First thing’s first: I cheated. Twice. I didn’t let the beans sit overnight. Though, technically, they sat covered in cold water for a good 7 hours, so I figured that was the same thing. (Mom did too so I figured it was A-OK.) Then, I bought pistou.
Aside from these two slip-ups—or shall we call them, detours?—I did have a bit of an epiphany as I was slicing up the garlic and doing so quite peacefully, I might add. With Spotify tuned to the “Afternoon Acoustic” playlist, I came to realize something about what I said in the first part of this post: It’s not that I can’t cook, per se. But it’s that I don’t really like to. And perhaps the reason why I don’t like to, is because I usually cook when I’m hungry and cooking takes time. Cooking deserves time. You can’t rush the wax off the garlic or the shell of a hard-boiled egg. With patience, and precision, they’ll both shed their layers eventually. And you know what? There’s so much gratification to be had when it comes off in one big, clean chunk. But that won’t happen if you’re hate-slicing your way to the end result only to then gobble it up in less time than it took you to peel the damn thing to begin with.
Another reason why think I don’t enjoy cooking, is because doing so for oneself is not as satisfying as doing so for someone else or a group. (I guess that’s why my Book Club thinks of me as Carrie Bradshaw meets Julia Child.)
That said, we all know the obvious and there’s no need for me to wallow in it: I may not have a group of friends here (yet) or un mec (a “guy”, which is how Adeline says the French describe their boyfriends), but thanks to my new freelance career, I do have more time and flexibility than I used to. So I’m going to try to enjoy the art of cooking going forward by allowing myself the time to slowly slice, dice and shed those layers.
That being said…I couldn’t wait until morning to start cooking the soup. (Way to get off to a good start on slowing things down, huh? Oy.) The thing is, it was Sunday night at 7p.m.-ish and I had told myself I’d make soup on Sunday so I wanted to make the soup on Sunday. I let the beans soak a bit more while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
Now, remember that pot I thought I had? Well, unbeknownst to me, said pot, which had been out of reach way up on a top shelf in the kitchen, is actually a pressure cooker. So I FaceTimed Mom, obviously, and Mom said I could use it for a soup. (Meanwhile, a pressure cooker?! Aren’t those for fool-proof cooking?! Note to self: Look up pressure cooker recipes.)
Once the beans seemed as if they were soaked through, I put them in the pressure cooker pot with three quarts of water. How many cups of water is that, you ask? About 12. But I didn’t need cups. Not if I wanted to use the new measuring cup I bought. Oh no, I needed to know liters. And so I gave Mom a break and asked Siri to do some converting for me. Soon enough my pot was filled with water and what I hoped were two bay leaves. The package said “Laurier,” but they were the only items in the store that looked remotely like Bay leaves on a shelf with other dry herbs, so I went for it. (Meanwhile, points for knowing what Bay leaves look like, right?)
After a few minutes, it was clear something was up with the burner. I had noticed this earlier when warming butter for the omelette. I’m not accustomed to using electric as I’ve got a gas burner at home in New York. They’re so much easier to control. This one kept turning red, then shutting off or going black; then getting red again, and turning off or back to black as if it were Amy Winehouse.
This can’t be good, I thought. How am I supposed to know if it’s on, let alone what the temperate is?!
I decided to move it to a different burner and eventually got it to a place where I believe the burner stayed red. Though, it was hard to tell because the pot covered it.
After about an hour, I tasted the beans to see if they were tender. They were not, so I left them for another 20 minutes. Finally, they seemed soft enough, so I added the chopped onions and minced garlic—six cloves, by the way—and waited 10 minutes before adding the carrots and zucchini and another 10 before adding the peas and pasta, per David’s instructions.
At this point, it was about 9p.m. and my eyes were practically burning from the scent of garlic and onions. I needed to open some windows. What’s more, the soup looked purple. Was it the Borlotti beans, which were marble-y purple when dry?
When my mom cooks something at home it smells—and looks—incroyable. Though, when we tell her that, she always says, “It does???” So maybe it’s just a desensitization thing for the cook. Either way, at the height of cooking this soup, I felt compelled to light a scented candle out of fear that my neighbors would come banging on my door wondering if I were trying to kill vampires up in here.
Things were moving along just fine until I realized I didn’t have enough Parmesan cheese to make the pistou, which from David’s description is the whole point of the soup. So, I put the soup in the fridge, which seemed like a waste. “But it’ll be even better because the flavors will have blended more,” promised Mom. MmmHmm.
Fast forward 14-hours or so and I’m on my way home from yoga—and starved. It seems silly to pick something up when I have an entire pot of soup in my fridge, but the damn fromagerie isn’t open (because it’s Monday, and speciality shops aren’t open on Monday) to get the Parm for the pistou. Yes, I could’ve gotten some cheese at the regular ‘ole supermarché, which was open, but when I looked at the basil before I left the house, it looked kinda sad and wilty. Like basil that was not going to produce pistou magnifique. I wasn’t too surprised, since it’s not really basil season and, actually, David mentions in the book how it’s generally a hard herb to come by in Paris at any time. (Say that five times fast: hard herb, hard herb, hard herb…)
But the real clincher was that I was hungry and I’ve got to quit it with the cooking-while-hungry situation. If I attempted to pestle that pistou in the mortar (that I specifically bought for this purpose, by the way) I’d murder the mortar itself, no bullets in the pestle needed. So, I caved and bought some pre-made pistou. But at least I bought the French kind, which is made without pine nuts.
I also picked up un demi cerraine—a half loaf of a multi-grain baguette—and some peanut butter and jelly. You know, just in case it all actually boiled over.
Thankfully, it didn’t. While the pistou was a bit oily for my taste, it did add some much-needed flavor. But overall, this was not a bowl of something I’d want to offer anyone. I don’t even know if I’d bring it to the soup kitchen I occasionally volunteer at with my Grandma, which is a shame because there is certainly enough to go around…and around…and around.
I don’t know if it was the fussy stovetop or the used-too-soon beans or the pasta that I may have measured incorrectly or the water that some people say has too much calcium. I guess I could’ve used chicken stock. But c’est la vie. I’ll chalk it up to experience. Plus, the shopping was fun (unsurprisingly!) and the cooking wasn’t half-bad either (surprisingly!). But the best part was that I think I discovered the root of the issue: Slow yo’ self down, girl.
Which is precisely what I did when making Eggplant Stacks tonight. And they were tastier than usual.