The December brief

The December brief

As December draws to an end, it is timely to reflect on what as been a great month for the sad pig. So with a shiveringly cold DOC prosecco in hand, here is the best of December.

The culinary companion of December is:

Graceland by Paul Simon. Coming at a time when Simon’s musical career was at something of a low ebb following the disappointing public response to Hearts and Bones, I sought great inspiration from this American folk studio album. Especially during my own recent culinary low ebb when I publicly referred to a macaron as a macaroon.

The flavor of December is:

Eau de fleurs d’oranger, although I haven’t written a column on this perfumed distillation of fresh bitter-orange blossoms, it instantly transports me back to North Africa – a region central to my writing in December. It especially reminds me of the Arab variants of baklava – where the orange blossom essential water is often mixed with a sugar syrup for flavor. But more recently, and somewhat ironically, I’ve been enjoying it in a tipsy taboo Ramos Gin Fizz; or by splashing it on before heading out to take the odorous air of the orange orchard with me. It’s also good on watercress with some olive oil, lemon and pistachio – a simple salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi.

The beverage of December is:

December is typically a time of over indulgence, so I’ve chosen two drinks this month for their digestif qualities. Maghribi-style mint tea and Fernet-Branca. The tea occupies a very important place in North African culture and is considered an art form, I make mine traditionally; with lots of sugar, mint and wormwood – especially in winter when mint is rare. I serve the tea three times, as the tea steeps it gives each of the three glasses a unique flavor, described in this famous Algerian proverb I heard many times in my travels:

Le premier verre est aussi doux que la vie,
le deuxième est aussi fort que l’amour,
le troisième est aussi amer que la mort.

The first glass is as gentle as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is as bitter as death.

Fernet-Branca, particularly when mixed with crème de menthe, Fergus Henderson’s cure for overindulgence, is also a great digestif. I wrote about this black licorice-flavored Listerine miracle in Empathetic eating.

The must-have item of December is:

The Opinel mushroom knife is the ideal companion for my favorite pastime, foraging in the woods. Its pruning blade and boar bristle brush are perfect for cleaning my foraged mushrooms. A definite must-have for any gastronomes in your life.

The top stories of December are:

  • Food souvenirs – A post on street food got me thinking about things I have brought back from overseas to share my experiences with friends through food.
  • Macaron – Largely thanks to the Melbourne Gastronome, Claire, who picked up on my Paul Simon lyrics in this treatise.
  • Empathetic eating – Where I wrote about force feeding myself corn boiled with fat, to show ready comprehension to a plump ducks’ struggle.

Happy New Year and as silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone – thank-you all for the overwhelming response to my writing.

What was the culinary highlight out of your kitchen this December?

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