Reading may seem like a solitary pleasure, but we do not believe it is so. As we read, we intimately interact with writers, the worlds they create, and our own inner selves as well as the real world that surrounds us. Some of us are also blessed enough to have friends to share the experience with.
While discussing the idyllic village of Three Pines and the captivating characters author Louise Penny created in the Inspector Gamache books, we were aware of the sensory pleasure to be had in the meals described. Olivier’s Bistro, Gabri’s baking, and dinners at the Morrow’s can easily make us salivate while reading the books… Louise Penny's books, are a wonderful entrée into a sensual world, where each book is a season, capturing its mood and flavours, and contributing to the layers of meaning about the characters, who are marvellously revealed over the series.
At one point, a daydream of going through the series with a notebook in hand, writing down all these meals and later cooking them, took shape. This is our "notebook". We hope you enjoy this literary-culinary-sensory-philosophical journey.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Within moments they were eating soup, baguette and watching Les Canadiens slaughter New York.“Too salty,” snapped Gilbert. “I told Carole not to put so much salt in the food.”
“Tastes fine to me.”
“Then you have no taste. Raised on poutine and burgers.”
Beauvoir looked at Dr. Gilbert expecting to see a smile. Instead his handsome face was sour, angry. Entitled, petulant, petty.The asshole was back. Or, more likely, had been there all along in deceptively easy company with the saint.
|Is it just me? Or does everyone snack while they cook? One of my favorites - a spread of Greek yogurt + mustard, tomato & a sprinkle of basil, then toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes. Mmmmmm...|
And Beauvoir knew then the man was a saint. He’d been touched by any number of medical men and women. All healers, all well intentioned, some kind, some rough. All made it clear that they wanted him to live, but none had made him feel that his life was precious, was worth saving, was worth something.Vincent Gilbert did. His healing went beyond the flesh, beyond the blood. Beyond the bones.
Reading has long been an addiction. Interpreting, learning, and understanding my own life and my thoughts using the books I have read or am reading has also been something I’ve done ever since I can remember. Writing about what I read and trying to elaborate, cohesive posts about my scattered thoughts is what has been new.
I hope that I have been more successful than Dr. Vincent at applying what I have been learning. I know there is still much to contemplate and to learn… and so much room for growth.
I thought it was so good I actually made it a second time within the week.
I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a wonderful year in 2017. May we all build on our past experiences, learn from our mistakes, emphasize our strengths and qualities, grasp opportunities, forgive our errors, find meaning in our sorrows, embrace our differences, cherish our loved ones, and listen.
My main goal for 2017 is to try to be the best version of myself that I can, to forgive myself for all the things I am not and learn to unconditionally love all that I am. My goal is to listen and try to place myself in others' shoes and to resist the urge to only see and tell things from my perspective and understanding. My goal is to allow myself words, but also to be wary of them and aware of their power and my power when I wield them so I take care to use them wisely. My goal is to change the world by focusing on changing myself. To love, starting with those who are closest (and frequently hardest to love). To listen. And to be kind.
Also, to eat lots of soup this winter. I do love soup.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Friday, December 23, 2016
Chef Véronique was putting hand-made truffles and chocolate-dipped candied fruit on small plates. Her sausage fingers instinctively placed the confections in an artistic pattern. She took a sprig of mint from the glass, shook the water from it and clipped a few leaves with her nails. Absently she chose some edible flowers from her vase and before long a few chocolates had become a lovely design on the white plate.
“He needs to know who’s in charge,” said Pierre firmly.“He does know. He just doesn’t like it.”The maître d’ had had a hard day, she could see. She took the largest truffle from the tray and handed it to him.
He ate it absently.”
Pierre sipped, and nodded. It was relaxing begin around Chef Véronique, though he knew she scared the crap out of the new employees. She was huge and beefy, her face like a pumpkin and her voice like a root vegetable. And she had knives. Lots of them. And cleavers and cast-iron pans.
|Stir until bubbly like this. Then keep stirring until thick and kind of "loose" off bottom of pan.|
|Set aside to cool before rolling. Unless you're making it for yourself and want to just to eat a warm spoonful...|
|You can be creative with toppings. Sprinkles are traditional, but I like nuts best.|
|Preparing to spread holiday cheer. ;)|
Friday, December 16, 2016
Francoeur cut through the puff pastry of his salmon en croute and saw the flaky pink fish, with watercress on top. Lemon and tarragon butter dripped out of the pastry. (How the Light Gets In, Kindle, p. 258)
We see it in individuals who are intoxicated by power and wealth, who take what they want with an unerring belief in entitlement, and need for self-aggrandisement. It robs them of any real sense of fairness, empathy and generosity, leaving them to pay only lip service to the fact that others exist, with perhaps less fortunate lives than they. We see it in the way power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few at the expense of many, a wealth divide that continues to increase alarmingly.
He believed that light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. ... Chief Inspector Gamache wondered if he could have been wrong all this time. Maybe the darkness sometimes won. Maybe evil had no limits. (How the Light Gets In, Kindle, p. 271)
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
'What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. ... More of us walk around with kinds of social norms; we work in groups that exert all pressures on us to conform. Once you get into a position of power, then you can be whoever you are.' (Joe Magee, power researcher and professor of management, New York University)
“Do you know what you’re offering?” Thérèse asked. “A safe place,” said Myrna. “Who doesn’t need that at least once in their lives?” “The people who’re looking for us don’t want a simple chat,” said Thérèse, holding Myrna’s eyes. “They don’t want to negotiate, they don’t even want to threaten us. They want to kill us. And they’ll kill you too, if we’re found in your home. There is no safe place, I’m afraid.” She needed Myrna to understand. Myrna stood before her, clearly frightened, but determined. ... “Armand wouldn’t have brought you here if he didn’t think we’d protect you. “But they’ll still come looking for us.” “We thought so.” “We?” Myrna turned to look at the road and Thérèse followed her glance. Standing on the snow-covered path were Clara, Gabri, Olivier, and Ruth and Rosa. (How the Light Gets In, Kindle, p.339-40)
Salmon en Croute
This is rather a special occasion/festive dish, with wonderful contrasts of flavour and texture. It's seriously delicious! Fish baked in an envelope of light, buttery pastry and made succulent with a fragrant herb butter is something worth experiencing. Seriously, there are moments of rapture as it all comes together in a mouthful! And it is really worth making your own pastry, particularly as there are some shortcuts to a brilliant result. This recipe feeds four. And it's not as complicated as it might first seem. Lots can be done ahead of time, including making the pastry and herb butter. I hope my step-by-step descriptions are not too tedious. The photos are meant to be the key to it all!
Rough Puff Pastry
1. Sieve the flour and salt into a mound on the bench or pastry mat and add the butter.
2. Lightly work the butter into the flour using your finger tips, ensuring that the pieces of butter stay relatively large.
This adds a nice succulence to the salmon en croute and cuts through the richness of the herb butter. If watercress is not available, baby spinach leaves are a good substitute.
1. Mash the butter with a spoon and stir in the lemon zest.
Bringing it all together
2. Trim the piece of fish to an even rectangular shape.
3. Spread the herb butter in a thick even layer on the upper side of the fish. Refrigerate.
4. Dust the bench/pastry mat with flour and roll out the pastry into a rectangle of 3-4mm/ 1/8in thickness.
Work quickly while the pastry is still cold.
5. Spread the watercress mixture in the centre of the pastry.
6. Place the herb butter side of the fish down on the watercress.
7. Trim the pastry to a size where it will fold over the fish and enclose it like a parcel.
8. Fold the pastry tightly over the salmon, sealing it with egg wash where it meets.
Repeat this with each end, trimming off any excess pastry.
9. Place the salmon parcel, seam side down, on a length of baking parchment that will fit the baking sheet in the oven.
At this stage if the pastry is getting quite sticky place the parcel in the fridge for 15 mins.
10. Score the surface of the pastry with the back of a knife but don't cut through it. Brush the top, sides and ends with egg wash and sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper over it.
12. Place the parcel and the paper onto the hot oven tray straight from the fridge. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown on both the top and the bottom.
13. Remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes. Slice into servings using a sharp serrated knife.
Friday, December 9, 2016
It wasn’t servile work they did at the Manoir Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial. They put people back together. Though some, he knew, were more broken than others.
It was noble and crucial. They put people back together.
Not everyone was made for this work.
"I was just having some fun.”
Elliot said it was though it were reasonable to stand in the middle of the crowded, busy kitchen mocking the guests, and the maître d’ was the unreasonable one. Pierre could feel his rage rising. He looked around.
The large old kitchen was the natural gathering place for the staff. Even the gardeners were there, eating cakes and drinking tea and coffee. And watching his humiliation at the hands of a nineteen-year-old. He’s young, Pierre said to himself. He’s young. But he’d said it so often it had become meaningless.
He knew he should let it go.
“You were making fun of the guests.”
“Only one. Oh, come on, she’s ridiculous. Excusez-moi, but I think he got more coffee than I did. Excusez-moi, but is this the best seat? I asked for the best seat. Excusez-moi, I don’t mean to be difficult, but I did order before they did. Where’s my celery stick?”
Titters, quickly stifled, filled the warm kitchen.
It was a good imitation. Even in his anger the maître d’ recognized Sandra’s smooth, cool whine. Always asking for a little bit more. Elliot might not be a natural waiter, but he had an uncanny ability to see people’s faults. And magnify them. And mock them. It was a gift not everyone would find attractive.
It wasn’t servile work they did at the Manoir Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial. They put people back together. Though some, he knew, were more broken than others.
Friday, December 2, 2016
Tureens filled with brilliant pea and mint soup sat on the table, next to baskets of fresh, warm baguette. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.290)
Gamache grabbed at Beauvoir’s hand, trying to loosen the gun. From Jean-Guy’s throat came a wail, a cry of desperation. He fought wildly, flailing and kicking and bucking but finally Gamache twisted Beauvoir’s arm behind his back and the firearm clattered to the floor. Both men were gasping for breath. Gamache held Jean-Guy’s face against the rough stone wall. Beauvoir bucked and sidled but Gamache held firm. “Let go,” Beauvoir screamed into the stone. “Those pills are mine. My property.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.364)
Gamache put his face against Francoeur’s. “You could’ve killed him,” Gamache snarled. “You almost killed him. How can you do this to one of your own?” Gamache had Francoeur’s shirt in his fist, yanking it. He felt the man’s warm breath on his face, in short, terrified puffs. And Gamache knew. Just a little more pressure. Just a few moments more, and this problem would disappear. This man would disappear. One more twist. And who would blame him? (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.366)
The Chief Inspector looked into the sky and felt the north wind on his upturned face. Some malady is coming upon us. (The Beautiful Mystery, Kindle, p.372)
Green Pea and Mint Soup
Finishing and Serving the Soup
Friday, November 25, 2016
She picked up Rosa and walked over to Clara’s cottage. Letting herself in, she found Clara where she knew she’d be. Ruth sat on the sprung and lumpy sofa that smelled of banana peels and apple cores and watched Clara at the easel, staring at Peter’s portrait.“Who hurt you once, so far beyond repair?” said Ruth.“The line from your poem,” said Clara, turning on the stool to look at Ruth.“I was asking you, Clara. Who hurt you once?” Ruth gestured to the easel. “What are you waiting for?”
“Then why’re you stuck? Like the characters in that goddamned play. Are you waiting for someone, something to save you? Waiting for Peter to tell you it’s okay to get on without him? You’re looking for milk in the wrong place.”“I just want to paint,” said Clara. “I don’t want to be saved, I don’t want to be forgiven. I don’t even want milk. I just want to paint.”
Ruth struggled out of the sofa. “I did.”
“You did what?” asked Clara.“The answer to that question. All those years when I couldn’t write, I blamed John Fleming. But I was wrong.”
Clara watched Ruth and Rosa waddle away. She had no idea what the crazy old woman was talking about. But sitting in front of the canvas, it slowly sank in.Who could do such damage? Who knew where the weaknesses, the fault lines lay? Who could cause all that internal bleeding?
During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. They justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences.” (Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl)
When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.” (Gilead – Marilynne Robinson)
“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” (The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman)
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same. (Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl)
We are all frightened of the ugly, the dirty. We all want to turn away from anything that reveals the failure, pain, sickness, and death beneath the brightly painted surface of our ordered lives. Civilization is, at least in part, about pretending that things are better than they are. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
How difficult it is to accept our limits and our handicaps as well as our gifts and capacities. We feel that if others see us as we really are they might reject us. So we cover our weaknesses. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
But then I began to realize that in order to accept other people’s disabilities and to help them grow, it was fundamental for me to accept my own. (Becoming Human – Jean Vanier)
IfIf you can keep your head when all about you// are losing theirs and blaming you, // If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, // But make allowance for their doubting too; // If you can wait and not be tired of waiting, // or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, // or being hated, don’t give way to hating…(Rudyard Kipling)
Clara picked up her brush and contemplated the empty canvas. She would do a portrait of the person who had hurt her once, beyond repair.With one bold stroke after another she painted. Capturing the rage, the sorrow, the doubt, the fear, the guilt, the joy, the love, and finally, the forgiveness.It would be her most intimate, most difficult painting yet.It would be a self-portrait.
All quotes - unless stated otherwise - are from The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny