From Rioja with love.

My grandmother used to travel and bake a lot after retiring, she had all this time on her hands and filled it with some culinary creativity, and as she was fond of red wine and Spain, she ended up baking but one cake only, her masterpiece, her Rioja cake, commonly and less specifically known as her red wine cake, as in the 1970s, Rioja was quite uncommon a beverage in Germany and she didn’t feel the urge to explain her extravagances to just anybody she had over for tea and sympathy, she was a teacher, the most loved one of her village, her funeral was crowded with former students, she must have been a hell of a teacher, anyway, I, being more into France than into Spain, have always replaced Rioja with some Bordeaux when I made that cake, but now, just to cherish her memory, I opened a bottle of Rioja, the batter takes a quarter of a litre, as well as vast amounts of cocoa, chopped dark chocolate, this one is from Venezuela, quite fitting an origin, it’s a Spanish speaking country after all, anyway, the cake‘s obviously soaked with flavonoids from all that red wine and cocoa, kind of an anti-ageing approach to baking. I think, I’ll have another slice just now.

Family dinner.

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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.

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Delicatessen obsession.

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Last night, I had the best of nightmares, I know, this may sound oxymoronic, but I can’t put it otherwise. You see, in that dream I was back in Paris, wandering the food halls of La Grande Épicerie de Paris, frolicking from aisle to aisle, from sweet to sour, from bread and butter, butter in so many varieties, salted or left alone, from buffalo to goat milk, French or Italian, to cheese, round, square and triangular in shape, looking ever so perfect, as if it didn’t end up on my baguette to be devoured with a glass of Château Whatever-they-have, from Italian pasta in ever such beautifully designed packaging, the agony of deciding which looks best, which pasta in which box, to all this pâté, nothing but pâté from the far left to the far right of your eye, from green teas to black teas, from unknown niche people to Fortnum’s, Kusmi and Mariage Frères, how many more boxes of Queen Anne, Mirabeau and Prince Wladimir can I possibly buy, I’m asking myself while humming “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in my head, or aloud, I don’t know, out of context obviously, but no, here they all come, and hey, this sage is really aromatic, I’m taking all they have, wondering what to do with it, browsing through recipes in my head while checking out the rest of the store, caviar, oysters and lobster galore, but I pass, there’s Nicaraguan coffee and Sicilian honey to discover, oh those bees must lead happy lives, I’m facing mouthwatering joy and total despair as my basket cannot hold all I want, whatever I do the pyramid of goods is falling apart, over and over again, spreading my stuff on the floor, hindering other people in shiny shoes from walking, kicking it away from me, none of these items were mine to keep, neither the buffalo butter from some place in Italy, nor the pâté I have chosen, not even the organic artichokes of incredible dimensions, and please don’t get me started on what they are doing to my selection of French mustard and marmalades (lemon, grapefruit, orange and lime). I woke up screaming, but, wow, it was good!

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Pulling a Comus Bassington.

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In November, 2002, I was severely broke. Actually, that’s nothing worth mentioning as I am usually broke, I have Saki’s Comus Bassington as a role model, and he drove his poor mother Francesca mad with his overly extravagant Edwardian lifestyle, mostly because she had to pay this extravagance’s bills, all of them, until she’d had enough of it and sent him to the colonies, to some God forsaken place really far away, I’m panic-fuelled when I think of it. Anyway, as I said, I was really broke, too, that month. Hermès, however, its Hamburg flagship store beautifully situated on my way home from work, didn’t care about that at all, and put a ring in their windows that made me stare at it for some twenty minutes, time enough for reevaluating if food was actually necessary, it seems to be causing all kind of diseases anyway, obesity, at the worst, and I had already given up all Châteaux that call themselves Grand Cru Classé en 1855, and switched to some of these Cru Bourgeois, they are quite drinkable actually, especially when you can’t distinguish a St.Émilion from a Côtes du Rhône, happened to me once, true story, when I decided to pull a Comus Bassington, meaning, I convinced my poor mother I couldn’t live without that ring. And so my poor mother paid the bill, I still have it. It’s a lovely memory. And I am still wearing that ring, in fact, I have never not worn it since November, 20, 2002. And most importantly, I am still waiting to be sent to some God forsaken colony far away by my poor mother …

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