Friday, May 18, 2007

Of Japanese tea and Portuguese pastry - the joy of Food Writing

I've been sick the past couple of days so fortunately it's been all about having permission to do nothing but read and watch movies. Fortunately, as well, my mom majored in English and has rows of thin, breaking books whose delicacies I have oftened dreamt of devouring. Well, this time I finally have.

As if moved by some greater force of fate, I plucked out "The Book of Tea" by Kakuzo Okakura, a 65 page book about Japanese culture as seen, partially, through the eyes of the tea ceremony. It's one of those books where the love of food, art and culture all come in handy, (not to mention an interest in history, philosophy and flower arrangement) and I feel as though I've "done my job" after reading it, and have actually become a more well-rounded person.
I am now committed to learning about the Japanese tea ceremony. I was also charmed beyond belief at his amazing ability to capture the simplicity and purpose of 'taking tea':

"Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."


In my foggy headed days I am also catching up on a wonderful travel novel "A Year in the World" by Frances Mayes

In a similar fashion of art history-ishness and foodie-isms, she's enraptured me with Portuguese food. Especially pastry. (are we seeing a trend here? perhaps this blog should be about tea and creme anglais)
Today I will visit the Portuguese bakery I have noticed for over a year now, owning to passages such as these:

"Down the street we come to another cause for celebration--this one dedicated to the famous pastry of Lisbon, pasteis de Belem. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a crowded bakery-cafe, lures you from yards away with the toasty scents of the tarts that children must be given from year one. A chaos of mutable lines forms at the counter, where people order sackfuls to take home for Saturday lunch. The delicate layered pastry shell is filled with voluptuous custard, a creamy, irresistible treat. Ed has two. And will, I imagine, every day for the remainder of our trip."

I am suddenly in love with the food of Lisbon just from hearing paragraphs like this and other simple lists of what they ate on their trip. The words fall out of my head and tumble like heavy honey, good, drinkable wine, and the easiness of eating well and often. hooray! A sample below:

-Rissoles, 'pronounced 'ree soysh', "it's a pastry-savory-filled with prawns. or fish or pork. I have to have rissoles everyday"stuffed spider crab, baked bacalhau, dried cod, light, rich chocolate cake with a "quality of chocolate that speaks of tropical earth and rainforests", "tiny glasses of Amarguinha, a dessert digestivo made of almonds", "Green wine, Vinho Verde Muralhas de Moncao, and then a red Azeitao Periquita Fonesca" "goat cheese wrapped in gauze, and almonds suspended in honey", "massa de piemiento" and "a salad of dried fava beans, plumped again with oil, garlic and coriander, then strips of savory roast pork, a round of ricotta seasoned with oregano, and a bowl of tempura-style green beans."

Hotdamn, take me to Portugal!

Ktichen Delights - a trip through breakfast and other essential works of art.

I haven't written a food blog in over a month! I'm sad to say I even missed my birth month, glorious April, rounded up well with new, improving clarity and many cups of tea. Taken of course with the proper pleasure of awakening spring.
So with the inspiration from my friend Laure who recently was a top 16 finalist for Apartment Therapy's contest, I have decided to dig back into something that is "so me", something that I love. Of course, that is taking pictures of food.

Every time I make something and the light in my lovely kitchen happens to hit it just so, or I catch a gleam of some strange edge of cake, cream or crust, I must capture it. Thank god for digital cameras. Usually the desire strikes me in the morning.
Ode to the little light of spring above, the little joys of eating something lovely.