I realize it’s been crickets around here, and I have no excuse except that the summer has been long and hot. So much so that the sky has been blanketed with a thick layer of smog from the forest fires burning in the surrounding mountains. This is what happens when you live in a temperate rainforest but can’t remember the last time it rained. I’ve been spending a great deal of my free time frolicking at the beach and going out for mojitos. Certainly not cooking. Lunch is often a salad and so is dinner. Dessert is fruit. For the last couple of months, I have felt unusually unmotivated.
Halfway through my seventh year of blogging, I sometimes feel as though I am losing my blogging mojo. A part of me feels unsure I have any more to say. As a lifelong writer, I know that the well of memory is deep and the potential of story unlimited. Yet I ask myself how much can one say about food?
Quite a lot, if you’re the type of person (as I am) who remembers in detail every meal you ate on every vacation you’ve been on. If you have fussed over the menu items at your impending wedding more than you worried about finding the right gown to make you look gorgeous and svelte. Or if you have skipped out on a tour of Versailles to stand in line at Ladurée to sample the world famous macarons.
If you are this person, you are of my tribe. You are not a hedonist or glutton, rather you intrinsically know that food is connected to something bigger in life, a roadway on the map of the collective unconscious. You understand that food helps us make sense of our lives.
Last weekend I cleaned and organized my house instead of working on a blog post and felt guilty about it. I thought I should finally sit down and write something again, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if there was anything left. As I went through my library to find books to sell or donate, I realized that I had two whole bookshelves devoted to food-related memoirs. It gave me pause to realize that many superbly talented writers know that food and memory are intimately entwined and that it’s worth writing about. Ruth Reichl, the former New York Times food critic and long-time editor of Gourmet magazine launched this now booming genre with Tender at the Bone, in which she recounts growing up with a bipolar mother nicknamed “The Queen of Mold” because she routinely poisoned people with the souped-together moldy contents of the refrigerator. Learning to cook became essential to Ruth’s survival, but was also a way to navigate the loneliness and isolation of her early life.
I’m not sure what I’ll write next. I think a collection of food-based essays or memoir is in me somewhere, if I can find a throughline. And lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to get back to that novel I was writing, one that I abandoned–a move I often make when things get too hard. In the meantime, it’s back to the blog, and to the kitchen.
Which brings me to the fruit for dessert part I mentioned.
Simple yet gorgeous food is my mantra. I love taking the best ingredients I can find and creating an interplay of colour and texture with intense and natural flavours–yet with very little fuss. These honey-drenched plums are roasted in the oven with a crumbly topping of oats and nuts, and finished with whipped coconut cream, which to me is better than real whipped cream. It takes just a few minutes to assemble these and pop them in the oven. Twenty minutes later–le voila!–a wonderful yet healthy summer dessert.
- 12 large plums, cut in half, pits removed
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup mixed, crushed cashews, pistachios, and almonds, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if required)
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 small can coconut milk, left in fridge overnight
- 1 teaspoon vanilla.
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almond meal, coconut sugar, and rolled oats with a fork. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender. Blend in nuts.
- Place plums halves evenly on cookie sheet and drizzle with honey.
- Pile nut mixture carefully on top of each plum and bake for twenty minutes.
- While plums are baking, open the can of coconut milk and separate the cream, from the water; place in a mixing bowl. Whip the coconut cream with a mixer or egg beaters until light and fluffy; incorporate vanilla.
- Serve plums on plates and garnish with coconut cream and a sprinkling of extra nuts.