Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Eastside Road, November 2, 2015—
GET RID OF ADJECTIVES, they always warn writing students; I've never agreed; I think adjectives help to clarify and focus the writing — but of course it's not the adjectives; it's how they're used. I admit to concern, even chagrin, at the restricted vocabulary of this blog. Writing almost daily about the food we eat, particularly when certain dishes return frequently, tends to depend on a familiar and perhaps overworked stock of words.

I note, for example, that the word "deep" seems to, um, emerge in nearly every post. Flavor, which is the set of sensations on the tongue (and a few other surfaces like the lining of the cheeks) caused by substances in the food as they (the sensations) are enhanced by aromas ascending into the nose, flavor, I say, and flavors, are notoriously hard to describe. One generally resorts to simile: the cabbage tasted like rose-petals. The guinea-fowl reminded me of peacock. That sort of thing.

In addition to the character of the flavors there's the matter of their weight, and here is where a small helping of adjectives has to do a lot of work. The flavor was thin, or lightweight, or sharp, or bland, or forward, or — my favorite, because it's the quality that offers the most and the longest-lasting payoff — the flavor was deep.

I distinguish between deep flavors and rich ones, and not only because the lack of a gall bladder has alas inhibited my capacity for such rich foods as marrow, sweetbreads, foie gras, and the like. (Not that I'm not willing to put up with a certain discomfort when such foods are available.) Richness goes right past the palate to the liver. Depth, on the other hand, lingers in the mouth; it invites the mind to ponder, recall, perhaps compare. Richness in flavor is like plush, gold, well-worn (in both senses) leather (especially if associated with horses, as in saddles and bridles); depth is like tapestry, patinated bronze, fine leather slippers on a well-worn carpet.

This hominy was deep-flavored. We've had hominy a number of times recently — a very superficial search turns it up on June 25 and 29, August 10, and September 15. Each time Cook prepared it the same way; each time it tasted just a bit different, and not only because of varied garnishes. The technique is simple: a soffritto of onion cooked with crumbled sausage in a little olive oil until nearly caramelized; a can of hominy added; seasonings: cumin and salt; serve with chopped parsley and/or cilantro.

Of course the sausage varies, though she tends to rely on chorizo. The olive oil varies: even if you use only one source, it changes over the weeks in the pantry. Onions, Proserpine knows, vary hugely from one kind to the next, and from one end of the year to the other. So each time the dish surprises me. Tonight I could have sworn there were a few raisins in the mix, so sweet and chewy had some bits of onion become. Raisins might be a good idea, and so might lemon zest, or preserved lemon; so might piquant pepper, either powdered or minced; so might a dash of sherry or sherry vinegar. There are probably hundreds of ways of inflecting this simple dish.

None are necessary. Onion, sausage (already complex itself, of course), olive oil, hominy; time and heat. It's deep.

Garnacha/Monastrell, Laya (Almansa), Old Vines, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

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