True confessions time. One of this month’s recipes brought back a memory that contains a lesson for all. I’ll preface this story by pointing out that these events happened 47 years ago. I was very young and blinkered. Carrying my bubble with me, so to speak. Feel free to skip down to the recipes if you’re not in the mood.
I was teaching in a tiny village in equatorial Africa, where the local officials had given me a house: square, cinderblock, corrugated metal roof, divided into 3 rooms. Half was the living area, the other half my bedroom and washroom. No electricity or running water; all water (2 buckets a day, brought from the local river) had to be filtered. Fairly large “yard”, with no grass, a couple of shrubs next to the front door, latrine out back, and a bit further out were two huge mango trees, no more than 50 steps from the back door. When I arrived, the trees were full of fruit, and about two weeks later, the fruit began dropping. A dozen or so fell each day, and I could go out and pick one up for breakfast. Livin’ the life!
One day, I discovered 3 or 4 young kids under my trees, gathering my mangoes! I yelled at them, telling them off in the best French I could muster, but there was a lot of English in there as well. The nerve, coming into my yard and stealing my fruit. I wasn’t having it. It took me all of a week to realize that I was being a complete jerk. First of all, those weren’t actually my trees, growing in my yard. But even more importantly, it would have been impossible for me to eat all of that fruit. Some days, more than 20 came down, and this went on for a long time. Why not let the kids have as many as they could carry? And come back for more. Please!!!
That was me, showing the worst aspects of America: greed, white-lady privilege, etc. etc. Even as I tell this story, I wonder about that young woman I used to be. I know where she came from, and I’m glad she’s gone, but what kind of ignorant self-importance do I still carry around? None, I hope, but I keep an eye out for this person I was and hope never to be again.
And now the recipes. This month, Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette did not disappoint.
My sister-the-chef, from whom I got d’Avila’s two recipe collections, recommended the Cream of Cauliflower Soup, so I had to give it a try. I love cauliflower in nearly all forms, so I knew this recipe would be risk-free. The creamy effect comes from a white sauce as well as the puréed vegetables (cauliflower, potato, carrot, onion, garlic). As with some of the other soups, this needed some heat from chili powder or red pepper flakes, so I drizzled a bit of chili oil on top, along with the chopped parsley garnish. Tasty, and certainly hearty.
Spanish Cilantro Soup offered me a new experience, and on the first day I worried I had overdone the cilantro, but that calmed down overnight, and on the second day, this was perfect. Sauté leeks, onions and garlic, add potatoes and simmer in a vegetable broth. Add chopped cilantro and purée. Reheat. Served with some Serrano ham and manchego cheese on sliced baguette, this makes a perfect meal.
Pesto-Filled Deviled Eggs are exactly what they sound like. Mix some pesto in with the cooked yolks before stuffing the egg whites. Serve with sliced tomatoes, minced red onion, and chopped fresh basil. It’s a caprese salad, but with eggs instead of mozzarella.
And, finally, we get to those mangos that set me off at the beginning. I knew I had to make the Mango Salad Piquant. Mangoes, endive, red onion, red and green bell peppers, with a gingery vinaigrette, on a bed of lettuce and garnished with cilantro. Just exactly right.
Next month we move into full summer. Fresh produce straight from the farm. I hope d’Avila offers some exciting options for the next few months.