The (Un)bearable Elusiveness of Air

It’s another sorry situation when you come home from work looking forward to a bowl of home-popped (that means stove-popped) popcorn, only to find that there are only enough seeds in the packet for a handful (not enough).

Fortunately, however, my mother taught me the good value of freezers, and of baking bread, and my landlord was kind enough to leave me a microwave, so within a few minutes I could obliviate the trauma of no popcorn with a warm, home-baked roll.

Tragedy, you’ll discover if you get to know it well enough, has a lovely sibling, which is good fortune. They follow close on each other, and neither would it be unusual to meet the latter before the former.

But the best way to meet them is to have tragedy first, followed by good fortune. So last night, for instance, I decided to try my hand at a souffle. I have always been very critical of potential inconsistencies or hypocrisies, like the ones that lurk in people who profess to be one thing but have nothing to back it up. And it turns out I have a reputation among various people as a “foodie”, if not (and I say this humbly), someone who “knows” food.

The reputation did not happen by itself. I believe I helped to foster it. There is, after all, the small matter of me having gone to “chef school”. I did not see it out long enough to qualify, but I did the basics, and quit my apprenticeship because I thought I already knew more than they would be able to teach me in 3 years.

But I had never, until yesterday, attempted a souffle. I chose a source who I respect and trust – Elizabeth David – and decided to start with the so-called classic cheese souffle.

You can read the recipe if that sort of thing interests you, but if you do, you can stop short of the ‘perfectly cooked’ at the end, because that is not the end of this story.

Fortunately (here comes the sibling), the man waiting for the souffle in my kitchen was and is a forgiving man, and he not only sat on the floor with me watching the non-rising action through the oven window, but ate heartily of the (cooked) top half when it was on the table. He even tried to convince me that it had, in fact risen, and made it rise just like that.

I think it was the perfect first souffle.

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