Last week I’ve been spending some time with an old friend, and the conversations consistently led to life-defining metaphors. The smallest observation seemed suddenly revelatory. It came to a head over two bowls of udon, atomically hot and served in an iron pot that only kept the soup from ever cooling down. It was an awkward production, coaxing noodles from the hot pot to a smaller dish to cool, each of us getting smacked in the eye at least once by some wayward broth. We cleared the bowls of their contents bite by bite. A morsel of chicken, a mushroom or two, and a whole lot of noodles, until finally, just the cloudy broth remained in the bowl. I was nearing exhaustion, but then he said simply, “broth is good.” And it was. And he went on to observe that broth is never the same from one bowl of soup to the next. Ingredients, how long it takes to cook, how well the ingredients meld or conflict. The broth is always different. And this one, this was a good broth.
And it was one of those simple things that lent itself to metaphor. The broth of the day. The elements coming together in just the right way to make for the perfect soup, something to savor and taste and take in. To notice and enjoy. And you’re not sure what makes it good that day, or what you could possibly do to have that same effect the next day and it doesn’t matter. It’s out of your control. Just enjoy.
But again, it was one of those days where the broth was good. The day was good. Dynamics that you didn’t expect to come together in just the right way at just the right time to the point you end up with something, well, bigger than the sum of its parts.
It’s not surprising to me to find metaphor in food. It’s there all the time. It’s what brings me back, makes me consider again, to taste again, to be aware of the things I love and to savor them even more. And it’s been awhile since I gave a lot of thought to my food. I’ve been relying on the defaults a lot. Hawaiian pizza from Giorgio’s, chicken chow mein from Andy’s, satay and salad rolls from the thai place that left a menu on my door a few months ago. The holidays left me uninspired by food. It felt like work.
It started with cookies. I initiated a cookie exchange with some friends. I threw down Phefferneusse and Double Ginger Snaps. And then I suggested cookie decorating as part of a party. Ginger and Vanilla roll-out cookies. Then more Pheffernuesse plus ginger lemon cookies for the family. And then there was the Stollen production.
For Christmas dinner I made cauliflower soup with crispy shallots, fresh bread and butter and creamed spinach. And that morning I kicked off the day with Gougeres. The Gougeres made another appearance at New Year’s Brunch alongside Buttermilk Current Scones and Lavender Shortbread.
I’ve spent the last three weeks in a fine dusting of flour.
But it’s done. And I can’t think beyond the next meal. And I feel oddly guilty that I don’t want to cook. I truly believe that it’s so important to eat locally and seasonally. Well, for me, it seems that pizza is in season. Burritos too.
I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I’ll be at the gym long enough this year to see then January rush die down. I’m loathe to take my cues from a calendar. But this January is a bit different. With a relationship ended and a new job starting Monday, my habits are about to change. And that’s fine. I can swing myself out of this food rut and pick up some inspiration somewhere. The new job lands me a flat mile away from the Ferry Building, which has sent me stuttering about food many times before. I can’t wait to dig in.