Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dutch Chocolate And Noilly Pratt

Our friends Nathalie and her son Geoffrey are back in France now after their year in Boston. On their last day, Wednesday, we had a sweaty, frenzied moving-on-moving-out transport of last minute items.

Nathalie gave me the "live" portion of her cooking staples -- a large box of remainders including spices, 6 eggs, olive oil, capers, a round dark brown cannister of Dutch Chocolate powder and a tall green bottle of Noilly Pratt among other things.



And I don't mean the Ghiradelli dark cooking chocolate she also slipped in the box.

I mean it's bittersweet to even believe she's really gone. But the foods from her larder -- suddenly living at my house -- prove it. It's indisputable, she's gone. I was a bum and rescinded my offer to take her to the airport, thank goodness a co-worker had also offered, because I hate good byes and knew it would be emotional and messy and I didn't want to do that. (I told her I didn't trust my car, or driving, with my bad back, which was true, but not the whole truth.)

After helping her clean out the house and dragging boxes of bowls and cooking utensils over to mine, my house was a swirl of casseroles, ramekins, pasta pots and foods I'd bought from, or been given by her, not yet opened or organized. I didn't have time to sort of dry items, as I had to head out. I quickly refridgerated the "frigo" items (french slang for the fridge) and headed out to Cape Cod with my kid. I left a cardboard box of mysterious French foody items -- potions and poltices -- on my counter to attend to later.

Now I'm back and slowly organizing and cataloguing the new items. And missing her for sure and missing her kid and missing HER COOKING. I'm praying some of her excellent cooking technique and intuition will rub off on me and might be some how attached like ghosts to her actual porcelain dishes and transmutted into my culinary efforts.

I didn't even know what the hell Noilly Pratt was, but had seen it in many cook's kitchens over many years. I had to get my glasses and read the label. It's "Original French Dry Vermouth."

And there are other secret potions she's left behind ... like baking powder and sea salt and mustard ... simple staples, but in her capable hands, the start of something big.

I need to cook today to get over the missing -- missing a new and now GONE friend. Missing the opportunity to ever care enough about someone when they are standing right there in front of you.