A Taste Of Spring In Fall: Redzepi, Heaney and Vivaldi With A Dram Of Johnnie Walker Black

For Monday 16-Tuesday 17 May, Rene Redzepi writes the following in his journal,

I went foraging, sinking into the forest, tasting things, hoping to clear my thoughts and take that deep, relaxing breath that allows me to shrug off the bustle of the kitchen.  I took a second and rested on my haunches, absentmindedly picking things up around me.  A snail slowly wandered through the moss.  I followed as it inched along, unaware that it was selecting its own garnish.  Back in the kitchen, the snail was cooked very tenderly, glazed a little in a tasty, intense broth, then lovingly encircled by cooked and raw roots, plants, shoots and flowers: it was a small mouthful representing a few square metres of a particular Danish forest on that exact day.  It felt so satisfying to use my intuition in that way.  (68-69)


The recipe calls for snails, of course, and wild garlic capers, juniper berries, nettles, thyme and woodruff sprigs, button mushrooms, morels, porcini, small chanterelles, cucumbers, onions, carrots, leeks, venison loin, fiddlehead ferns, forest moss, hop shoots, vine leaves, pickled beech leaves, large chickweed sprigs, and then butter, grape seed oil, salt, egg whites, birch wine.  The plating raises the curtain on chargrilled baby cucumbers on one side of a plate, glazed venison and snails enter, fried chanterelles and thyme make their appearance, with the leaves, sprigs and mushroom sauce topping this theatrical forest floor.  The journal entry, ingredients and plating suggest poetry with their specificity and range.


Consider Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

All in all, I’ll read back over Redzepi’s recipe, mouth Heaney’s poem of digging as I listen to Vivaldi’s Spring and savor a Johnny Walker Black with all its peatiness courtesy of Laphroaig and Talisker.  Sláinte


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