Rising and Setting

I’ve read enough food blogs and followed enough food personalities to know just how beautiful culinary photography can be. While I’ve always been inspired by these images, I must admit that for a time they kept me away from food blogging. Why? Because my work wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t stage my photos as meticulously as they did for their rustic clafoutis cerises pistache on that vintage 50s tablecloth set against that restored French floorboard coffee table in that charming outdoor morning light on that country farm in Vermont. And if I couldn’t do that, then why try at all?

I stopped thinking this way when I realized that wasn’t the point. Comparison was the wrong point of departure. I started sharing my life with friends because doing so confirmed my experiences; the act of sharing gave the ethereal form, made the tenuous more substantial. I enjoy the cooking process thoroughly, from the growing and gathering of ingredients to the creative conceptualization and realization of the recipe, and from the consumption of the product to the memories and retrospective conversations about the food. As Virginia Woolf puts it, nothing really happens until it’s described [in words]. And I do it for myself.

Also, food blogs don’t post the mistakes and shortfalls of cooking enough. I would like to see more faulty recipes and failures.

That being said, let me get to the macarons. These past few days I have been taking advantage of the excellent conditions here in my parents’ kitchen, set in this scenic mountaintop house. I know I’ll soon be in an apartment, living alone and cooking for myself, with a view of another building, and limited natural light. One of the items I can’t make without the right equipment is macarons, so I decided to try out a new book that I bought in Kinokuniya (a fantastic Japanese bookstore): I Love Macarons, by Hisako Ogita. I first tried making macarons last year before leaving Canada. This time I wanted to try getting the French meringue recipe right. I think with any new recipe, one has to go through a trial/test run, and I suppose this was mine. I started baking on the day that my good friend came to visit from Vancouver.

These are all the tools and basic ingredients for pistachio macarons with raspberry butter cream filling.

1-inch circles are drawn on parchment paper for the piping of the filling.

I really enjoy watching the shells bake in the oven. It reminds me flowers and nature waking up to the rising of the sun.

So here are the reasons why they did not turn out well (but tasted nice). The macaron is misshaped because of the consistency of the batter and clumsy piping. The gas oven started to brown the shells at the 12 minute mark, even though the recipe called for 15-18 minutes bake time. Oven timings vary greatly depending on your equipment, and so particularly on the first attempt your food should be closely monitored. Further, the shells, while clean and crisp on the outside, were oily. This is because I used old almond meal (it was cheaper) and left it at room temperature for too long while doing other prep work. That being said, I still enjoyed the flavor and texture of the blend of pistachio and raspberry.

That night my mom roasted a chicken. One of the most fail-safe dinner items: roast chicken with thyme, garlic and lemon. Always aromatic and succulent, with a delicious, crispy skin.

We paired it with a light salad with Thai dressing (I think in honor of my Laotian friend), leftover potato salad, and some Ciabatta bread.

My mom also made some blueberry pie the day before. Blueberry has to be my favorite flavor of pie.

We took a walk after dinner when the sun was setting.

The mountain most immediately overlooks a graveyard and golf course…

and the rest of the city on the lake.

The Fugees Be Yourself

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