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Our cookbooks sit on a set of shelves near the entrance to our kitchen. All that fit, that is. Others have no permanent home, floating from kitchen to coffee table to nightstand. Those are the ones I look at most. Note that I did not say use most, although sometimes that’s true. For me (and I’d venture to guess for a lot of people in this culture), cookbooks represent an aspirational impulse. What I shall do; what I want to do; what I wish I could do. Not so very different from the aspirations served by window shopping or dusty mid-list novels.

The reality is that there is only one cookbook in the house, with recipes pulled from here and there in the books on the shelf and those peppered around the house, along with some bookmarked on the computer or printed on cards and slips of paper. The bulk of the recipes, though, are stored in my head. Those are the dishes I come back to over and over again, on the overwhelming majority of days when creativity in the kitchen is shunted aside for the tried and true. My everyday cookbook is a slim volume indeed.

This is one of the reasons I joined the Around My French Table cook-a-long. I don’t want to simply expand that everyday cookbook by a recipe or two, but rather I want to develop a practice of cooking again. Exploring techniques and ingredients that I don’t normally use or have let slip out of my repertoire. Testing the truth of what I believe to be to my taste.

Which brings us to this week’s recipe, Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans. This recipe has divided opinion almost evenly in our group, with people loving it, hating it or changing it completely. If not for the group, I know that it would be one of the recipes that I considered making, but never actually tried. Pumpkin is generally given sweet treatment in Canada and the U.S., while blue cheeses are challenging enough on their own here. Flans, too, are seen here as desserts, rather than savoury appetizers. All of which makes for intriguing reading and doubtful execution.

I liked it, but my two taste-testers weren’t enthralled. Kevin took one small bite, which was enough for him. Our friend ate half of hers, while helpfully telling me that if I’d served it hot, or with sweetened whipping cream, or with a syrupy sauce, it would be a much better dessert than it was. I thought that the pumpkin flavour was a good match for the strength of the gorgonzola and I liked the contrast of those flavours with the honey and sour cream that I’d used for toppings. I’m slowly working my way through the leftovers. After all, I can’t let the gorgeous gorgonzola that I got at Les Amis du Fromage go to waste.

Stretching my repertoire in this way is expanding my cooking habits beyond Around My French Table. I’m finding I’m cooking more from my other cookbooks, too, as well as experimenting in the kitchen. There’s satisfaction and a little bit of power in being able to look at the contents of my pantry and say to myself, “This with this…and this. Yes.”

We’re doing things a little differently for the month of November. We’re still posting weekly, but people are free to post this month’s recipes in any order. You can find many other blogged descriptions of this month’s FFWD recipes here: LYL: November 26

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