Quinoa with Tomato-Bacon-Beet-Spinach Sauce

What's most notable about this sauce is that it is red. Not tomato red or beet red, it's more fake blood red. The color seems wrong to me; bacony tomato sauce should not hurt the eyes to look at. To me it's a color that on the whole doesn't fall into the category of edible. Eating it is a very disjunctive experience: what I taste is not what I see. This is probably because I have learned throughout life to anticipate taste from appearance, along with a number of other cues. Foods "look tasty." This sauce, rather than looking tasty, or even looking like sauce, looks like raw meat, blood, candy, or some kind of overzealous berry. Looking at the food while eating it, rather than creating a suturing movement like this paragraph, creates more confusion than the following metaphor: the sewing machine sticks and the needle breaks.

I might even say, in one of the more postmodern gustatory aesthetics, that good food causes such renewing sensory rupture. Of course, ideally it does so more subtly than by blaring a neon red siren in your face and then handing you a plate of tomato sauce. Comfort food, on the other hand, strives toward a mimetic reproduction of your preconceptions. There can never really be, but comfort food may accomodate. What we have in this opposition of comfort and "good" is an appallingly bad account of what makes food good. Food full of the unexpected and disjunctive may still be bad, mediocre, nauseating, or even inedible. And comfort food also may be all of these things. This is not a way of evaluating the goodness of food, but a way of defining differing aesthetic modes. "Good" and "comfort" might be better termed "high" and "low."

What brought me here? Beets. The color of one of the oldest vegetables jars me into having to convince myself that tomatoes and bacon in fact taste like tomatoes and bacon. It has such an effect, I think, because it reminds me of blood--fake blood, and therefore of the permeability of bodily boundaries. We have become used to putting substances in our mouths and swallowing them. In fact, depending on the account of childhood psychological development you subscribe to, there may never have been a time when we were not used to it. Nonetheless we generally have come to think of the process of eating as not at all at odds with being contained within our bodies. Voiding waste is only slightly more threatening to this sealed bodily conception. But as much as straight male psychology at some unconscious level depends on rejecting it entirely, there is no avoiding it: things enter us and exit us through multiple orifices, including us. And blood, although generally this only exits. But from the plate in front of me deep red sauce enters.

1/2 large onion 1 small red beet 2 cloves garlic 7 medium frozen tomatoes 3 strips bacon handful or two baby spinach juice of 1/4 lemon

3 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon?)

Fill a large saucepan 1/2in up the rim with water, add frozen tomatoes, and put on medium-high heat. In another large saucepan begin frying bacon on medium heat. Peel and finely chop onion, beet, and garlic. When bacon is browned on both sides (but not crispy), remove onto a cutting board or plate. Scrape blackened bits from bottom of pan with spatula. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion, beet, garlic, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Tomatoes should be about thawed at this point. Remove from heat, drain water, remove skins, and chop tomatoes into large chunks. Put tomatoes back on medium-low heat to begin reducing. Stir frying onion mixture every few minutes. When onions are very soft (maybe 25 minutes), transfer tomatoes to frying saucepan and add basil, oregano, and lemon juice. Stir. Continue reducing sauce. When it's the right consistency, add baby spinach. Allow it to wilt for a few minutes and then stir it into the sauce. Salt to taste. Serve over pasta or quinoa.

29 January 2011