Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Search of Time Tasted: A Mirepoix

Mirepoix [mihr-PWAH] n.:

1. A mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs sautéed in butter. Sometimes ham or bacon is added. Mirepoix is used to season sauces, soups and stews, as well as for a bed on which to braise foods, usually meats or fish.
2. Mirepoix is also a beginning of a blog--a brew of heterogenous ingredients and ideas--to experiment on food and blend it with thoughts in writing.

I like to be in our little kitchen at 141, where the lighting has become dimmed due to the accrual of daily cooking practices affixing to wall and ceiling. Here, I construct my friendship with foods. On both sides of the sink counter, there are two book shelves stacking, neither Freud nor Bhabha (they are on the more elegant wooden shelf in the living room), but Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, Giada de Laurantiis, Marcella Hazen, Dorie Greenspan, Julia Child, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten and so on. I invited the Scotto Family to our home just yesterday, and it suddenly reminds me that I need to create more shelf space to accommodate some new cooking mentors. The kitchen, thus, is not only full of sounds from pots but is also the space in which dialogues among cookbooks are engendered; the food and I.

Cooking has become a personal favorite past-time. I think when I cook; a lot of trivial (and not so trivial) thoughts in life are filtered in the cooking process—a distraction that leads and inspires me for possibilities. While cooking (except, perhaps, for the ever-present sizzling in the pan, bubbling water from the pot for pasta, or Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo), new ideas pop up, new energy ensues, and as it seems, a new life begins that invites me to view things with different perspectives—at least for a time.

Writing about cooking and feeling about eating has been one of my New Year Resolutions for the past few years. The reappearance of such a wish kept reminding me of the exciting possibility in creating a personal project where ideas about food and the experience of cooking could be recorded by thinking and writing. Indeed, it seems that I have always been writing for someone else rather than for myself. Such writing has been a mission or an obligation—a suffocating practice that then becomes a rusty tool due to my procrastination in vain attempts at avoidance and escape. This blog, therefore, is an experiment rather than a grandiose scholarly discovery; a series of little entries that track my culinary adventure and the exciting encounter between my thoughts and food in writing. Through jotting down the cooking process and the experience of tasting, I hope to establish a dialogue with food—laid-back chit chat, rather than the cogent treatise of a thesis statement.

In Search of Time Tasted, thus, is a blog for cooking, tasting, and meditating—a blog that centers upon food and the one who cooks. Focusing on four episodes in Proust's In The Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (Dinner with Norpois, Tea with Gilberte, Dining Out with Saint-Loup and Picnic with Albertine), the blog attempts to explore and further expand questions such as these: How does one read Proust not by words but by kneading, rolling, pounding, spreading, braising, freezing, plating and tasting? How do the foods selected from Proust’s writing taste after all the advances in cooking techniques over more than a century’s passage? Do the food preparation and taste add a subtext to the meanings that the words might only maladroitly express? Searching out the taste is also a translation from different senses to thoughts; from thoughts to words.

Starting as a Proust Project, this blog is not meant to dwell on Proustian French cuisine only. As such, the blog is also expected to be an introspective reflection and investigation on the possibility of cooking the text and plating the ideas in some other culinary cultures that have always attracted my attention-- such as Italian cuisine, Taiwanese vendor food, and, of course, hearty American style cooking.

In search of time tasted, I am making sense of tastes, food, memory and ideas.

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