REACHING FOR THE SUBLIME

There is a lot from my college years that I’ve forgotten and am in the process of forgetting, but I’ll always remember Professor Gopen’s seminar “T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and Music.” Professor Gopen wholeheartedly believed that listening to classical music was the key to accessing the Four Quartets. For every few lines of text, we’d listen to selected recordings. It was arduous at first. It felt stilted. How does listening to Schoenberg‘s A Survivor from Warsaw relate to

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 

The turning point for me was learning to connect the things that music does, such as “reaching” or “yearning” for resolution, to the things that words can do, such as mimicking the way humans experience time.

When I was making this dish, I felt like I was doing some serious reaching — reaching to make fruit simmered in liquid into something more than fruit simmered in liquid. The finished product looks more bizarre than beautiful, either like an alien or an essential organ. Its taste evokes the milk, honey, and nectar of a realm where suffering doesn’t exist.

IMG_7707

POACHED, CHILLED WHITE PEACH w/ HONEY KEFIR & TOASTED ALMONDS 
inspired by Bar Tartine

for four servings:
6 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
4 medium/large white peaches
1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
3-4 cups of kefir or filmjölk
2-3 drops of almond extract
warm honey to taste
coarse sea salt
cornflowers (bachelor’s button), optional

Combine the water and sugar in a large pot and bring to a simmer. When the sugar is dissolved, add the peaches with skin on. Cook for 10-20 minutes (how long exactly will depend on your stove and the size of your peaches) until the peaches are as soft as you like them but still intact. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to a bowl of ice cold water, then remove from water and chill in the refrigerator. Meanwhile toast the almonds until light golden brown and set them aside. Microwave the honey for 30 seconds or so until it is very runny. Slowly add the warm honey to the kefir until it just begins to offset the kefir’s natural tartness. Add a few drops of almond extract. (Be careful not to overwhelm the kefir’s flavor with the honey and almond extract) Chill the honey kefir. Before serving, peel the peaches. If the peach skin doesn’t come off easily, use a paring knife to help peel away the skin. To serve, place each peach in a shallow bowl and pour the chilled honey kefir around it so that it is partially submerged. Arrange the toasted almonds and cornflowers around the peach. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of the peach.

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