About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007
Heart & Soul
Long time readers of this blog would know that I'm all for putting something of yourself into the dishes you cook, to cook with love and affection, which are some of the qualities that make, for me anyway, cooking so enjoyable. To take ingredients and combine them in a way that the sum is greater than the parts, giving pleasure to others, is part of the reason why I love to cook.

I came across a poem called Ratatouille that quietly reveals feelings that can be notoriously difficult for men to express and starkly demonstrates the darker side of the human soul, brought into relief by the simple process of making ratatouille. This dish reflects its creator in that no two versions of it are ever the same and you can tell a lot about someone by the way they prepare this dish, do they have patience to cut the dice small, are the pieces of vegetable all cut neatly the same size or just rough chopped, have they troubled themselves to find the reddest, ripest tomatoes, the plumpest shiniest eggplant, has each vegetable been given its proper place with neither too little or too much?

There is no exact way to make ratatouille, nor will I trouble you with a recipe, but if you want to find its heart & soul, look here for the whole poem and scroll down a bit. Otherwise, here is an excerpt.

by Douglas Dunn

...Men who forget
Lovingly chopped-up cloves of /ail/, who scorn
The job of slicing two good peppers thinly,
Then two large onions and six aubergines -
Those long, impassioned and imperial purples -
Which, with six courgettes, you sift with salt
And cover with a plate for one round hour;
Or men who do care to know about
The eight ripe /pommes d'amour/ their wives have need of,
Preparing ratatouille, who give no thought to
The cup of olive oil that's heated in
Their heaviest pan, or onions, fried with garlic
For five observant minutes, before they add
Aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes;
Or men who give no thought to what their wives
Are thinking as they stand besides their stoves
When seasoning is sprinkled on, before
A /bouquet garni/ is dropped in - these men
Invade Afghanistan, boycott the Games,
Call off their fixtures and prepare for war...
  posted at 8:07 am

At 9:53 am, Blogger kitchen hand said...

That is beautiful, Neil. I love ratatouille but ever since Fawlty Towers came along all those years ago, ratatouille always makes me think of Manuel and the rat.

At 5:42 pm, Blogger kazari_lu said...

Thankyou Neil.
I've been making various versions of ratatouille for years... and it is one of those time-consuming dishes that requires much thought about the people you are eating it with.

At 12:13 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I like this but my favorite is
...it goes well with everything,
As love does, as peace does, as summers do
Or any other season, as a lifetime does.
Thanks once again Neil.

At 8:03 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, it is really beautiful, I was very taken with it. Wasn't that the episode that made people think twice about veal too?

Hi kazari-lu, it is a special dish that deserves to me made over and over, it sums up so many things - summer, healthy vegetables, loving preperation...

Hi tanna, wise words that say so much.

At 2:17 pm, Blogger kitchen hand said...

Neil, I can't remember, there was actually quite a lot of plot amidst all the comedy. I think the chef had made advances to Manuel who rejected them; the chef then put the resident kitchen rat (whom Manual had adopted and named Basil) in the ratatouille.


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