All of a sudden, I felt like having a snack; my fridge, however, was empty, and so I took a bus to my nearest grocery store (it was way too windy and rainy to walk) where I got myself some gravad lax, you know, the kind of salmon that Scandinavians put six feet under with some salt and spices for three days or more to make it 1) last longer and 2) taste better, the indispensable matching hovmästassås aka dill-mustard sauce, and some gluten-free wholemeal bread—and so my afternoon snack turned out to be a very fine one, so fine, actually, that I’d like to propose a toast to all Vikings and to all the fish they’ve put into an early grave: Skål!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a single slice of orange involved here, nor any of its juice, but the colour is what amazes me most about it. Ever since Phylicia Rashad’s faked menopausal cravings for something orange on The Cosby Show, just before she was bursting out into tears, the lust for that particular colour has been a running culinary gag in my family. Canard à l’orange, however, is a killjoy in that department, actually I find it highly overrated a meal, and if you don’t care for carrots or pumpkins on a daily basis you must come up with some gastronomic manoeuvres, cabillaud aux écailles de chorizo for instance, which I discovered in a French cookery book dealing with the South of France’s recipes, Provençal cuisine, so to speak, does the trick, for some reasons red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, black olives and olive oil form an orange alliance of exquisite taste, you need some fine bread to soak it all up, the chorizo adds some (ever so irresistable) hearty Spanish vigour to the cod, a fish that normally bores me to death, and though I’m not menopausal at all, I’m having severe cravings for that very orange meal. And they‘re not faked at all.
Breakfast, at least that’s what I’ve been told over and over again by newspapers and magazines, always quoting some doctors from lesser known universities, is the most important meal of the day, if you skip it you’ll die an agonizing death or you find yourself out of the job for performing badly any time soon, and although I can’t prove it with any medicinal facts, neither has my hair’s shine improved nor did I have fewer problems with learning Chinese, I do subscribe to that point of view as it is the only meal that includes a boiled egg. I love boiled eggs. My grandmother had them with French mustard, moutarde à l’ancienne, or im Glas, which is actually two boiled eggs with some spices served stirred in a glass, no stem, a tumbler, I’d say, and to anybody who like literary connections, like those who can’t eat a madeleine without quoting Proust, rambling on about their transporting smell and one’s childhood and all of that, I recommend Klaus Mann’s brilliant novel “Mephisto”, Eier im Glas for breakfast play a small but dramatic part in it, but I seem to digress, my eggs are mostly eaten pure and simple, some salt, some crushed white pepper, that’s it, as long as the spoon is made from mother-of-pearl and the egg cup is to my liking.
If you want to gain weight, for whatever reasons, do the following: buy three packages of assorted chocolates, pick your favourites from each package, arrange them casually in a bowl and serve them with at least four episodes of any show interesting enough to make you stay put in front of the TV no matter what happens or who’s at the door. Wash each chocolate down with a generous helping of non-skimmed milk, Baileys or, why not, some banana milkshake. Repeat. Bon appétit and bonne chance!
When God came up with cocoa beans, he must have been in a very good mood. Cocoa beans are the best beans there are—sorry, Heinz, no offence, but your bean cans were portrayed by Andy Warhol, this is as far as your fifteen minutes of fame go. Anyway, cocoa beans are so very rich in healthy flavonoids, but more importantly, without cocoa beans there was no chocolate, and without chocolate there were no chocolate glazed marzipan cakes, especially the one in my fridge (keeping it in the fridge is important to make the thick chocolate glaze as crunchy as possible), the one I just devoured out of sheer lust. And now I am in such a good mood, the best of moods, actually, just like God himself the day he came up with cocoa beans.
It’s been just another grey winter’s day in Berlin, quite depressing. The moment, I woke up, I knew I needed something to cheer me up big time if I wanted this Saturday to be a day worth living. That’s when I started thinking of cake. Some very special cake. A cake, I couldn’t bake myself. A cake, I had to get out of bed and run into town to buy it from some French people answering to the name of Lenôtre. A cake so yummy, I would not dare to wash it down with milk or tea or coffee, not even champagne, just to make it linger on my tongue. A dough rich of pistaccios and cherries to make it irresistible, some vanilla custard to make it creamy, a crumble topping to make it crunchy, and some maraschino cherries and powdered sugar on top to make it look fancy. That was the cake that got me through the day. I’m still high on serotonine, so I guess, it’ll get me through Sunday, too.
The hottest thing about Switzerland? Its paprika. Trust me, it’s really hot. So much hotter than I ever expected when I first bought it in Zurich, at my grocer’s next door. You see, when you buy paprika in Germany, you get something mildly spicy, very mildly spicy, especially when you buy it at your nearby supermarket. Why that is I can tell you: Germans don’t like spices. And here’s my proof: once, I had an intern, very smart girl from a very good family, lovely person, but she thought the tiny dose of pepper in a dish at a canteen known for their reasonably priced but absolutely unseasoned food, was an imposition on her taste buds—no irony here, none at all, and she tends not to be the exception, but the rule. Strangely, the exact same people love to tell you the English can’t cook. Aha. Well, try an Indian restaurant in London and one in Berlin then, ha! Anyway, enough German bashing, I better make my point: the Swiss love spices. The paprika from Coop in Zurich, though really cheap, the one from their Qualité & Prix range, it doesn’t get any cheaper in Switzerland, that’s real paprika, really hot, and wonderfully aromatic. When I moved to Berlin, I imported vast amounts of it, and with some potatoes, onions, sweet peppers, and chorizo, you get a spicy dish, even when you prepare it in Germany.