Friday, April 3, 2009

senza melone!

Toasted has been on a long hiatus for a number of reasons, the most boring of which include job-hunting and studying (although the ability to do both of these things at work doesn't really leave any excuse). Then there's the problem of cooking less interesting things due to lack of creative stomach time (that's the time when you sit at work so utterly bored that you think about all the culinary possibilities of, say, a pomegranate, and then go home and create some wondrous, bejewelled dish).

But less cooking time has also meant less food-reading and more non-food-reading. And more non-food-reading means finding morsels of gastronomic intrigue in unexpected places. The snippet that moved me from the couch just now to share this with you is by Nick Hornby, English author of Fever Pitch and A Long Way Down (and other books). Hornby wrote a sort-of book review column for an American journal called The Believer, which was as much about the experience of being a reader (including buying loads of books you don't really intend to read) as the books themselves.

In his April 2004 column, Hornby penned the following fabulously dry, absurd metaphor:

'Like a lot of writers, I can't really stand my own writing, in the same way that I don't really like my own cooking. And, just as when I go out to eat, I tend not to order my signature dish - an overcooked and overspiced meat-stewy thing containing something inappropriate, like tinned peaches, and a side order of undercooked and flavourless vegetables - I don't want to read anything that I could have come up with at my own computer.'

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree
Viking 2006

I have to say, I found this hilarious. It's possibly because JG is a big fan of tinned peaches, and that means soggy, orange cheeks are just as likely to turn up with ice cream as with lamb or fish. And it's not just a domestic fetish; we can't go camping without tinned peaches either. JG's camping trip is incomplete if he doesn't get to eat a tin of peaches for breakfast, cold from the esky. (I can highly recommend this as a hangover cure, but not as highly as sausages.)

Peaches are not the only fruit allowed to crossover into non-dessert cooking. Pears sneak in, as do grapes, and not just with cheese or salads. They can also be found lurking under grilled fish or roasting with duck or pork. Additionally, I believe I also saw JG eating fish fingers and pineapple in the same bun, but I may have been delusional. And all of this is totally acceptable and frequently delicious (though not pineapple, obviously); it's just that I never really got the fruity-salty thing. Call it an unsophisticated palate, but in the early eighties when my mother started pouring tins of apricot nectar over her roast chickens, I got very confused. Shouldn't chicken taste of chicken grease and lots of salt? And shouldn't the potatoes also taste like chicken grease and lots of salt? Who thought they should taste like apricots? I know, half the world thinks that. Pilafs, biryanis, tagines - there's lots of fruity-salty going on. Proscuitto e melone is another one - a possibly not-properly-Italian concoction that was fashionable when I was a child - and led to one of my earliest Italian phrases: senza melone. Maybe I'll get it when I'm older. Like about 84.