When you’re somewhat blue, for any reason at all, or when the world seems to fall apart, or when there’s nothing really new on Netflix and you’re still angry with the producers of The Crown because that thing that happened in season 2, you know, in that episode where they had Jackie Kennedy comment disparagingly on the royal household in general and Her Majesty in particular, and then they had poor Elizabeth, as some sort of after-effect, take off all vexed to Ghana to dance away not only her marital problems but also her government’s post-colonial misconduct just to prove Jackie wrong, you do remember that, don’t you? Anyway, that thing was all made up! God bless The Guardian for their investigative journalism, it’s been a real life-saver as I had almost told anybody I know I had always known what a bitch Jackie was, and then it turned out she wasn’t a bitch at all, just the perfectly dressed, stunning little trooper she always was. In such moments of humiliation nothing presents a better cure than homemade crêpes, just spread some English orange marmalade (in honour of the Queen) and some Cointreau (in honour of Jackie’s French extraction) on it, no need to flambé the stuff, and there you go again. God save us all!
Today, with all that sunshine in November, while working on my novel, I felt like a fish in the sea. Happy and content. Ironically, for dinner, I had fish who must have felt literally like out of water. And some mussels, prawns, and scallops to join them in that hapless situation also known as bouillabaisse. The world is an unfair place, I guess. If you ever have to face the truth about life like me, I recommend a great wine to smooth the edges, my 2017 Kerner from Saale-Unstrut, the former GDR’s highly esteemed winegrowing region, is the best to reconcile you with anything, and if there’s nothing to reconcile you with in the first place, all the better. Prost!
Life is complicated, especially when eggs play a major part in your routine, like, say, during the Easter holidays. First of all, you need so many, try to buy 60 organic eggs from happy chicken without overdrawing your bank account and having money transferred from Zurich, then try to carry these 60 eggs all at once on a bike without breaking any of them, you’re driven mad by all that overcarefulness, transportation issues, that’s what a shrink might name it, but shrinks know nothing about life’s real challenges, do they, then try colouring them politically correct meaning organically, pink and yellow turns out fine, okay, but if you colour a white egg orange it just looks like a brown egg, there’s no fun in that at all, and when you try to transform the left over eggs into lunch, an omelette should be not too much to ask for, these chickens pay some strange kind of transmogrified revenge and let your beautiful mushroom omelettes stick to the pan, you end up with a shapeless mess, let’s face it, eggs totally let you down, there’s no escaping this awful truth, the mess on your plate, however, just needs a little upgrading, call it omelette à la façon des religieuses du Périgord and your Easter house guests are thrilled and keep toasting your culinary accomplishment, and as far as these disastruous orange eggs are concerned, just hide them well enough to rot in hell.
There are days when you don’t wake up in Paris, those normal days at home, in your very fine yet so very ordinary sheets, when you suffer from the same old view from your bedroom windows, the same old soap in the shower, that same old boring Diptyque soap instead of the hotel branded stuff that screams you’re abroad, far away from home, on the loose, free, it’s not so much branded with some hotel logo, but with the far more prestigious emblem of your very own liberty, whether it’s a place in the Himalayas, the Australian outback or, in my case, Paris, Rome, Helsinki, St.Petersburg or Edinburgh, as, with me, nature is almost always replaced with architecture, preferably from before 1900 AD, that late massive Finnish art nouveau and the exuberance of Brussels art deco are an exception, anyway, thank heavens there are days when your parents return from France, bringing you Proustian madeleines in form of Paulian croissants, those real ones, with that inimitable taste, au beurre, crispy as hell, as if they just came out of the boulangerie on rue de Rennes, not your father’s suitcase, and however German your homemade Sunday coffee is, you’re transported to the streets of Saint-Germain immediately. This way, thanks to fine parenting and modern transportation, your life in exile from any place abroad is worth living after all.
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 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.
My first comic book was Asterix, and it changed my appetite forever. From that day on in the early 1970s, before I could even read, I’ve been a huge fan of boar. They looked so very yummy and juicy, leaving me with disappointment that I was not invited to those festivities held at the end of every story. So, no wonder, with New Year’s Eve as next festivity in line, I decided to start the new year with a ragoût de sanglier, marinated for days, sautéd and browned, now finally stewing with lots of red wine, French, of course, Bordeaux is the closest wine region to Aremorica, to their little Gallic village, I guess, spiced with chillies, juniper berries, some garlic, pepper and laurel from our garden, not from Caesar’s wreath, but still the most familiar seasoning to me thanks to René Goscinny, I hope Getafix the druid agrees with it, too, his potions always looked really yummy, prepared in that huge cauldron in that wonderful hut’s open fireplace, my pot’s French, too, medieval Le Creuset, its colour alone, that bright orange looks like it came out of a comic book, so happy my parents have a gas oven, you can’t cook the Gallic way on an induction cooker, anyway, as you might have guessed by now, my inner child can’t wait for dinner, can’t wait at all.
For family dinners, I’m always in charge of dessert. Today, it’s going to be raspberries with cream. It’s easily prepared, I open the fridge for the cream and the freezer for the raspberries, and I’m done. And then, all while sipping Chardonnay, I witness the rest of the meal being prepared, artichokes are being cooked, a vinaigrette is being composed, lots of French mustard and Italian olive oil form a beautiful entente cordiale, parsley from the garden is being “haché-menu”-ed, ever so fresh chanterelles are being cut, not from the garden but from the grocer, the table is being set, by whom actually, my father, I suppose, gee, that Chardonnay is really drinkable, and all of a sudden, I’m the last one missing at the table, I better join them, hey, they’re are having red wine, okay, fine with me, bon appétit.