Days begin and end in the dead of night. They are not shaped long, in the manner of things which lead to ends – arrow, road, man's life on earth. They are shaped round, in the manner of things eternal and stable –
sun, world, God.
It’s a very Full Ladle Moon tonight and I am missing France more than ever. At home along the winter towpath, I would know the moon phase without having to look it up on the farmer’s almanac; I could read every texture on the stone buildings of Camont by this celestial light. In San Francisco, she hides behind a scrim of well-lit buildings. I am night blind.
I have been traveling in the US for two moons now—teaching, cooking, speaking, and just reabsorbing my natal culture. So much has changed, as I have changed, since I moved to France two decades ago. Food is but one measure. Hundreds of jars of oils, vinegars and exotic condiments from around the world soldier the supermarket aisles; it is like a minefield. Dozens of colors of potatoes, cauliflowers, and carrots rainbow the farmers’ markets; I want regular carrots to sweeten a soup. Home-cooked food has become exorbitant take-out from restaurants cooked by white-aproned staff with culinary degrees; I must be worth a fortune.
When I enter the mega-gourmet marts here, where abundance is calculated in quantity as much as quality, I reel from the excess of non-food food. I cook in other people’s kitchens cluttered with unused jars and cans bought for the expensive logo or the glistening colors. I look in a cupboard for red wine vinegar; I find black rice, pomegranate, fig, vanilla, berry, and a dozen different balsamic vinegars but no plain red wine with which to dress a simple salad of great organic greens. The same is true for Salt, Oil (as long as it is Olive!), Chili Sauce, and a myriad of other condiments, spices and dried herbs. This is not food. It just gives the illusion that someone cooks here. I want to empty the pantry completely and just make good food.
Sigh. I miss France now. I long for my retro-simple pantry. The basics: salt, garlic, shallots, bay leaves, thyme, homemade vinegar-red and strong and smelling of just wine. I cook soup with water, not canned stock. I turn the fire down and let the vegetables infuse the broth. I add one bay leaf; it is enough. Like the Full Moon is enough. The other lights are in excess tonight.
In 2007 my Long Village has started to curve; I see an edge turning inward. I am writing a new book, at last. I have refocused the French Kitchen to the essential, elemental roots of this cuisine. I’ll be cooking and writing about it all year in Gascony and posting it here. A new website gets built; a new garden gets planted. This is the Year of the Pig. May it be as big, round, eternal and stable as this Full Ladle Moon.