On Abundance, or Why You Should Never Leave the Oatmeal Unattended
I marvel at the abundance of nature. The Oxford tells me that abundance is a large quantity that is more than enough. At the moment, I’m experiencing an abundance of basil. An abundance of savory. An abundance of chives. With chives, I will go so far as to say that I am safely self-sufficient. Abundance can often feed your happiness.
Felicity: great happiness. The literal meaning of the Latin felicitas is actually fertility, a synonym for fertilitas. Its metaphorical meanings of happiness, good fortune, and success live on in our English word. Yet this original literal meaning grabs me. To be happy, you must be fertile, producing numerous offspring, a long list of published works, a home full of clothes and textiles that you have knit and sewn yourself, a pantry full of jam, or another vision of fruitfulness. The point is you must create. He has a fertile imagination means he is creative.
Recently I saw a documentary on Woody Allen. He has a drawer in which he keeps pieces of paper of all sizes where he has jotted down ideas for films. When he finishes one film and is ready for the next, he just opens the drawer and fishes around until he finds something that strikes his fancy. What prodigious creativity! What a gift! Yet just as important is the diligence with which he goes about his work and turns the seed of an idea into a film that you and I can ultimately see on the big screen. It’s not enough to have good ideas.
Is the opposite of diligence neglect? These peppers were never transplanted to larger pots or the garden. I have mostly left them to the elements, which in my climes delivered both abundant rain and abundant sunshine this summer. Despite the tapering off of my caring from them, they are bearing fruit, which I almost feel I have no right to eat. Plants need sun and water and a handful of minerals. They don’t really need us, except if they need help getting these three things. Sure, our pampering can help them grow more, but left to their own devices, they will still move through all the standard phases of a plant’s life. My dwelling on the subject of neglect reveals more about me and my view that I have somehow failed the plants. In fact, they are getting on and making the best out of their situation of growing in very small pots.
Though plants can be left unattended, oatmeal cannot.
TC learned this lesson the hard way. Once fire is involved – or its modern equivalent electricity – diligence is key. The power of the elements should not be summoned and then left unattended. Cooking differs in this way from gardening. Neglect in the kitchen leads very quickly to incidents such as the one pictured above or an upswing in the fertility (and felicity?) of drosophila. An abundance of fruit flies does not warm a vegetarian’s heart.
With my abundance of basil and a gift of tomatoes, I adapted this 101 Cookbooks recipe to make a kind of tomato gratin. Since the last tomato tart I shared was called the Hexagon Tart after France, let’s name this one after Italy.
4 shallots, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
900 g /2 lbs. tomatoes, sliced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
100 g / 3 1/2 oz. fresh mozzarella
100 g / 3 1/2 oz. finely-ground polenta
500 ml /2 cups water
Sauté the shallots in olive oil until brown. Slice the tomatoes and arrange in a buttered quiche or tart pan. Drizzle the vinegar and sprinkle the salt on top. Cover the tomatoes with the shallots, coarsely chopped basil, and small pieces of mozzarella.
Bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta, making sure it doesn’t clump, and cook until it thickens.
Pour the polenta over the tart so it forms a uniform layer.
Bake at 200°C / 400 °F for about 25 minutes.