If you live in the city, you might think you can get supreme gustatory delights only in the best restaurants. How can anybody — not to mention a “bushman” — compete with the well-equipped kitchens? Well, he can!! I’ve been sharing my culinary experiments in Slovenian, now the time has come to write something in English. Don’t expect a recipe, all I can offer is an adventure.
A TV crew was here today, shooting for 4 hours. It gave me time to stop and appreciate my home: hundreds of butterflies feasting on lavender bushes, two lizards resting peacefully on branches of a bush and staring at us just as we stared at them, loud chirping of dozens of different birds, ants’ hectic running up and down my bare feet, a wasp’s bite when I disturbed their nest under the solar panel… My hands touched many, many plants and I picked some garlic, onion and Istrian cabbage in my garden. Once the TV crew was gone, I was left with the veggies and thought to myself: “Let’s cook something really delicious today!”
I picked some lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album), a fantastic wild plant, which tastes pretty much like spinach, only better. A friend gave me a zucchini from her garden and another friend gave me corn fusilli (pasta). I thought all this would fit together perfectly. A million-star kitchen! I began by cutting the cabbage to thin stripes… I stripped the lamb’s quarters’ leaves from stalks, washed them and cut them to small pieces. Then I cut the young onions. I pealed the cloves of garlic and decided not to cut them at all… In the meanwhile, the pan got too hot so I put the cabbage first and only then ghee. When I cook hard leaves of cabbage I like to roast and cook them well before I add anything else. At first, I didn’t add any water, I did that later, a minute after I added onions. I left the pan on high heat and covered it with the lid. In the meanwhile, I brought the water for pasta to the boil and waited for a few more minutes, so that pasta and the vegetable sauce would be ready simultaneously. I had two stalks of calamint (Calamintha menthifolia) at hand so I put them in the water for pasta. I thought what else would add to the taste and walked down to the spiral herb bed. I picked a few branches of rosemary, summer savory (Satureja hortensis) and oregano. I tossed them into the hot water for pasta, along with 2 teaspoons of salt, and left them in almost boiling water for 3 minutes. I took them out and added pasta. I cooked the pasta in much less water than usual; thus it takes in much more of the herbs’ taste. I cut the zucchini to stripes. It wasn’t fresh, so I decided to let it cook a bit longer than usual, to be somewhat mushy. Then I remembered the wild rocket that grows bushy in one of the beds in the garden. I picked a full plate… on the way back I stopped for a minute next to the lavender bushes and marveled at the butterflies. I like the rocket cut finely and combined with some proteins and oil. So I cut mozzarella (I remembered there was some of it in my underground “fridge”) in small cubes, added a few spoons of excellent olive oil and a pinch of salt. It was time to add lamb’s quarters to the vegetable sauce. To neutralise the oxalic acid I combined it with a cup of sour cream. I added a bit of pepper, paprika, fenugreek leaves, black salt, chili and soy sauce. 4 minutes later both the veggies and the pasta were ready! The best possible “table” I served the food on two plates and took them out to a nice shade under the trees. The grass was quite high, but I didn’t mind. I treated myself with a glass of good local organic wine. Cheers! 😉 Eating on the ground has many advantages. It is the most natural position for the body at meals, I don’t need to worry about getting the table cloth dirty, my eyes are feasting on everything that’s going on on the floor around me. I had to take a few ants and other insects from the plates while I was eating — oh, I love to eat with my hands! For some reason eating with hands makes the food even tastier. When I finished eating I wiped my dirty hands of the grass and left whatever fell from my plate on the ground, so tiny beings down there could enjoy, too. Basically, they cleaned after me…
Hearing the thunder I left the plates on the floor, knowing the rain will wash off whatever was left after me and the bugs. The inner “taste” in my body after the meal was sweet, I was fulfilled. If this was a late dinner, I would lay down and enjoy a million stars above me in my million-star restaurant.
Well, there are leftovers in the pan, that’s still an option… How to make every dish extraordinary? There is one key ingredient in every magnificent dish: presence.
My senses and my mind are spontaneously conscious of both myself and my environment. I am well present in the environment, therefore I can find the best possible overlap of my personal need and whatever is available out there. Living like this I hardly ever experience any lack. The people in the western world, even the poorest, don’t suffer from the lack of stuff, they suffer from the excess of demand in relation to what is available.
I allow myself to be satisfied with little and to find opulence in simplicity. Thus I can take a few simple plants that don’t look like much and still make my lunch fabulous.
If I had a restaurant, I’d have to charge this kind of lunch at least 25€, and even that would be cheap for this kind of gustatory delight. Since I cooked for myself and the ingredients cost me close to nothing, I can afford to eat such amazing food almost every day.
The garden is my free (agro)fitness, whatever grows there is simply a gift!
People who come to visit me, like to bring presents and that adds to the list of what’s available.
Oh! One of the gifts was ghee. Duško the producer, is such a treasure! I highly recommend Duško’s ghee, it is really amazing. I am using this opportunity to thank him!
One feeling always comes with presence: gratitude. When I eat I can’t stop to marvel at the magnificence of nature, at her benevolence. I have difficulties understanding the dissatisfaction that’s so prevalent in our world. I have much less than most and yet I feel so amazingly rich!
When I cook and when I write I feel similar. In both cases I work with limited ingredients; in the kitchen, it’s tastes and consistencies, in writing it’s words and concepts. I carry the skills from one to the other and back.
If I ever wrote anything excellent, I had to cook something excellent beforehand in order to be able to do it. If I ever cooked something delicious, I had to write something delicious beforehand.
So I never cook the same dish twice, like I never write the same article or book twice. I do keep the recipes, though! Just as I did today. Not so I would follow them to the letter, but so they would inspire you and me to further adventurous cooking.
The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.
— Anthelme Brillat-Savarin