"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

fine italian and french cooking

i've been boning up on my cooking terminology and technique during my lunch break today. one thing i'm proud of, is that ben and i have a really terrific track record in terms of our home cooking. we've been making delicious, healthy (low on oil, high in veggies, low on waste), collaborative food since we first started living together, and it's one of the things i miss the most about our life together. it occurs to me i'm really lucky that i have a partner who is as eager as i am to have a fully collaborative relationship, right down to the preparation of fine food. our lives are a lot happier and healthier (and fuller!) as a result, in addition to being less gender normative, which will be good for the kids!

since i'm going back to see ben in a little over a week (yippee!) i've been reading about food and thinking about what i want to make and it made me think about the art of food preparation, the skill required in artful cuisine (knife skills, knowledge about how to choose and prepare produce, proper timing, just to name a few), and the language that is so specific to food preparation. of course, good cooks may not necessarily even know the formal terminology for what they're doing, which is the case with us. i learned today that what we've been doing with our acclaimed pasta sauce is known in the worlds of french and italian cooking as Mirepoix and soffritto (respectively), and "the holy trinity" in Creole cooking. our sauce is more or less a traditional Bolognese Ragu, minus the milk and cream due to ben's lactose intolerance, plus a super secret ingredient i learned from my mom that will go with me to my deathbed (it seriously makes the difference between mediocre sauce and awesome, no-leftovers, lick-yr-plate sauce)!

another interesting thing i learned today was the origin of the cooking term Mirepoix, which is a mixture of onions, carrots and celery, in the ratio 2:1:1, lightly browned and used as the basis of flavoring for sauces, such as our own pasta sauce, and cooking stocks. have you noticed how fragrant and yummy celery is when its flavors are opened up with some heat? delicious! anyway, i was wondering what the etymology for the term was, and learned this:
According to Pierre Larousse (quoted in the Oxford Companion to Food), the unfortunate Duke of Mirepoix was "an incompetent and mediocre individual. . . who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt toward his wife and who had but one claim to fame: he gave his name to a sauce made of all kinds of meat and a variety of seasonings" [from Wikipedia]
glad to know a cuckolded, impotent little French aristocrat gave us such a lovely term for something so tasty! thanks, dude!

also, if you've ever wondered what the difference between Ziti and Penne is, here it is:
Ziti and Penne are both cylindrical hollow pastas, but the difference is that ziti is cut with a square edge, while penne pastas are cut at an angle. this is an important distinction! the angled ends of penne allow for even more sauce retention than ziti, since the ends act as scoops. ridged penne, or penne rigate, allow even more sauce retention because of their ridges. an easy way to remember this is that the name penne comes from the latin/italian word for "feather" or "quill" - hence the angled edge and the name. also: mostaccioli are a larger, wider version of penne and their name means "little moustache."

isn't cooking fun??!

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