a platter of figs and other recipes
by David Tanis
In Mr. Henry’s mind, cookbooks fall into categories. There are baking books replete with wizardry and spells. Mr. Henry avoids these completely.
There are quick cookbooks featuring television personalities, picture books aimed at people who don’t like to cook.
To judge by the book jacket covers, television cook-men come in two types – those with grizzled mugs and stumpy fingers or those with blush and lipstick. Television cook-women flash smiles so toothy they look as if, should dinner not work out, they might just take a bite out of you.
Mr. Henry is happy these people have found a road to success but he has no intentions of eating their slapdash cuisine.
Like love, cooking takes a little time and a little imagination. Quickfires can be marvelous fun but not for every day. Nothing brings out real flavor like marinating and braising.
Unable to sleep, Mr. Henry repaired to a platter of figs in hopes it might quickly send him off to dream of wonderful things such as, for instance, figs on platters. He found it riveting, impossible to put down, and he read it cover to cover. In recipes and incidental remarks the writing is brief, radiating an assurance of life well lived.
Most delightful of all, this is not a 2000-recipe assault on common sense. (Who even wants 2000 recipes in his head, Mark Bittman?) In a platter of figs there are recipes for 24 meals from start to finish, each a meal to cook and share with 8-10 friends, each a bountiful vision that to Mr. Henry’s eye looks like pure heaven.
Musée des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.