So my lover – her smell and tears now distant as a night cloaked road in some foreign desert town – has admonished me to write and cook.
It is becoming what I do. My problem is that there simply isn’t enough time to run the empire that is my life and cook properly. I am starting to need bigger kitchens, wilder ingredients, dedicated equipment.
I must live vicariously through my mother’s kitchen while maintaining a small chemical lab in the closeted confines of my own. As for time and money, it’s a delicate balance. Success in life brings costly passions.
My kitchen is dedicated to making stock at the moment. For Christmas my sister Kim – with unwavering retail prowess and attention to intuition – bought me a cook book that stands as royalty among lesser tomes: ‘Grand Livre de Cuisine, culinary encyclopedia by Alain Ducasse’.
It is so large that and so full of ideas that it has its own ecosystem. I hear it whispering to me at night in a strange and wonderful language that I am only beginning to understand. As the introduction to the book cheerfully puts it; ‘By imitating the masters, one cannot of course reach the levels of their perfection, but one often escapes the routine of one’s own banality.’
How utterly French.
It is true however that I cannot follow a single recipe easily, not even in concept, never mind practice. There is none of this explaining business to be found in mortal cook books; ‘Just take the consommé, dust it with Fleur de Sel and place it next to the Veal Juice.’ And you make those how?
Trying to answer those basic questions is in fact what brought me to page 1039, whereupon I discovered a section entitled Basic Recipes, which is to say butters, stocks, consommé, jelly, fumet and juice.
The juice section alone is like a small farmyard of recipes – lamb juice, beef juice, duck juice, pheasant juice, rabbit juice, veal juice, chicken juice and last but not least, my personal favourite, pigeon juice. What’s more, most of the reductions are made up of each other. Lobster jelly, for example contains calf’s foot jelly and brown game stock contains veal stock.
You can’t just go and create one stock or jelly without creating a supportive family of others so that the flavour reductions can be played together like a symphony. This part is the real secret to professional cooking.
I have bought six large jars which are sitting on the kitchen counter. It is now a case of finding six kilograms of veal bones, a job not as easy as it appears because we no longer live in villages. The meat is stripped in far-off warehouses’ and sent out ready packaged for market. Never fear though I have a plan for tomorrow.