It took parenting and cooking to teach me how to live my life.
This sentence could very well be a description for this blog. That’s what I've been wanting to share here: parenting, cooking, life (and a French touch). Not necessarily in that order. Their connection never ceases to amaze me.
What I mean by that, is that the
meaning meat of life, the secret to happiness and fulfillment, the secret to no-regret-living, is to live for, and by, the journey. Or the process. (Journey’s a pretty word for process, really.) Or at least, I'm pretty sure it's a big part of it.
And as life would have it, parenting and cooking are both process-oriented experiences. In fact, they are experiences that only work if you focus on their process, if you’re able to enjoy their process. If you’re able to trust their process.
Through both, I am learning to let go of expectations, to be present in the moment, to nurture instead of control. For both, I am finding that learning from others and trusting one’s own instincts is not contradictory, but complementary. Thanks to both, I am learning to be attuned to myself and to the world.
I’ve been struggling to write for many years. Wanting to, and yet finding it excruciating, or myself incapable of it. But I see now writing is much like cooking and parenting. It’s all about the process too. The end result, well... it’s not what matters most. And it shouldn't be the motivation for it. If it is, it comes out shallow, inauthentic, mediocre. Just like cooking to impress. And how absurd - and damaging - would it be to have a child only for the picture-perfect lawyer or doctor we would like him to become?
We must live for living's sake, cook for cooking's sake, eat for eating's sake, write for writing's sake, and nurture for nurturing's sake. A thing that is an end in itself, is always worthwhile.
So I am writing, here, finally. Perhaps I couldn't write before I learned that lesson. Parenting and cooking might have just made a writer out of me. How wonderfully and poetically surprising life can be, when our minds are open enough to take it in.
I could bitch about how I wish I learned these things earlier in life. And I do sometimes. But to heck with hindsight, it was just part of my journey to learn it this way. And the onslaught of spring is making me feel optimistic. The jasmine has burst out into the night air, heavy enough to carry the mockingbird's relentless nocturnal song of seduction. (I can hear him in the darkness as I'm writing these words.) So I wanted to say it: I am grateful for this unforeseen revelation, this new understanding of life. I’m just so glad about it. And when one is glad, one should say it. Or write it. Share it, in short.
Or cook it. And can I just say gratins are a perfect way to share gladness?
I have blogged about sunchokes before, we have enjoyed many sunchoke soups this winter, simple ones and fancy ones, and I recently cooked them in a gratin for the first time. This is a twist on the classic French potato gratin. A very tasty twist indeed. I hope you enjoy!
Sunchoke gratin dauphinoisAdapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes de Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme
Prep time: 30 mn
Cook time: 65 mn
Age for babies: 10-12 months
2 lbs sunchokes (try to get larger ones that are not too quirky shaped, for ease of peeling and slicing)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 whole garlic clove
4 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (or crème fraîche)
2 pinches of ground nutmeg
3.5 oz of grated Swiss cheese (Comté is a good one. Manchego works well too, or other flavorful hard cheese)
Salt & pepper
Peel the sunchokes, putting them in cold water as you go. Then slice them either by hand or with a mandoline or with the slicing accessory of your food processor.
Preheat the oven at 350°F.
In a medium pot, bring the milk and bay leaf to a low boil, remove from heat, cover and let cool to lukewarm.
Peel the garlic clove. Rub your baking dish with 2 tbsp of butter, and rub the bottom of the dish with the garlic clove.
Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Remove the bay leaf from the milk. Whisk in the cream, the eggs, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper.
Place one layer of sunchoke slices in the baking dish, pour some of the milk/cream mixture on top, sprinkle with cheese, then add another layer of sunchokes, pour the rest of the milk/cream mixture and sprinkle the rest of the cheese (do one more layer of each if needed). Top with small dabs of butter, and bake for 1 hour.
Check if the sunchokes are done with a knife, should go in easily, like for a potato.
We have served this as a side dish with a roasted chicken, or a duck stew. Or it can be savored on its own with an endive salad.