February 25, 2014
I loathe to go out for breakfast (or brunch) because I never order the right thing. If I choose the baked eggs and vegetable hash, it turns out I really wanted waffles. If I decadently decide on something with chocolate, the apple dish proves more promising. Tea should have been coffee and a mimosa would be better off grapefruit juice.
At home, where a local “hen egg” costs 35 cents instead of $7, I have no such qualms and hesitations. Sometimes it’s oatmeal and sometimes it’s leftover soup, but mostly it’s toast.
The best butter this side of the Atlantic is the Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter with Sea Salt. The best vehicle for butter is cinnamon raisin bread. And buckwheat crêpes. And enveloped into puff pastry. Since this is real life and not mathematics (or grammar), we’re allowed to use superlatives generously.
Since I can make up my mind at home, it seemed pragmatic to invite a guest who notoriously could not. I haven’t read much of William James (1842–1910), but I have read his brother and I hear good things. William James gave us “plasticity of the mind,” “the stream of thought,” and “one great blooming, buzzing confusion.” Any thinker today owes him a firm handshake and maybe some toast and coffee.
While we might have discussed our commonalities as former Parisian residents, amateur painters, and persons who have never held a real job, instead we talked about physics. James was a proponent of the pluralistic universe, and now seemed delighted to hear that in parallel universes every possible option is concurrently realized. The answer is always yes and no, which is very convenient when you aren’t quite sure.
In this universe, I offered James a second slice of toast. Without a blink of hesitation he helped himself.
(Many special thanks to my sister for both the bread and butter knives. Her blog can be found here.)
February 7, 2014
We were throwing an intimate brunch and I made a list: apple turnovers + filo baked eggs w/pesto, ricotta ravioli w/pesto +
roasted cherry tomatoes+mushrooms, eggs florentine?
As soon as I wrote it, I knew the list could stop. English muffins usually come from a refrigerated pack of six and require much toasting and topping to taste edible. Homemade English muffins are a beautiful example of the possibilities of wheat and water. Baked in a very hot oven that same dough could yield baguettes. Enfolded around butter, it became a croissant. Cut into rounds and griddled, we had English muffins.
Most of my cookbooks are in Napa, except for two-thirds of the Tartine triumvirate. As Cook My Book reboots, I felt it only fair to begin at the beginning again.
The rest of the eggs florentine did not materialize, and was sensibly replaced by choice of fried eggs, butter, raspberry jam, roasted broccolini, and a tricolor fruit salad (pineapple, clementines, and dried cherries).
Researching the story behind English muffins, I came across this woman, who I really should have invited over long ago.
Elizabeth David (1913-1992) wrote English Bread and Yeast Cookery in 1977, but by then she had been writing and educating on food for over a quarter century. Her last publication was entitled An Omelette and a Glass of Wine–and I think that pretty much says everything worth saying.
They say she introduced olive oil and garlic to Britain. Two foods that had not yet made it up to St Andrews by 2004, I might add. While she was an outspoken advocate for good food and found the word crispy unnecessary.
Of all the delightful people to have round for brunch, Elizabeth David would also be one of the more terrifying. In fact, I very much doubt she would support the institution of brunch, which is often no more than a late breakfast or eggs for lunch.
Elizabeth David eats a runny fried egg atop an English muffin with a knife and fork in the French style. She does not make small talk, She is famed to have said that everything there is to know about her is in her books. Clearly, I need to go to the library.
P.S. Why do all my women look like men in drag? Good question! I attribute this to practice, since most of my drawing people are white guys from the early nineteenth century…