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various depictions of dinner parties, feasts
make one envious that they are not an invited guest.
i put into this category the intimate dinner from Chocolat where chocolate is lavishly poured on everything,
the expensive feast Babbette throws [down] for the pious christians in the movie Babbette’s Feast.

i recently read Supper of the lamb: a culinary refletion by robert farrar capon, an episcopalian priest who has a great love of food.  He writes in a way that transports the reader to feel as though they are actually sitting in his kitchen, drinking sherry at his counter while he meticulously chops an onion.  The onion which he challenges you to spend AN HOUR with to notice its intricacies.

For him (and me as well), eating a good meal begins well before sitting down to the first fork-full.  The onion exercise is one stop on the path to restore the institution of proper cooking, a process that “involves the slowness that we forget we actually have time for.”  A simple meal is the goal, though the preparation is anything but.  And the work poured into each dish is meant for a sit down dinner party versus a cocktail party, in his opinion requires nothing from its guests but their physical presence…But when a [host] sits me down at his/her table, (s)he declares himself willing to let those sitting with him/her into his own life.

Consider the higher distress for which earth has no cure- that major, vaster burning by which the heart looks out astonished as the world and in its loving wakes and breaks at once.  The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company arouse more appetites than they satisfy…we embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still…we were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.

Playing it safe is not Divine.  In a world that so regularly winds our clocks and breaks our hearts, that laughs at caution and cries from every corner for extravagation-only outlandish hopes can make themselves at home. 

Capon’s general persuasion is to “cook fancy and just plain eat.”  he lives on the philosophy that it is better to eat a really good (ahem* full of calories) meal and practice fasting than to constantly eat mediocre food.  I love his thoughts regarding breakfast by calling it an unmerciful meal in which “very few people are fit company at that hour…it is a time to be left alone with one’s thoughts.”  the best breakfast consists of good crusty bread, quality cheese and real butter.  this is also meal in and of itself, fit for lunch or dinner.  though simple, it truly is the meal that satisfies.  give me a good glass of wine and i will be wishing to join you in a quaint french town.  this simple recipe for cuban bread, taken from the book, really is quite simple to make.  and the saltiness of it, makes the loaf disappear quickly.


4 T yeast
1 T salt
2 T sugar
2 c lukewarm water
6 c flour

dissolve yeast, salt & sugar in a coffee cup with some of the water. mix the remaining water and some of the flour in another bowl until you have a batter. stir in the contents of the coffee cup and add flour until you have a manageable dough. knead well, adding flour till you have a fairly stiff dough….keep kneading.
place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled. when risen, cut in half. shape into 2 plump, round loaves.
sprinkle some cornmeal on a greased baking sheet and place loaves on the sheet and let them rise for ONLY FIVE minutes. cut a generous cross in the top of each and place them in a COLD oven. set the temperature to 400 and place a large pan of boiling water on the bottom oven rack. bake for 45 minutes for the crustiest homemade bread.

[photo courtesy of madgerly]


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