Instead of posting another yummy dish or even yummier dessert, I give you the place where I cook and eat: my kitchen. Don’t get fooled by the current cleanliness, it’s just because the maid has just left (the maid being me…) and I’m off for some days, normally you find the place filled with pots, bowls, vegetables, cereals, flour, nuts, fruit, spices, herbs (sage, rosemary, and basil), bottles (olive oil, vinegar, wine, Coke Zero, and Evian) and lots and lots of coffee mugs, tea cups, glasses of all kind, candles (not scented, never in the kitchen), plates and tureens, and some Italian opera going on on iTunes (a cliché from the 1980s that just keeps sticking…). Anyway, this is my kitchen and I hope you like it.
I am a devout devourer of jam, marmalade, jellies, confiture, and all other kind of preserves. First, because they all taste so very good, second you can eat them on/with almost everything, orange marmalade especially. Lately, I tried it on French pâté which looks like German leberwurst but is in fact some fine pâté, some ducks died for it, which always makes me sad as I love ducks, but every once in a while somebody brings duck confit or pâté de canard in order to amuse my taste buds and instead makes me mourn and cry out loud for the poor creatures. But since I don’t want them to have died in vain, I spread the pâté on baguette or German bread and always eat it up, every last bit of it—call me a hypocrite. Anyway, whatever concerns you might have, you should forget all about them and try some pâté with some (or even lots of) fine orange marmalade, it’s just too yummy. I understand, they make pâté from less lovely creatures, too…
One day, when on my way home from work, I changed trams on Paradeplatz in Zurich, just like any other day. This particular day, however, was not an ordinary day at all, it happened to be a very particular day, it was the day Sprüngli had changed their windows for Easter. Now, when you’re a chocolate addict like me, you’re about to lose control over your itinerary, you stop paying attention to anything else, least of all your connecting tram, you can take the next one, or the one after that, but on this day, I lost control over time and space altogether, I was mesmerized by a chocolate Easter bunny, the biggest chocolate Easter bunny I had ever seen, ever!, it was huge, gigantic in fact, who could ever eat it up, I wondered. I think, this was my last self-controlled thought, then, this Easter bunny’s face started to mesmerize me, what expressive features, such character, I felt like I had entered Alice’s wonderland, as if that bunny was about to address me, saying something like If I lose my temper, you lose your head, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all, I took a deeper look in its eyes, one look too many, and da war’s um mich gescheh’n, it spoke to me, it sang to me, my fate became quite plain, half drawn by it, I glided in and was not seen again.
In the summer of 1999, I remember the date vividly, it was the year I was having the best lunchbreaks ever with my colleague and friend Andrea, our agency was wildly overstaffed, so from Monday to Friday, we had lavish, long extended luncheons all over town, our lunch budget was always overdrawn by Tuesday, but we didn’t care at all, anyway, it was also the summer, blueberry producers from all over the world published the result of some health research, claiming the blue colouring of blueberries was extremely healthy a stuff. Something in the chemical composition seemed to protect you from all sorts of diseases, conveying the impression blueberries made you live happily for hundreds of years. I was immediately sold. So, for the last twenty years I’ve been eating lots and lots of blueberries, muffins mostly, but also lots and lots of blueberry müeslis, and haven’t aged at all (so my doctor tells me). I added some raspberries for colour, though…
Sugar is the most opposed achievement in modern society, when you admit putting sugar in your coffee, you’re as politically suspect as if you opposed putting taxes on the rich. So, unless you’re already wearing a t-shirt that says Save the Rich, don’t ever quit sugar! You might lose what life’s all about, where there’s nothing sweet to experience, there’s only bitterness to endure, so believe you me, you don’t want to live without any contrasts, you need them just as much as the day needs the night, and the week its weekend, and whatever they tell you about the danger of sugar or carbohydrates altogether, slow or fast, think of what you’d have to give up once you’ve renounced sugar: the rigid bitterness of orange marmalade, mine is imported from a weekly market in Versailles and amère as hell, needs some sweetness to soothe your tastebuds, otherwise you end up with a twisted tongue. And if this necessity doesn’t convince you, just think of that: citrus fruit and sugar cane have the same origin, God—and you don’t want to contradict God, do you?
Since the beginning of time, we’ve met with many a famous couple: Adam and Eve, Caesar and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Harry and Sally, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Yves Saint Laurent and Victoire Doutreleau, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, James Bond and an endless row of girls, Miss Marple and Mr Stringer, Tintin and Captain Haddock, but the most successful couple to me is a strawberry and the cheesecake she’s just been introduced to. Admittedly, their love affair won’t last long, a fork will be their hangman, my stomach their grave, but neither did Romeo and Juliet’s, and so I will continue to help any strawberry meet the love of her life, my cheesecake. Short live the happy couple!
Austria is very blessed a country. They not only have Sissi, that wonderful iconic empress played so heartbreakingly sweet by Romy Schneider, more importantly, they are lucky to have the very best pastries in the world. You all know the Sachertorte from Sacher’s in Vienna, probably the most famous chocolate cake in the world, although it’s not the vast amounts of chocolate that are to blame for its fame, but the fine layer of apricot marmalade, then there’s Demel on Kohlmarkt near Hofburg Palace, purveyor to the Imperial and Royal Court of Austria, the best pastry shop in the world (at least, as far as I’m concerned) with an absurdly delicious range of tarts and cakes (and a very yummy Beef Wellington, too) that make you forget all about the importance of beach bodies in general and very much of your own in particular, and finally there’s Kaiserschmarrn, a kind of elaborate pancake with lots of rum raisins—and some apricot marmalade to dip your pieces into for a slightly sour yet very fruity contrast. That one, at least, you can do all by yourself (don’t forget some grated lemon peel, it’s quite crucial), for anything from Sacher or Demel’s you need years and years of training… Years!