dinner time conversation, lovely things, miscellaneous, drivel, potentially useful information, sketches say it all, things I love, tom being tom

…potatoes and chocolate mousse…


Perusing the farmers market a few weeks ago, I was astonished and delighted at the variety of heirloom potatoes at one particular stand. I have little knowledge of all the specific varieties out there, but I do know that there’s a simple way of classifying them; waxy and starchy. In essence, there are really only two types of potato.

Waxy ones are sweeter – think of a red potato as a good example – and they maintain a very dense and moist texture when cooked. Starchy potatoes – as in a Russet, the one you bake or mash or that often show up in the form of frites – have a lighter, fluffier interior that becomes a bit granular when cooked and usually have a thicker skin.

Maybe it’s an insight into the way my mind works and categorizes things. It’s the reason why I have to step away from everything and ponder it from time to time. When I can’t organize things into my own cladistic version, I live in a swirl of constant chaos. It’s difficult enough when I can only ‘check out’ long enough to organize one or a few parts. When all of them demand some attention in increasing amounts with no time to sit back and make sense of any of it – it just becomes impossible for me…

Over dinner, I was leafing through a magazine and came across a recipe for a chocolate mousse. It’s something I’ve never made, but after a quick scan of the recipe I recognized the components, the structure of it… Just as seeing a roux or a mirepoix hidden in some recipe for a soup or a béchamel in some other place, I see the basic elements of it; a whipped cream, mixed with a meringue with melted chocolate folded in… It’s the sort of thing that renews me and frustrates me all at once… It’s not so much a recipe after a glance, but an idea I can grasp and easily recall.

It renews me because I’m gratified at the way I’ve learned on my own, the manner I’ve broken up so many bits of information and stored them in my head. It frustrates me because I wonder why they don’t take a few more words to describe to people what they’re making. Why not let them know they’re making a whipped cream, which could just as easily be used as a topping for a sundae or a cake? Or a meringue that could top a pie? Why keep it buried as some step in creating a chocolate mousse? It makes me think that recipes and cooking are so backwards sometimes. The bits and pieces, the steps have no context or identity of their own in there, when really they should.

There’s something so illuminatingly gorgeous about any clarity, no matter what degree. It may never be total, or perfect or even the best, but to start somewhere, to have something to stand on and know, a means to organize and understand is just the pinnacle of joy…



One thought on “…potatoes and chocolate mousse…

  1. …I LOVE your blog, Tom and I equally love your thought process; I totally relate to it. I had your same question the other day when I was preparing a particular holiday recipe that walked me through the process of a roux that turned out to be little more than what is affectionately referred to in the south as milk gravy. I wished later, I had closed the cover of the recipe book and just followed my own natural process of creating a delicious whole milk country gravy for biscuits or southern fried steak:)

    I suppose in response to your (our) wonderings about why the authors of most recipes don’t just spill the beans and tell us to make a whipped cream, meringue or white milk country gravy is because the average person who needs to use a recipe in the first place wouldn’t have a clue as to where to begin for such an ‘ingredient’ as these. A recipe at its core is the process of organizing and displaying the ingredients and done so in a fashion that will ultimately, upon following careful instruction, culminate in an edible outcome.

    In the end, you have a very unique talent, Tom. You have the ability to describe and in some instances both describe and demonstrate via video, your (recipe) message in a way that is easily followed and probably then, duplicated. Not everyone can as you say ‘categorize’ instructions into groupings that can then be combined for an acceptable outcome. Many of us just blindly follow along (in life and recipes) and by some miraculous or divine intervention end up in the general direction of which we’d aimed.

    Sometimes I wonder if perhaps you have viewed your need and/or ability to ‘check out’ and organize ‘parts’ as a missing link rather than an additional link….one the average person simply does not have or at least utilize.

    I think I would begin to see this ‘check out’ period where upon you fully process information into collective thoughts and patterns that can then be translated into recipes, etc., as a gift. Most of us are having to allow the beauty in so many wonderful things to just pass us by due to our inability to ‘check out’ and process. I believe your tunnel vision and hyper focus on things you love and appreciate allow only the less important things, the ‘swirl and constant chaos’ to take their proper place and gently float by as you relax into the focus of what really matters in life.

    In this new year, I hope to better understand and accept that I do not have to process the ‘swirl and constant chaos’ but rather I can just trust that any bits or pieces of information in the ‘swirl and constant chaos’ that I may need to retain is still there, tucked away safely in my head and will surface should the need arise to make use of those bits and pieces. Otherwise, they are free to be useless information:)

    Have a glorious new year, Tom and I look forward to more of your brilliance in 2013.


    Posted by angie | January 8, 2013, 11:46 am

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