For many years now, I’ve been quoting a passage from Chapter One of Mark Twain’s immortal Huckleberry Finn. No, it’s not one of the passages that makes the book, to a certain segment of the population, controversial. Or is it?
The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways . . .
When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.
I’ve been accused of being anal-retentive, but even I don’t demand that each of my food items be piled separately on the plate, with space between, like miniature fortresses of solitude. No, like Huck, I like my things mixed up, and the juice swapped around. I like the different flavors and textures teasing each other. I like combining sharp and sweet, pungent and mild, crunchy and chewy and soft.
But you can’t make a good minestrone, for example, by just throwing everything into a pot, cooking, and stirring. You need to trim your vegetables, saute your onions, measure your spices. Are you using pasta? Watch out, it might get flabby if overcooked. Are you tempted to add maraschino cherries? Then you’re on your own—I’m taking my metaphor and going home. [Read more...]