Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jer: Souffle a l' Orange

While Peter and I lived in Buenos Aires in 2003, we did many things that we might not otherwise do at home in the states. Part of this was the devaluation and its lovely effect on our pocket books. Part of this was the pressure that those of us who have lived in a foreign country are so familiar with - the need to do as much as you can for fear of being back at home and feeling like you should have, could have, done more. And part of it was the romance of Buenos Aires, the self-proclaimed Paris of south America that for all its pomp is as romantic and soulful as cities come. One night we dolled up for an evening of Carmen at the Teatro Colon, the most European and grand of the Latin American opera houses. A venue that rivals those gems in Europe - we were certain it was going to be a perfect evening.

We had an unfortunate revelation that night. Opera was a great form of entertainment in a different time, when men and women of the leisure class actually had time to leisure. It was for a time when it was perfectly normal to spend four hours watching people sing in a language you didn’t understand, in spite of the uncomfortable seats and aisles that are much too short for modern day man. I love listening to a good opera CD and can belt a mean Toreador with the rest of them. But the performance was so long, and we were so hungry, we left after the third intermission and never looked back. The whole experience just felt like it was made for a different time. My soufflé making experience reminded me of that night at the Teatro Colon.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the process very much. My dear friend Julie was in town for the weekend and she is as interested in cooking and food as I am. We followed the recipe to a T and were very excited about it, having gone out to buy ingredients and a soufflé pan that afternoon as well as chilling the hardware to peak the egg whites. The process just felt a little out of sorts in today’s modern world. As if the only way to really enjoy the end product was having help in the kitchen carefully watch over the prize while you were in the other room enjoying a glass of wine and nice company. It wasn’t the sheer time involved as we’re generally not afraid of spending several hours in the kitchen. I think more than anything it was the timing of it all. The need to put the soufflé in just before we sat down to dinner. The steps involved. The worrying and watching during our meal in fear of it burning or falling. It was beautiful when it rose and our pride was maternal. But through our meal we watched that oven with trepidation. I think the need to have the timing just right took away from our ability to really enjoy the tasting part of the experience.

Believe me. This will not be my last soufflé, although my next foray will likely be a savory souffle so that I don't stress out during the meal watching what is in the oven. This first experience taught me a little about myself in the kitchen, and, frankly, what defines a solid cooking experience better than that. I learned I really like when things are done ahead of company’s arrival. I think that’s why I like braising so much – all the hard work takes place the night before. I reaffirmed my belief that I’m much more of a cook than a baker. And for the first time, I had a real appreciation for why waiters always tell you about the soufflé special when serving your main meal!


Blogger Elaine said...

What sauces did you put on top? Creme anglaise and chocolate something? Looks so good.

11 March, 2006 19:37  
Blogger Jer said...

Si senorita. Creme anglaise & melted dark Scharfenberger chocolate. Although we were in such a rush I rushed the creme anglaise and ended up curdling the eggs. Very sad. So we drained it, whipped it up a bit, and still used it in spite of its appearance (the vanilla bean flavor was quite nice).

12 March, 2006 23:13  
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