Friday, November 18, 2005

Felled by the mighty Carnaroli

Breakfast had been a puddle of prunes and soaked oats, and lunch an apple, chewed miserably in the corner of the yard, alone, scowling at the ground, wishing the meal could just be over. That evening, while on a third constitutional walk, as day drew to a close and lights began to flip on here and there, through the street-facing windows one could hear tap water filling pasta pots, chops sizzling in pans, knives hitting cutting boards as they rhythmically dismantled fine aromatics and herbs.

After three weeks at this miserable health-diet, I put the resolute foot down. What harm could there be in an evening of pleasurable repast? As I made for home, I set the jaw, steeled the eye, and thought out the many dishes I would order in from Hong Kong Sam, my old standby hole-in-the-wall for ginger-rich dumplings and beef chow fun so fresh and delicate that it literally trembles like an undercooked egg on the plate.

When I turned the final corner my senses were re-oriented: I caught the old familiar whiff of Téodor's sofrito, that oniony base from which all of his brilliant risottos arise. Blinded by pure, gluttonous desire, I quite literally ran into my room, recovered an Amarone I had been hiding from myself behind a potted plant, and took a seat at the kitchen table. Téodor, bless his wild heart, had laid out an orchestra pit of rendered guanciale, chives, tomato, and a taleggio cheese so runny and malodorous that I feel it must have been wrung from the sock of Romulus himself.

The Amarone didn't quite pair, Téodor was a fussing priss about the texture, and Philippe tipped a water glass onto my leg, but I have never, ever, known such pleasure as that creamy, rich, sweet, porcine risotto. I ate until the plate was clean, drank until the bottle ran dry, and set about a walking tour of the backyard with a hand-rolled and two generous fingers of Calvados. It seemed a new place to me, and even the manual reel-mower abandoned in the center of the lawn had a life-affirming beauty to it. Wordless Buddhist poetry welled up within me, if you know what I mean.