Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dream, Kitchen.

Pineapple and Anenomes, Henri Matisse, 1940

I got a little side-tracked by a middle-of-the-week trip to NYC to see the carefully curated Matisse show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   Then I was so, well, so drunk - no, maybe feeling a little off-balance by the exhibit that takes you on a chronological tightrope through the artist's oeuvres.  Matisse was thoughtful, he was obsessed.  He was the real deal - an artist that so many aspire to, but can't be because of  demon impatience.  Just think, there was an entire gallery in the museum devoted to the numerous versions of a seated model who he painted her over and over and over again, in  the same position, until it satisfied him.  During his seven decade career (he was "painting" , in bed, with scissor cut-outs, two days before he died) he was ridiculed, then accepted - he was called fauve, wild beast, by French art critics - but prevailed in spite of it - or, because of it.  For some time, he lived in a villa called La Reve - The Dream, in the South of France.  It's interior was filled with fabric, souvenirs of his travels  through North Africa, gold fish, and flowers; and its exterior, planted with the lush, and fragrant plants that grow in shades of green profusion, fueled his dreams.   

Matisse's non-stop way of working is what makes cooks become chefs.  They make a dish over and over and over again - trying it a few different ways - until it's just right. They concentrate, and are disciplined.
I'm a good cook, however, my non-stop thoughts are usually reserved for the space where I am, where I live - the background to my life.    Matisse believed that "a picture is formed by a combination of surfaces, differently colored which result in the creation of an expression."  He was just as concerned with the background as the apples in the foreground.  
The details make the picture complete.  And so it is.

The little house where I now live has several little rooms - it was a small two-family house when I bought it.  I knocked down a few walls, demolished the upstairs kitchen and painted the walls comfortable colors; warm in the rooms where people gather for a chat, and eat, and cool in the sleeping, and thinking areas.  The kitchen is painted a color that I refer to as Majorelle blue.  It's the purple-ish, cobalt blue that dominates the Majorelle gardens in Marrakech.  I think blue and food are good together.  

Because there are little rooms off other little rooms I've been able to not only create a rather spacious off-the-kitchen pantry, but also a comfortable walk-in closet off my bedroom.   I call the ingredient-filled pantry, my bodega.   I was able to put the rerigerator in the pantry too - an idea completely inspired by a friend's beach house arrangement. I think that the refrigerator is quite possibly the most cumbersome appliance in a kitchen.   Happy to have it out-of-sight.

There's a special area in the pantry just for spices.  I used to drive myself crazy trying to track down the one I needed because I have so many.  They were always piled one on another and pushed to the back of the cabinet after used.  Now they're arranged in, more or less, alphabetical order.  I know where to find them.  You live long enough.....

This means that the kitchen, is like a working-sitting room with pictures on the walls - because there are no cabinets (except for an old Hudson Valley, step-back cupboard) - a work table, straight out of  mechanic's shop; one of Brooke Astor's old chairs bought at a local auction house; a stainless steel trolley from my old NYC catering kitchen filled with, baskets, trays, plants and flowers (and a food processor);  a peg-board, alla Julia Child, for some of my pots and pans (the ones I use most frequently); and a door to an enclosed back porch.  A rather dreamy situation, and one that I have been imagining for awhile.

All of this is my way of saying that I didn't do much cooking this week.   I did cut up some tropical fruits; pineapple, mango, and papaya to eat in morning with granola and local sheep's milk yogurt, or spice  up and eat with a piece of pan-fried halibut.   I coated the halibut in a mixure of breadcrumbs, hot pepper flakes and salt, and pan-fried two pieces in butter browned in a bit of olive oil.  About 90 seconds on each side - halibut is thick.  I served it with the tropical fruits , fresh parsley and a generous douse of fresh lime juice.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   Sorry to say that my new newspaper column still isn't available online:  www.registerstar.com   I'll let you know when it appears.  This Thursday, March 7th, I am starting  a monthly  radio segment (listen for it the first Thursday of every month), "How to Build a Pantry" , at 4:30 pm with Ellen Thurston on her afternoon show - it can be streamed live at www.wgxc.org.
I'm excited to be returning to the C.I.A. this Friday to have lunch at the new Bocuse Restaurant.  Next blog will have details.

1 comment:

  1. The kitchen looks great Susan! Love seeing that full bodega, wow. Nice work.