“There is only one recipe–to care a great deal for the cookery.”
-Henry James

I guess you could say that it all started on Bastille Day, which, for some odd reason or another, I like to mark in some small way: perhaps by having lunch at a French restaurant, a nice glass of French wine or even a few crackers with some delicious French cheese (oui, vive la France!). I suppose it makes sense since a) I’ll take advantage of any excuse to eat good French food (yes, a college friend and I splurged on dinner at Bouchon to celebrate my having passed the PhD exams; it was well worth every cent!) and b) I did study French for several years of my life and it’s something that I’ve always been sad I’ve given up…then again, I strongly believe that what has been lost can usually be regained (was this not Proust’s point as well? Not that *cough* I’ve ever actually read the man, but so I’ve heard…), especially if all it requires is a little bit of effort.

But, oddly enough, the meal I planned for Bastille Day was not at all French in its origins, but Spanish. So much for vive la France, right? How fickle is the heart! To explain myself, the simple truth is that though I like Paris (who doesn’t like Paris, after all?) and enjoyed my travels throughout France, I’ve been fascinated by Spain ever since I went there for spring break one year in college. I loved the food, the culture, the people…the paella, churros and marzipan (hmm, that all falls into food, but clearly food can make a big difference in one’s travel experience), even the little lisp of Castilian Spanish and I’d go back in a heartbeat. But since I have a little something called a dissertation to write and a grad student’s salary/budget, that’s not in the cards right now. So my goal is to attempt to master Spanish cooking in my very own kitchen and, while avoiding the view of the next apartment building over, to pretend that I’m there. 🙂 With the right music (and a little rioja), this is entirely possible. On this occasion, however, I made one tiny concession to la France by playing a French radio station (Radio Douce France), which is awesome and has led to my discovery of Francoise Hardy (sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing; it’s that good).

Despite the fact that I attended a paella cooking class in the fall and apparently now have the knowledge to make my very own paella at home, I’m still a little frightened of such an undertaking, so I decided instead to make a tortilla de patatas with cauliflower. This seemed a manageable task, I had my camera ready and, in short, the makings of a blog post were underway.

And then everything went wrong. Ok, yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration (I tend to go for doomsday scenarios, but, to be fair, I do study Russian literature and Symbolism in particular, which means that I have a special place in my heart for the apocalypse), since the potatoes had poached beautifully. The cauliflower had also softened quite nicely, though they still retained a little crunch, which is exactly what I had wanted. Then I added the egg and this, yes, this is the moment when things fell apart…quite literally too. At that point, Z had arrived, we were talking and then it was time to flip the pan so that I could put the tortilla back in so the other side could cook. Well…only half of the eggs came out. While the other half was glued to the all-clad stainless steel non non-stick skillet. I was horrified; Z kind of laughed until I gave him the evil/disappointed eye. And then we tried again. Let’s put it mildly: once stuck, eggs aren’t going anywhere. That is, not without brute force, which ruins a would-be tortilla and turns it into mere scrambled eggs. This is why non-stick is preferable; good ingredients and painfully precise chopping mean nothing if the cookware is going to fail you in the end….

*sigh* Aesthetics aside, it tasted good. Then we played backgammon and, as yours truly won, my general cheer and goodwill were restored. 🙂 At the end of the day, all this means is that I can now add yet another recipe to my list of cooking “bête noire” that must be mastered: pound cake and tortilla española. And when I finally get it right (a friend who lived in Spain for a month is coming over this week and we’re going to try again; *fingers crossed*), believe me, you’ll be some of the first to know. After all, how could I not share the secret of my success?

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