Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Renewing My Vows

There's an old folk tale about an old man with a long white beard. One day his friend asks him if in bed he keeps his beard under or over the covers. He can't seem to remember so he decides to check. In bed that night he tries it over, but it feels wrong. He goes for under, and he feels strange. He stays up like this all night cursing the question that got him in this mess. In the morning his friend asks if he has the answer and the old man says no, and I don't even know who I am.

This blog has been one my favorite adventures ever, and my absence for a while is what makes me think of the old man's beard. When I went back to school last year after a leave of absence I knew I needed to change my thesis topic. When I changed my topic to food, writing, and hunger, I had no idea it would interfere with the most pertinent activity in my life. I should have thought of that I guess. It's like when medical students develop acute hypochondria. I've been reading so much theory about food and eating and blogs and I think inadvertently I've been plugging myself into every idea wondering if I cook like that or think like that or write for that reason. It sounds trivial but trust me being so self-conscious like that makes it hard to write. It's not something they mention much in academia. I feel in so many cases, people write about topics so distant from their own experiences that they don't face this predicament. It's a shame because I think it's a good one. It makes me try harder not to force a line-of-best-fit through thousands of individual examples just for the sake of making a neat argument to present to my supervisor. Sure it's a slower process but I wouldn't want it any other way.

 Maybe in another post I'll write more about just what it is I'm starting to understand about what we do when we write about food, but for now I'd just like to find a way back into the stream of my own food narrative. I'm starting to think of this last pause not as lost time but rather a necessary beat where I gained some insight and found in spite of my new critical perspective that I am still as thrilled as ever to be writing right here, about food and all my other hungers.

Of course I've still been cooking and eating and feeding people, so there will be no shortage of stories to tell and recipes to share. This one seems especially appropriate with all this talk of renewal and return. It's a salty pear after all; not the inaugural salty pear of so many years ago but a new one, lovingly poached in pear juice and white wine with mulling spices and served with chopped pecans and salted caramel. It goes really well with bourbon and it's up to you to decide how you'd like to use that information...


For Pears
2 Ripe Bosc or Anjou pears peeled and cored
1 C Pear juice (I got a juices for Christmas so I juiced a few but you can use nectar or another fruit juice)
1.5 C Riesling (or white wine you have open)
2 tbsp brown sugar or honey
mulling spices (I used a stick of cinnamon, clove, star anise, 1/4 vanilla bean, and dry Orange slices)

For topping
1/4 cup chopped roasted pecans

For Caramel
(Recipe here)
1 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
3/4 C  Cream
3 1/2 tbsp unslated butter
pinch of your good salt

Peel and core the pears using a vegetable peeler or paring knife and a melon-baller. Cut the base of each pear slightly. This will allow them to stand.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in the smallest saucepan that fits your two pears and bring everything to  medium heat. Cover pears and simmer for 15 minutes making sure not to boil them rapidly as they will split and lose their lovely shape. Test with a toothpick to see if desired softness is achieved. Remove pears gently and serve warm or cold with chopped nuts and the salted caramel sauce or reduce the cooking liquid with an extra few tablespoons of honey, strain, and use in place of caramel. An extra flake or two of coarse salt? Maybe...