This week, I’ve been re-reading Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon, in preparation for seeing him speak at the CBC Book Club this weekend. Almost as good as going to the Massey Lectures themselves. In the opening essay, he asserts that “[t]here are two kinds of travelers. There is the kind who goes to see what there is to see and sees it, and the kind who has an image in his head and goes out to accomplish it. The first visitor has an easier time, but I think the second visitor sees more. He sees with his mind, and maybe even with his heart, or tries to.” I’m not sure that it’s entirely fair to the first sort of traveller, who may simply be keeping an open mind, but I think most of us have constructed imaginary versions of places we want to visit.
In particular, I think French Fridays participants might be guilty of cooking a version of France into existence. I know that many of the recipes feed my fantasies of Paris bistros or countryside picnics. This week’s recipe, Pissaladière, has me imagining travelling through Mediterranean sunshine on a Vespa and picking up a slice of this French pizza before heading to the beach. Not that I would drive my scooter one-handed. Really.
This fantasy only works if there’s someone else doing the cooking. The reality of this recipe is more like a weekend in the country, than a whirlwind trip to the beach. (Not that I’m speeding in my imagined Mediterranean trip, either.) The process of making this dish is meditatively slow. The thinly sliced onions are cooked at low temperature, so that they caramelize without colouring much. While that’s happening, the dough is mixed and set to rise in a warm room. When it has risen, it’s rolled into an extremely thin rectangle and covered with the cooked onions. Things speed up considerably here – the Pissaladière is baked for twenty minutes, then the olives and anchovies are added before sliding it into the oven for a final five minutes.
It might seem a lot of work for a snack, but it’s worth it. The onions are meltingly sweet, which is balanced by the salt of the anchovies and onions. The plain crust is shatteringly crisp at the edges, but sturdy enough to hold the toppings. I might not be able to afford a Mediterranean vacation at the moment, but this dish provides a little compensation. It’s certainly safer eating it here, than trying to eat it while steering a Vespa on twisty Mediterranean roads at high speed.
Tell me, what sort of traveller are you? Have you taken a trip to a place you’ve fantasized about? How did it measure up?
You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Pissaladière