When I was a little girl, I was always the last one sitting at the dinner table. I was, and still am an extremely slow eater. The fact that I was the last one sitting still remains true today. I love food, especially really tasty, home cooked food. I am not a person who eats to live, but rather the alternative. I know there are other things and people I live for, but eating is one that ranks near the top of my list. Thankfully, I have a pretty good metabolism.
I have written in a previous story about how enthralled I was with the knack my father had for making food look so good. He ate with gusto and thoroughly enjoyed his food, but he ate much too fast for me. I like to take my time assembling the perfect bite. The proportions of starch to vegetables to protein must be balanced in order to achieve this. And this takes time and years of practice. I'm sure there are some people reading this who must be thinking that I am too much of a perfectionist or totally daft. I am most likely a little of both. Neither of these titles bother me. Actually, if you think about it, the perfect bite could be considered an art form, although I may be stretching the limits just a little bit.
In the movie, “ The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Barbara Streisand's character always assembles the perfect bite. She looks at it lovingly before ingesting it. Her mother, Lauren Bacall, gazes upon her in bewilderment, but her boyfriend, Jeff Bridges, is mesmerized by her actions. I completely identified. Until I watched this movie I thought I was alone in this seemingly, illogical act.
Believe it or not I think about food a lot. I even dream about it, and first thing in the morning I am already thinking about what recipe I will conjure up to please and astound my family and friends at the table. At 7:00 am. I will ask Daniel, “So, what do you want for dinner tonight?” I am usually met with a sleepy eyed blank stare. Not being the dunce you thought I was, I take the clue. “Never mind,” I say. “I'll figure it out.”
Have you ever known a person who can't stand to have different foods on their plate touching each other? I had a friend who would eat each food independently, and God forbid if they touched each other. I was completely perplexed by what I considered control freak eating. I can only imagine what he must have been like in bed. But like they say, “Different strokes.” He most likely thought I was weird also, so that moves the playing fields a little closer. But really can you name one person who isn't a little or a lot weird? I didn't think so.
As I write about this subject in relation to food, I realize that there are all sorts of “perfect bites” to be savored on a daily basis.
A friend of mine had just had a facial, her hair in disarray, no makeup, and she was walking to her car to get home as fast as she could before anyone could see her. As she was walking, she heard a voice from somewhere across the parking lot, “Hey you!” She searched out where this voice was coming from, and if it was meant for her. Sure enough the voice belonged to a man who said, “Ya you. I'm talking to you, and I think you are absolutely beautiful!” Now for all we know this man could have been any one of the number of things we're thinking. But, his comment was the perfect bite that made her day.
My husband, Daniel, wanted me to insert that the perfect bite for him, (besides the food I serve him), is a day of blue powder skiing. Actually, I'm sure that this ranks higher for him than eating. He says, “Imagine a vast field of pure white sparkling snow, that you know is knee deep—or that you will sink to your knees at least that far—as if you are floating through a cloud. It is as I would imagine a magic carpet ride, except that you have complete control over the rhythm and direction you take. White clouds of light powder snow will be flying up behind and sometimes beside you, your body is pumping blood, oxygen, and adrenalin, the field before you goes on for half a mile at a steep pitch, with plateaus like a roller coaster. That is also my description of heaven. This in fact, is why I moved to Utah from New York in 1974, where such snow exists.”
Sometimes all it takes is go for a walk out in nature or simply sit and ponder in order to appreciate all the perfect bites that life has to offer. And sometimes, due to dire circumstances this becomes increasingly difficult to do. I have had my share of moments such as these. It is at these times my drug of choice is carbohydrates, aka, comfort food. A bowl of rosemary polenta, mashed potatoes, or anything with pasta, usually offer a temporary fix while I watch what else, but “The Food Network.”
On another note, the perfect bite for some may not be what it is for others. This summer I received numerous mosquito bites and two bee stings. Maybe perfect for them, not so much for me.
© Christine Geery 2012
Not to disappoint anyone, this post wouldn't be complete without a recipe. This may sound difficult, but it isn't. I mean it. I may have posted this recipe before, but that shows how much I love it.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups cubed)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
12 ounces fresh spinach, blanched, squeezed dry, and chopped (about 2/3 cup chopped)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 package jumbo pasta shells
2 cups Italian crushed tomatoes
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the sausage until golden brown, stirring to break up the pieces, about 6 minutes. Add half of the onions and the eggplant, season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the vegetables are lightly caramelized and very soft. Add 1 tablespoon garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta shells until just al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat shells dry. Stuff the pasta shells with the sausage-eggplant mixture and place in the prepared casserole dish.
In a large saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and saute the remaining chopped onions until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook until the sauce is reduced in volume by about 1/3, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the basil to the sauce and pour the sauce over the shells in the casserole. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is lightly browned in spots and bubbly around the edges, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Alternatively, and what I often do is add everything to the sauce except for the ricotta, and serve with a robust pasta such as rigatoni. Top with more cheese and basil.
I know this isn't exactly heart friendly, but it's soooo comforting.