My Dirty Little Secret
I find it curious when I am away from home and out of my usual routine, I can forget some of my food rules. With a flick into the ashtray of my rental car, goes what some people might refer to as my downright rigidity to what I can and will eat.
While on the road promoting my latest vegan cookbook, I allowed myself to become reacquainted with a delicious morning ritual that had left my life once I stopped eating dairy. It was if a long lost love had come back into my arms. I couldn’t remember how much time had passed since I last enjoyed this pleasurable dish.
A vague memory floated in my mind that my first time with this treat was from a frozen box, no doubt that was considered a luxury. I saw myself in the local family-run grocery store where I was allowed to pick something from an under stocked reach-in. The picture of flaky horns on a damp paper box was as exotic as can-can dancers wearing red stockings under layers of petticoats. My first trip to Paris sealed my deal with these crescent moon delicacies. I’d walk for hours on end though Les Halles with several stuffed in my shoulder bag. Some days, that was all I ate, stopping for lunch at worn cafes filled with Gauloises in the air. Tony waiters tolerated my insecure French as I ordered my favorite dish.
Later living in New York City, I tried to mimic those carefree days of a first time European voyager. The perfect morning consisted of a croissant still slightly warm having just left the comforts of the large funky oven of my neighborhood patisserie. This gem of a place was run by two Midwesterners who were now true Francophiles. Not that I knew anything then about the merits of grass fed cows, but their imported butter seemed as if it had grown in the earth and better yet, it was served in handmade butter crocks. They guarded these century old ceramics as if they were children. Once, I saw one fall off the table and the wife, Jill cried. My ability to slather this creamy pale substance on every inch of this flakey pastry was nothing short of heavenly.
On my current sojourn in the Pacific NW, homemade preserves stood outin neighborhood breakfast haunts. Thick garnet jam made with whole chunks of berries; rich as color stained on your hands from picking them wild were growing abundant in home gardens and trimming backcountry roads.
After I got back home, I slipped easily into my daily discipline, recommitting to my pure clean eating habits. I have no guilt realizing I’ll take some heat from hardcore vegans who might feel I’ve let them down. I beg to differ, it is liberating to explore and be guided by culinary memories. I give credence to Amy in Little Women who said, “Isn’t Butter, Divinity.” My sentiments exactly.