). So I am thinking about the book, which I really enjoyed, as I start peeling the tomato.

I really have never peeled a tomato before. Not in all my 50 years. I usually use canned tomatoes in recipes. But this one calls for one fresh tomato, peeled and seeded. I got my Wüsthof 4.5 inch utility knife (another thing about my new cooking skills...good tools!) and set to peeling. First pull of the skin, my knees buckle. The sound is what I can only imagine skin coming away from meat, human meat, would sound like. It is the sound I hear in my head when reading medieval stories of torture. Scenes in the Saramago book came to life in my head. In my hands I held a pulpy mess of red. Trying to put the images and sounds away, I quickly worked to get the rest of the tomato peeled, seeded and chopped, then put a cover over it and retired to my bed.

I'm going back to canned tomatoes. Already chopped canned tomatoes.


Milan-zzz said...

Yippee! It’s great to see you blogging again :)

Oh I remembered my first tomato peeling (gosh someone could think that’s such an important thing in life! LOL!); it was total torture until my neighbor gave me advice to do the same movement with the knife but with the blunt (is that the word?) side and only after that to start peeling with sharp side. It was SO easier! Plus I didn’t have any morbid thoughts, maybe because I didn’t read Saramago’s “Siege”? but I think it’s more because I didn’t have to imagine such things; what we do at faculty at Department of Pathology is not so different.

Did you know that “Moors and Christians” is one very famous fiesta in Spain, in Alicante? Unfortunately I wasn’t there but we were talking about in on the class and also watched the movie about it. It’s very interesting, with costumes and simulating battle, etc.

And who is winning in your recipe?
(forgive my ignorance, but who is Julia Child and why she laughed after all? I guess I’m not catching something :blush:)

Zmrzlina said...

Hi Milan! Yeah.... I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. It's hard.... I'm still unemployed, but I am trying to come up with alternative ideas to traditional employment. I'll blog about one later...

Julia Child was one of the pioneering television chefs. She cooked the French style and was quite a character. Lots and lots of wine in her cooking. She had an unusual voice, too. Great lady, though her cooking style is not something I try for since it is a bit too fancy and too fatty for me. Julia would be laughing at me because feeling faint at peeling at tomato would just be so ridiculous to her, a very robust carnivore.

There's a fun little food narrative featuring Julia Child called "Julie and Julia." It is written by a young woman (Julie) who decided to cook all of Julia's recipes, from start to finish, even though Julie was a novice cook.

The Moors and Christians recipe was only so-so. I am going to find a more flavorful version of this recipe. I think I want the Moorish flavor to stand out more :-)