“We are all called to do something. What are you called to do?” The elf- like chaplain of the psychiatric hospital, Ruth, looked around expectantly at the group of patients. One was violently shaking both his legs, another was muttering to himself, a third was crying for no apparent reason. The chaplain repeated her question: what are you called to do?
I pondered the question. What do I feel called to do these days? Well, for one thing, I feel called to educate my kids about food, to be a standard bearer for good, wholesome cuisine, a trailblazer for expanded, sophisticated palates.
My kids don’t necessarily follow the trails I have blazed for them. The juvenile jury gave me a thumbs down on almost every salad I have made so far in the Salads chapter. That is, the salads which they have even deigned to try. For example, they looked interestedly at the Salade du Shabbat (see post for day 86) probably because from afar, it looked like mashed potatoes, but upon closer inspection of the turnips and cauliflower bits, they backed away. If only I had left those particular offenders, they would have eaten it happily. But that would not be following the recipe. In addition to being a trailblazer and a standard bearer I am a recipe follower.
Last week I followed a recipe called Agristada (Cold Egg-and-Lemon Sauce) which Claudia Roden describes as “sharp and refreshing.” According to her it is one of the cornerstones of Sephardi cooking, associated with Greek and Turkish cuisine but also appears in Judeo-Spanish and Portuguese recipes. She suggests serving it with fish or steamed vegetables or brains. She must be kidding. Gag. Well, anyway,I took the easy way: I served it with crudités when my friends Monica and Eddy came to visit us from Rochester with their friends.
To make the Agristada I mixed a tablespoon of cornstarch with a few tablespoon of water into a smooth paste. I added two cups of vegetable broth and stirred it well. I boiled it while stirring constantly because I am deathly afraid of what cornstarch can do if it is not mixed thoroughly and constantly. I stopped stirring when it became thick.
I beat three eggs with the juice of two lemons, a little salt and a teaspoon of sugar. I poured that mixture into the first mixture and again stirred like crazy over low heat until the whole thing thickened. It was a lot of work.No one ate the Agristada, which is not totally surprising. In general, people don’t like grayish, jellied-looking , slightly slimy concotions. I fared much better, however, with the store bought guacamole I put out on the table next to it. Oh well. I guess that if I want to inflict these weird, untried recipes on people for my own selfish reasons, I should consider myself lucky if everyone politely ignores them.