Coq au Vin

I tried cooking coq au vin. I know I could've just asked you for the recipe, but that would've defeated the point. Besides, as I kept harping on while we ate, recipes are useless without instruction of another sort. You can't exactly show me how you made it. So I did what I always do: impatiently skim the first few Google hits, omitting any ingredient I don't understand. Most noteably in this case, tomato paste. Isn't tomato a bully of a flavor in a sauce of wine? I think the vocabulary a restaurant critic might use is that the tomato would "deepen the flavor", or perhaps "broaden". These spacial metaphors. Well, my sauce is an empty room then, with a puddle of wine on the floor and some greasy chicken splattering the walls.

I don't mind the supposed minimalism in the mouth, though. It was, admittedly, filled out (there's another one, caprciously sprinkled to goad your characteristic optimism that spacialization isn't integral to language) with carrots and celery. But tasting my sauce now, in retrospect I detect the fullness of tomato in yours. The wine you used was also, I think, less fruity. The bottle I used was brought by my uncle, and its label described its final blast of berries as "elegant", which makes me suspect they know it isn't.

In sum, while I was quite happy with my hapless foray into coq au vin, and was in some ways pleased with how it deviated from what I remember, it seems that yours was expertly executed. In fact, having perused a few recipes, your rendition seems so to-the-letter that I wonder if you actually bought it from the hot deli of Whole Foods. They have such things, don't they? If this is the case you might be amused, if not I imagine you're at least a little offended. You've never really been one to let anything get to you, although I suspect you're just very good at acting unperturbable. Which may be the same thing, really--something has to bother you in the first place for you to have any hand in keeping it at bay. Blissful ignorance is quite different from deliberate control, and I think with you it's probably the latter. This faithlessness on my part is usual, but only because I'm compensating for my gullibility. The truth is I'm just as dubious of doubt as I am of easy verity, which is another way of saying I'm utterly lost. I've never been sure how one might think or even intuit these things through, leaving me with wide-eyed credulity on one side, and hysterical doubt on the other, with not much in between but hand-waving.

It's quite possible that the same nostalgia for the dish you served me--completely new to me--that made me try to recreate it also has me funneling the memory of its taste into an ur-coq au vin amalgamated from what little I've read about it. The more I try to taste it through what I have here, the less I realize I remember of it. I remember a feeling, and to put that down would be folly. At the moment of the most precise reconstruction, the memory slips away. Which is what one wants, really.

The loss is there already, though--reconstruction is not necessary. I won't try to find the same brand of stoneware, paint my dining room the same color, eat at the same time of day. No matter how I try to hold my fork in the same peculiar way you did--with only three fingers and no thumb, as if uncaring that it could slip out of your grasp--I will not divine the moment or you through a fork. For one thing, my hands aren't small enough.

Anyway, what have you been cooking these days?

11 July 2012