• THE GOOD LIFE
Eating for everyday
Eating and drinking being matters as per- sonal as sex, it seuns strange for there to be so many rigid rules about what is 'good' gastronomically. Those who feed at fifty according to the pattern of their nurseries ('eat it all up—bread and butter before cake —nice pudding because you have been good') are as unwise as if they still dressed and behaved as in their push-chair days. But nor does one want creations of haute cuisine and great wines on those evenings at home when body and mind may be weary and far more receptive to cold roast beef and a jacket potato with a non-demanding half-bottle, or even baked beans and lager.
The solemnity of some self-styled gastro- nomes is intimidating. Piping bag and flambi pan are continually in the offing, tasting note- book always poised. But those who live by and work with food and wine usually prefer simpler things for everyday. One chef of a great French restaurant said that not only did he prefer his wife's cooking to his own when he was eating at home, but admitted that his 'treat' supper was a galette de pommes de 'erre, the dish I used to serve often when funds were low and still make two or three times a month. The recine is in Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking and you can use your own ingenuity if you want to add extra ingredients.
A Sunday night supper served to me in Bordeaux by the director of a well-known shipping house and his wife, demonstrates exactly this balance of practicability and delicious acceptability. (With three children, a house guest, a crowd of friends and the French cost of living to contend with, they can't be extravagant.) The meal started with cold clear chicken broth, flavoured lightly with fresh sage, rose- mary, and parsley. We then had part of the two chickens that had made the broth—'not classic', said the hostess but the contrast of the fresh, cold soup and the hot chicken excludes this completely to me. (The chickens were, of course, free-range.) The chickens' breasts had been simmered for about ten minutes in butter and cream, plus a little black pepper. The legs and wings had been buttered, sprinkled with fresh herbs, wrapped in foil and baked for about forty minutes. Small roast potatoes accompanied the bird.
The previous day, all the scraps from the two carcasses had been stripped off before the broth was made. This diced meat was fried in very hot oil for about two minutes, chopped lettuce being added and 'stir-fried' in the Chinese style for the last minute. This, with fried rice, had made supper for all.
Our meal concluded with slices from a mild goat cheese (the long circular kind) on each of which was put a half fresh walnut (if one peeled the cheese, such slices would make superb canapes). We then had fruit and we drank a good but everyday white and red Tuscan wine because, as the host said, 'sometimes we need a refresher even from claret: