Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shakespeare, water-seller, truffle

A column in today's paper by the novelist, Howard Jacobson, approves recent scientific research, which demonstrates that reading Shakespeare is beneficial to the brain. ..."His syntactical surprisingness. .. creates something like a neural flash of lightening, a positive wave or surge in the brain's activity, triggering a re-evaluation process likely to raise attention" at the time and stimulate new pathways for the brain thereafter". In other words as the American poet Emily Dickinson said of poetry: "it makes the back of your neck tingle."

At the Velesquez exhbition at the National Gallery I see that, in the glass held out for water seller in the Water Seller of Seville, there sits a fresh fig to sweeten the water. Does one ever learn to look at a picture properly? I've know that one for years, with the huge earthernware jug in the foreground and the lined, dignified face of the water seller central to the composition, but never before have I noticed the fig.

A black Perigord truffle arrives for Christmas; what a present! How to use it? after some discussion, we take Elizabeth David's advice and make omelates from the finely sliced tuber, which is allowed to impregnate the eggs for a time before beating them and cooking the omelates. We eventually cover the bowl in which the eggs and the truffle wait, but in the interval, the mysterious fungus smell takes over the kitchen.

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