Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire
With Easter around the corner, I thought I’d pull out a dessert recipe I developed last year for Framework Magazine, a really cool lifestyle magazine that I love–especially since it’s based here in Vancouver. I’m working on another editorial for the first anniversary issue and am thrilled to be doing so, as the editor is totally enthusiastic and just lets me do my thing. Next week I’ll be wrapping up a composition and design course and will take a break from classes for a few months to concentrate on developing my portfolio, creating new recipes, and some other projects I have on the go.
Since I’m primarily a natural light photographer (at least for now) the longer days are providing me the ability to shoot more often and with renewed energy for the kitchen. A change of season means a change in produce and the opportunity to get creative. Plus, in May I will be going back to my beloved Paris for the first time in five years, and will be eating and shooting my way from one arrondissement to another. When I visited last, I was not a food writer nor blogger, and had just gotten a point-and-shoot–my first digital camera. In many ways, my journey on this path of all things food began in France, in its outdoor markets, its bakeries, in the deeply ingrained culture of the table.
In my job, I coach people in developing their careers, which involves endless conversations about passions and fascinations, and sometimes the things we definitely do not want to do. The other day a client was telling me how much she hates to cook. This woman had just been downsized from a high-level corporate job. She was a mother, a marathon runner, involved in various volunteer activities and committees. Undoubtedly, she was short on time–something I can definitely identify with. At times, the last thing I feel like doing at the end of a tough day is cooking dinner, and it’s all I can do to pull out the cereal bowl. But then she told me that she didn’t understand how some people could make such a fuss about food: to talk about it, blog about it, obsess about it. “It’s just food,” she said, her tone of voice incredulous.
I stared at her, totally caught off guard. It’s not in my job description to argue with clients, so I said nothing, but I couldn’t disagree more.
Food is about everything, the way money is about everything. At its most fundamental it nourishes us physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. Eating good quality food is one of the most sensual experiences a human being can have. Food is about nurturing, family, and community, and it connects us to our Earth like nothing else. It is also political, about who has the power. So no, it’s NOT just food.
But the conversation with my client got me thinking. I don’t think she was completely wrong in her belief that there are more important things in life than what goes in your stomach. There are. But I also couldn’t help thinking that she was missing the big picture. And I couldn’t help ruminating about why I’m working so doggedly for this new career when I already have a perfectly good one, and why I feel so strongly about eating whereas others don’t. Is having a passion for food any different from a passion for classical music or hockey? Or an obsession with certain members of the royal family? I’m not sure I have that answer. One thing I do know is that cooking has made us human and food is the one constant that can bring pleasure and beauty into our lives.
I’d like to think this understanding of food translates into my photography. I believe a plate of food can be seen as art and I try to capture it as such. But I also love food in an honest, candid state, which can mean missing bites, crumbs on the table. Not looking perfect, as it often does in real life. Looking a bit like this here tiramisu.
Kahlua and Callebaut Milk Chocolate Tiramisu
7 ounces/200g vanilla and chocolate ladyfinger biscuits
500 g/1 lb mascarpone cheese
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup Demerara sugar
2 cups strongly brewed coffee/espresso, cooled
6 tablespoons Kahlua
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces/100g Callebaut milk chocolate, finely chopped
1) Beat together eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add cheese, vanilla, and 3 tablespoon sof Kahlua. Beat until creamy and well incorporated.
2) In another bowl, combine the coffee and other 3 tablespoons of Kahlua. Dip both sides of a ladyfinger into the coffee, working quickly so the biscuit does not fall apart, and place on the bottom of a rectangular 12×8-inch pan or dish. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits, creating 2 rows and ensuring there are no gaps.
3) Top with half the cream cheese mixture and sprinkle with 1/3 of the chocolate. Create a second layer with the rest of the coffee and ladyfingers. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate.
4) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. Slice and serve with an extra sprinkling of chocolate, if desired.