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Holiday Ruminations, Part I

Sun Jan 6, 2008

torrone

Torrone

Cooking, for me, is generally a solitary task, a moment to meditate. Alone, peeling carrots or chopping fennel isn’t a mundane task, but standing Zazen meditation. It allows me a moment with my senses, captivated by the way an onion’s odor transforms in the pan with a little bit of olive oil, how it loosens its astringent veil to reveal a sweet, earthen core. Cooking alone is like solving a Sunday New York Times crossword or other puzzle—carefully strategizing when to start each component of a dish or meal so that everything finishes hot and perfectly cooked at the same time.

Cooking with friends and family is an entirely different animal. Full of laughter, bumping into one another, tasting and, occasionally, smoke alarms. It’s sharing a delightful secret with the people you’re cooking with.

Amid the happy chaos and anxiety of holiday travel, meeting my boyfriend’s extended family, trying to squeeze an excursion to New York City into our East Coast vacation and New Year’s I cooked with people. It started with trying to make Pistachio Torrone—a traditional Italian nougat–with my boyfriend, Neal, to bring to Boston. Maybe I should have stopped when finding the edible wafer paper for this sticky treat left me calling every Italian deli, bakery and restaurant supply in Los Angeles with no luck. But I didn’t stop and I finally found the wafer paper at Gloria’s Cake and Candy Supply on the West Side.

Neal and I took turns battling the hand mixer as the sugar and egg white concoction stiffened, scooping it out with our fingers and then laughing as we tried to get it off our fingers. That first batch of torrone tasted delicious but was so soft that it puddled on the counter, looking like Dali’s melting clocks with pistachios in a couple of hours. We blew the engine on my mixer making a second batch. Again, the flavor was there, though I cooked it longer this time so it came out darker and the flavor reflected that, but the texture, while firmer than the first batch, was still too soft and sticky. Not exactly the holiday treat I wanted to impress Neal’s folks, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, while alone these endeavors would have been disappointing, with Neal they were as fun as they were frustrating. Nothing says love like cleaning up a messy kitchen.

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4 Responses to “Holiday Ruminations, Part I”

 
  1. Alchemizzle Says:

    It was a yummy yummy disaster though!

  2. Karen Ferrazzani Says:

    I have to say your final attempt tasted Very Good!

  3. admin Says:

    🙂 Thanks, Karen! Next year’s going to be even better

  4. groundhog.judy Says:

    I like to cook and create with family and friends. Everyone is busy preparing what they do best while joking and drinks float around the kitchen table. During holidays neighbors and friends drop in and the kitchen looks like someone picked it up and shook it. Wonderful!

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