I realized lately, somewhat wearily, that almost everything Jake and I do is in some way connected to the fight against the constant decay of things. I buy food, week after week, and seemingly overnight berries become watery with overripeness, bananas blacken, and zucchinis shrivel. Bread stales in just a matter of days. A clean home becomes coated with dust and dirt in a flash. Cars wear down, and must be repaired once piece at a time. Clothes are worn and must be replaced. Even our bodies, healthy now as they may be, are destined to wear out eventually. Everything we have is moving at an unstoppable pace towards decay, and understanding this made my mind very, very tired.
Somehow, among the slow collapse of all our physical possessions, one of the little victories that restores my vitality everyday is enjoying really good food. Nothing puts to rest a difficult day of work like a spectacular dinner, especially with my loved ones. It needn’t even be prepared by your hands– some days your hands need to rest. Just the past two nights Jake and I dined out– at the same restaurant both nights, which is a funny thing to have done in such a full city– and we were so hungry each time that we spent the whole meal talking about how good the food was. He could not stop talking about his sandwich with buffalo sauce (gross!), which was pretty adorable seeing as how he rarely comments on food at all. I was destroying my quesadilla like it was my last meal, going on and on about how I could eat mexican dishes for the rest of my life and be satisfied– of course with salsa and guac piled high, and fresh crunchy lettuce and sour cream all on cheesy bites of tortilla being stuffed in between words. Reveling in the awesomeness of a good meal is the same as enjoying the blissful sounds of music, or breathing fresh, salty air at the side of a beach– it restores the weary soul by nourishing the tired body.
Everything ends. We work for passions and for wages, but in the end we will leave the same as we came, with nothing at all. Our minds contribute great things to this world, but when it is all passed we will mostly be forgotten, and all our days of toil will be gone. Material possessions are dying with each passing moment, and every one of them will be gone eventually. There is Joy in little moments, the kind that makes all our restless work seem right. Some of this Joy is found around a dinner table, with twinkling glasses and hearty bread, or alone on a park bench, with a brown paper bag full of freshly fried mushrooms– basking in one of the simplest and happiest things on Earth– eating great food.
I urge you all– revel in tasty dishes. Sip a glass of wine, and let the greatness of the flavor wash over you. Eat a perfectly yolky Oeufs en Cocotte and experience each bite like you are taking in the sight of beautiful art or the rush of a speeding roller-coaster. It is just an ordinary Joy, but it is one of the few we really have in life. It will recharge you, from somewhere deep within.
Oeufs en Cocotte (with garlicky greens and rosy potato cups)
You will need:
- 1 potato, thinly sliced (use a mandolin or a potato peeler)
- 2 cups kale
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup cream (whatever milk you have, or cheese– many things will do.)
- oil and butter
- salt and pepper to taste
Over medium heat, cook the onion until fragrant, in butter and oil. Add the kale and cook the greens down until they are darkened and tender. Add the garlic, and sauté until the greens are damp and flavorful (about 15-20 minutes altogether.) Thinly slice the potato, and fan them out so that each is overlapping, into buttered little ramekins, like the photo below.
Place the ramekins in a cast iron pan, and fill the pan halfway with hot water from your teakettle. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs to be cooked. Some may find it helps to cover them in the last few moments of baking, to help the whites along without overcooking the yolk. Top with fresh herbs, and eat with buttered toast points. You do not have to use the potato rounds, but if you do the whole thing will pop right out of the ramekin, and has an elegant way about itself. Oeufs de Cocotte means simply, eggs in pots, and so you can add or remove anything to this recipe and it will be delicious and lovely still.