I am afraid that I did not get much reading today; because of this, I shall finish my writing about Kierkegaard tomorrow. Yet I did do one thing of use today: I cooked supper. It was a salmon soufflé, in which I used regular salmon rather than smoked salmon. I will include the recipe below. Yet apart from that–and the fact I was going to make pecan pie today but did not–I find myself moved to express my own views as to why cooking is an unappreciated art.
Betty Freidan was perhaps the first to vociferously move from disliking cooking to regarding it as the anti-feminist task: “drudgery.” I do not blame her particularly because when she was writing it was largely assumed that women were supposed to be cooks, and doubtless she felt that patriarchy regarded cooking as all women were for. It never occurred to her that the “best cooks” were male chefs or that it could be like the folklore in Christendom where women’s creativity was allowed in the vein of telling stories. Yet as a necessity, it became all a “good” wife was “for” and this made it seem burdensome. My mother and her mother, incidentally, both felt the same way: they hated to cook and were bad at it. Legend had it that Grandma Williams would “scorch the cocoa” when she fixed it for her daughters when they were children. My sister Gayle is better at cooking but hates working with things like meat.
Yet for me cooking is creative. Take a Salmon Soufflé or an Eggplant Parmesan Soup or a French Loaf of Bread or Pecan Pie, and the process of creating the food is difficult, time consuming, but worth the trouble completely. This is not the purview of canned soup (though I have relied on canned soups or canned tomatoes at times) or fried hamburgers on the stove top. This involves a special breed of creativity, one which in the better cooks even involves creating their own recipes. Alas, I am not good enough to make my own recipes (or achieve the task of creating of Angel Food Cake the way Grandma Alderson did). Yet I can add and subtract ingredients to other people’s recipes and change the amount of time the food goes in the oven. With that in mind, here is the recipe I used:
Smoked Salmon Soufflé
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
8 oz skinless and boneless smoked salmon
½ cup loosely packed Gruyere or Comte cheese
¾ cup crème fraiche
1. Adjust oven rack to center position.
2. Heat oven to 425.
3. Butter bowls (alas, I do not have ramekin dishes and so used a dish for making bread loafs).
4. Heat the milk and half-and-half together in saucepan until bubbling but not boiling.
5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the saucepan.
6. Stir in the flour with wooden spoon.
7. Cook and stir two minutes.
8. Remove from heat and whisk the hot liquid until smooth.
9. Mix in salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
10. Mix in egg yolks, one at a time.
11. In a mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed till frothy.
12. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
13. Fold the whites into the bechamel (the other mixture).
14. Then fold in the salmon and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
15. Spread Crème Fraiche on top of the salmon mixture.
16. The recipe says to bake for 10 to 12 minutes but I shall probably put it in for 1 Hour–perhaps too long.
Mom really liked it, and I recommend the challenge to the reader. Don’t listen to the naysayers who put it on the jackets of books, “I hate to cook”; try to do something new, just as much as if you were skiing or bobsledding for the first time. Of course, I have never gone skiing or bobsledding. 🙂 Perhaps I should try them.