Tuesday, July 03, 2007

and wouldn't it be so tragic if everything just went amiss

Scheisse, how I would like to tell you that I have been otherwise occupied with deep thoughts, careful ponderings and intellectual pursuits. Alas, in fact, I spent the last twenty-four hours quite in contrast to all that.

Upon returning from Peru, I was seized by the need to get in the kitchen and make myself useful. Back then, it had to do with being surrounded in Peru by caf├ęs and bakeries, and with traveling in a place where everyone seemed hard at work producing something, whether it was food, clothing, or whatever else. While I was in Spain, Barcelona especially, I could not wait to get back to a kitchen to get a little messy. But the impulse originated from something different this time. Barcelona in particular is a place that seems to embrace flavor.

One could make a case that the rest of Spain is not wildly adventurous about food, but Barcelona just struck me as daring. You know, you wouldn’t think you’d find a sumptuous chocolaterie in Barcelona, but you will, mostly because, for example, Cacao Sampaka will pair chocolate with the unexpected. Saffron-infused chocolate, rosemary-infused chocolate, flavors that make you stop and think about what it is you are tasting. After a great meal at a tapas place, you find yourself ordering a dessert that sounds totally absurd- who, after all, believes a dense ball of chocolate mousse should be topped with a thin dripping of (!) olive oil followed by a sprinkling of (!?!) sea salt? Yet, you taste it and you marvel at how it’s perfection. Or you pass a simple enough bakery in the Born, where piles and piles of cookies spill forth in the window sill- you stop in and realize there is not one conventional cookie there, and walk out with a chocolate chip-basil cookie. Which is, of course, wonderful.

Barcelona seems to have this por que no? attitude pulsing through the city. The architecture (of course), that a super-modern building will stand right next to one of the oldest ones in the city, the gamut of women with purple highlights to those who embody perfect elegance, and the food, most certainly, the food. Somehow, there is this spirit of daring, this spirit that suggests that it does not matter if you wind up with a gaudy or disgusting failure- it’s all in the attempt, in the experiment.

I had so many ideas walking around El Born and the rest of Barcelona, but I have forgotten a lot of them. Being in EBF also means that unusual ingredients are not as easy to obtain. However, I have been yearning to follow through, because I’ve been feeling like it would be a shame not to let some part of Barcelona seep into my way of being for now.

So, today, I did not spend the day thinking. I spent the day in the kitchen pretty much. There’s a party at the house tomorrow, and my father asked me to supply dessert. It’s a little bit of a desi overkill, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and the result was this:

tell me that it's madness to want something quite like this

It’s cheesecake, but not really. The crust is not a graham cracker crust- instead, the crust consists of crushed cookies made of pistachios and cardammom. For the filling, I decided to go for some mango, since we had a lot of ripe ones lying about the house this morning. If I was going to fiddle with it again, I might forego the mango (which never really comes through in baked goods anyway) and make a saffron-flavored cheesecake filling instead. Whether today’s experiment was any good remains to be seen- I shall report back tomorrow. But a Catalonian would wave this part off anyway, because, well, por que no?

Before I made the cheesecake, I decided I ought to warm up. My cousin S was to leave town this morning, and probably will not be back before I leave EBF. I did not have much time yesterday, and S was jonesing for ice cream, so I made little pies with chocolate cookie crusts, mocha ice cream filling and whipped cream to top it off. They did not look particularly artistic, but S and her other teeniac friend devoured them last night. I really think it’s a good thing I won’t be here too much longer, because I am starting to feel like one of those aunties that has to feed your a$$ before you embark on a long journey. Actually, I am not sure that leaving EBF is going to cure me of that.

give a little bit

Of course, none of this holds the dimmest candle to anything I tasted in Barcelona. But that was not really the objective anyway. Got any interesting flavor combinations you want to suggest my way?

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