January 03, 2007

Full Moon Hunger

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.

Jean Giono

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.


David said...

lovely post Kate...! Bonne Année, and see you soon back in France...

Tana said...

Come to Santa Cruz: you can see the moon everywhere. Like my backyard.

: D

We're only 75 miles away. Give a holler if you want a tour.

Tana said...

Whoops, forgot to mention that the Year of the Pig (my year!) doesn't begin until February 18, which is relatively late for a Chinese New Year.

Diva said...

I love the way you paint with words..
we are sisters..
Look at the full moon pig!

Lucy said...

You are a breath of French air, Kate.