A disaster looms for the Good Ship Health.
On the map ahead, the shoals are marked Holiday Gathering, Christmas Dinner, Feast of the Seven Fishes, New Year’s Eve and the particularly insidious triplets Secret Santa, Sing-along and Just Another Small One.
Navigating the Thanksgiving dinner buffet was calm waters compared to what’s on the horizon.
You’ll hear that the best ways to keep weight off and your head on are to “not” do things. That’s one way to ennoble negative space.
But I say just slow everything down — in the kitchen at the table, with the belly up to the bar. If the pace gets glacial, that’s fine. When time isn’t moving, that’s a lot of not doing, too.
The present-day word for “slow” is “mindfulness.” When we attend to the moment, and lose thought of the past or future, we effect the pause. We savor one bite instead of shovel two; we sip instead of gulp.
My favorite time cooking is stuff like this: standing over a carrot and staring at it, figuring out how to slice or dice this hard orange thing that is about to roll away from me; stirring a fluid in a figure-eight slowly and splashlessly so that the eddies and waves take on their own shiny life; watching onions go from ghostly to golden to amber then auburn, losing their sulfuric sting, becoming honeyed.
All these things take time. Each moment enriches my senses, in turn, one sense, then another: color, sound, smell, taste, touch.
I can sense them altogether, if I like, at eating, but I can’t even do that well if I don’t spend time on the forkful or don’t linger on the bite, letting the flavors and textures come slowly to, onto, and into me.
I learned one of the great lessons of my life — not merely my cooking life, but my overall life — watching my maternal grandmother make mayonnaise. She made it every day.
Each morning, she placed a plate on her lap, smashed an egg yolk on it with the back of a fork, and swept it up into a cream. Oil went in drip by drip until the new mayonnaise could accept a wee stream of oil and then it was done. A few drops of lemon juice, salt, white pepper. Today’s mayonnaise.
Cooking, eating, and drinking mindfully the next few weeks:
The idea is to chop, peel, dice, measure, squeeze, apportion and individualize the ingredients that make up a recipe, place them in small bowls, ramekins or cups, and have them ready and willing when it comes time to finally cook.
Makes 1/2 to 3/4 cup
On a room temperature plate, smash and stir the egg with a fork until creamed. Add a tiny amount of oil at a time and blend. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
From Mark Bittman, The New York Times; serves 4
Put olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet, and turn heat to medium. Add onions, a good pinch of salt, pepper and bay leaf or thyme. Cook, stirring, until mixture starts to sizzle, a minute or two. Adjust heat so you need to stir at most only every 5 minutes to keep onions from browning as they soften. Do not allow to brown. Cook at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half and shake out seeds, then cut into 1/2-inch dice. Heat a grill until moderately hot. When onions are very soft, almost a shapeless mass, season fish and grill it, turning once, for a total of about 6 minutes for tuna, 8-10 minutes for swordfish. Check for doneness by making a small cut in center to peek inside.
While fish is grilling, stir olives and tomatoes into onions, and raise heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes liquefy and mixture becomes juicy. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve fish on a bed of onion confit, whole fish cut into serving portions.
Reach Bill St John at email@example.com.