I am having so much fun cooking, writing about, and learning new ways to prepare food that, in the process, I actually feel like I've been travelling.
Though I haven't left my small cottage kitchen on the shores of Vancouver Island, my heart and imagination have travelled as far away as Italy, Thailand, the southern US, Mexico, Japan, India, China, Greece, and most recently, France.
There is so much to learn about people and culture through the things we eat, because in the partaking of meals we create ritual, and ritual is one of the ways in which life is given flavour.
So today I thought I'd share something special from France: Gougéres.
These beautiful little bites are crispy on the outside and light and hollow in the middle - much like a cream puff, only bursting with the flavour of melted cheese.
Traditionally these are eaten as a snack before dinner, perhaps with a glass of kir or champagne; a slow and tasty unwind after a busy or stressful day.
Once again I marvel at the ways in which people of other cultures find the time to enjoy life. Where we're frequently off and running over the dinner hour - pulling up to the drive through to order greasy mass produced food eaten in the car between business meetings or soccer games - the French are relaxing in the sitting room
And enjoying little bites.
We squander our moments by filling them with too much.
Ours is a consumer culture driven by a misguided work ethic that, though once useful, has driven us to equate being "busy" with being successful.
But what is success?
Is it a bank account, a grade, career, or address?
Or might it be measured in simpler terms?
A long, happy marriage and a home one can't wait to return to at end of day.
The ability to say "This is how I feel" in any given moment, and "I love you" without fear.
Warm moments by the fire. Slow easy conversation. Chopin, dim lighting, a glass of wine, and something delicious.
Another bonus in learning how to cook is the discovery that sometimes seemingly difficult and intricate dishes are really just as simple as the recipes found in our own church cookbooks and recipe boxes; that the secret to good food is really just the same as the secret to a good life:
Simplicity mixed with the best possible ingredients.
As for the gougéres, I don't only love them because they're very, very good - I love them because they can be made ahead and frozen, and are also the perfect accompaniment to my Butternut Squash Bisque.
The following is another beautiful recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. I'm not going to include a printable recipe because I think you should just go out and get the book for yourself. It's really that wonderful.
(From the book...)
Gougères are good straight from the oven and at room temperature. I like them both ways, but I think you can appreciate them best when they're still warm. Serve with kir, white wine, or Champagne.
The best way to store gougères is to shape the dough, freeze the mounds on a baking sheet, and then, when they're solid, lift them off the sheet and pack them airtight in plastic bags. Bake them straight from the freezer—no need to defrost—just give them a minute or two more in the oven. Leftover puffs can be kept at room temperature over night and reheated in a 350-degree-F oven, or they can be frozen and reheated before serving.