I confessed to a good friend of mine just yesterday that I felt stuck, lacking direction and waiting rather impatiently for my personal fog to clear. She gave me the best advice a girl could give: to enjoy the fog and find my inspiration in it, to “dwell on the fleeting, nonsensical things” that emerge. At a time of year when we are mad to locate definition, precision, a clear way forward, these words were pure liberation to me. So I share them with you now, in the event that you too are feeling in limbo. (Thanks from the bottom of my heart, DD.)
So, into the fog we march. No world problems solved. No career leaps choreographed. No particularly clear sense of what lies ahead. But I do know what our last meal of 2014 will consist of, and two main elements are just light and fluffy enough to fill the gaps here in my last post of the year. In Proustian fashion, though, I have wonder if food, laden as it is with associations, memories, history and emotion, can ever really be that light and fluffy.
The two ethereal but not necessarily superficial foods in question are GOUGÈRES and MERINGUES. I’m sure you know about meringue. It’s been sitting on top of pies since forever. But here in France, they are the way my mother used to make them. Big, verging on monumental. Simple (why should they be more complicated). And perfect. You can team them up with fruit, chocolate or—most decadently, in my book—whipped cream, but being a meringue-lover-slash-fiend usually don’t bother. I just crack them apart and eat them shamelessly, crumbs falling where they may, while I lose myself in what I consider to be one of the culinary wonders of the world.
I’m getting very ahead of myself: the meringues come after dinner. Before dinner, we will have champagne and gougères, lovely light…gee, what are they exactly? They’re not bread. They’re not cakes. They’re not muffins or custards or soufflés. Yes, here we go: they are puff pastries. Savory—as opposed to sweet—puff pastries that hide bits of gruyère cheese inside their lofty interiors. And what makes them lofty? Well, once again, I suppose it’s the eggs. We’re talking culinary transformation once again. Edible miracles.
Which brings me to a point I didn’t realize I had. What better to eat on the last night of the year than foods which symbolize and embody transformation? So I’ll have faith in universal possibility—no, probability—of change, enjoy my New Year’s yummies, and wish for us all a New Year of new experiences, new understanding, and new versions of our selves. Deliciously, mysteriously and beautifully transformed.