Tag Archives: Griffith University

Literature Short Stories

Joan Didion’s Recipe Book by Ashleigh Watson

ashleigh-watsonJoan smiles at the camera. Her hands hugging a full bowl, short hair low in two pigtails with blue ribbons falling waist length long, white peasant blouse, blue jeans. The kitchen with clear jars and olive lids full of salt and brown sugar and Japanese green beans, mismatched oven gloves, a range of orange Tupperware and a red cast iron pot on the bench.

        The candid colour photo is page two of Joan’s recipe book. Joan’s favourite recipes and menus. It pinged into my inbox earlier in the afternoon while I sat drinking black coffee at the kitchen bench. The slick PDF was a kickback for donating to a documentary. I slid through the pages on my phone screen, finishing my coffee, ignoring two text messages, waving away a fly.

        Fall is the first season of food. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, then a final section for Sweets. A roast garlic recipe photocopied from a 1992 Williams-Sonoma Grande Cuisine magazine is first. Page five is a journal note: dinner January 30 2003, J & J, Q & Jerry Micheal. John and Joan and their daughter, Quintana and son-in-law, Jerry, ate smoked salmon with capers, lemon and chives. Chiles and scallions and olives. They finished with clementines and chocolates. Page six is a Borscht recipe, handwritten on a LIFE magazine notepad. Page seven is dinner: October 17 2003. Roast chicken with rosemary, goat cheese and brie. Chocolates and almonds. J & J with Sharon Delano. And so the book goes.

      My J, James, came home at four from having his hair cut and I asked him what he felt like for dinner. We already had fish in the fridge but I scrolled past the artichokes and stopped at a winter recipe, Lamb Navarin. A full, meaty French ragout method only four sentences long, typed on a typewriter. I drank in the page and the smell of it, the taste, the heady warmth came alive like the blue does in her books. It was hot and late in the afternoon but the shops were open for another hour so I picked my wallet and keys up from the bench, pulled some shoes on and headed out for the ingredients. The fish would keep till tomorrow.

Navarin (for six outside)
Brown three pounds leg of lamb cut for stew, deglaze pan with brandy, roll lamb in flour, place in casserole.
Simmer an hour with white wine & beef broth to cover, three tomatoes pureed or tomato paste, garlic & parsley chopped, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf.

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