Poet’s Lunch

Since Pierre‘s commute to Albany is a little brutal this semester, I try to alleviate it by packing him lunch. I always loved packing food to take away, and when I worked in Manhattan I packed my lunch everyday.
I also have very vivid memories from the time when I was  a child and we were packing picnics for the hotel residents going on day trips. The family hotel being a 4-star establishment, you can imagine how elaborate that was. Prepackaged item didn’t exist, so for salt, pepper, sugar, mustard  & cornichons, we would make cute little pockets out of parchment paper.  The beautiful cuts of salami, jambon de pays (prosciutto), jambon blanc (cooked ham), roast beef, chicken, cheeses — yeah! lots of proteins— were carefully wrapped in parchment paper attached with butcher string. Seasonal fruits were added on top, a bottle of wine, bottle of mineral water and a fresh baguette stuck to the side of the basket.

I also remember my grandfather Joseph packing my picnic for the end of the year elementary school field trip. I requested sandwiches & Coca-Cola. Bon-Papa Joseph went along with the sandwiches but absolutely vetoed  the Coca-Cola telling me that that stuff was so efficient in cleaning metal surfaces that he didn’t want my stomach to be subjected to the same treatment. Instead, he filled an empty bottle with some wine, water and sugar.  I was around 9 or 10 years old and I remember like if it was yesterday that after eating lunch, my friend Françoise Gerdessus and I took a pedal boat ride and I felt pretty funny and happy… I was drunk! I lost my wallet that day and I never forgot that Françoise shared her pocket money with me. Anyhow, Pierre’s lunch made me travel back to childhood and my unconscious might be thinking of that crew of school friends that are going to gather soon for a school reunion that I will not make this year!

Voilà! Pierre’s lunch is a little more balanced:

Cold oven roasted chicken
Cuke salad
(with no rice)
Apple sauce (Pierre’s ultimate comfort food)
2 slices of Amy’s bread

All packed in this cute lunch box my daughter in law got for us in Korea, where packing lunch is a serious affair… but no room for the bottle of wine!

Cuke Salad

Do you like cucumbers? I do now, but it is a taste I acquired over the years. Cukes were popular in my family only in cornichons form (tiny cukes pickled in vinegar). I don’t remember if it is my father or my grandfather who used to say “les concombres, ils me reprochent,” meaning not he didn’t digest them well, but that he would hear from them under the form of burbs for hours after ingestion, hence the “reproach” to have eaten them! So, for years I was prejudiced against cucumbers and assimilated them to reproaches & English sandwiches — and thus they had no place in my cooking repertoire! But once I was able to look beyond my Pyrenean mountains for culinary inspiration, I realized how widespread cucumbers were in many Mediterranean cuisines and how delicious they are.
This summer I am eating a lot of them as I am trying to eat “cold” foods as recommended by my good friend, poet & artist Yuko Otomo. She gave me a few ideas on how to eat them with seaweed & tofu, which I liked very much, but my favorite version is the one I am featuring today. Most of you will recognize it’s direct source. Yes, it is a sort of Tzatziki, in Greek or Cacık
in Turkish, usually served as a mezze, appetizer or used as sauce for souvlaki & gyros. In order to make it more filling for my lunch I added some brown rice and gave it a twist with the addition of a touch of mustard. Another healthy, cheap, refreshing lunch brought to you by Voilà Nicole! By the way, do not miss Trialogues (Pierre Joris, Michael Bisio & moi) this coming Monday August 23rd 8PM, part of Evolving Voices Series, at Local 269 (269 East Houston NYC).

Recipe:
Peel, cut lenghtwise, then empty out seeds of 2 organic local cucumbers (avoid the ones individually wrapped in plastic)

Options:
1-soak cukes in salted ice water for 30 minutes. drain for 15 minutes
2-In a glass bowl sprinkle them with salt (coarse salt), cover , let drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
3-Simply use them, right off the bat, skipping either of these options — that is what I do most of the time. They are a little more watery but I read that the juices are actually very good for you.

In a bowl mix:
1/2 tbs of mustard (Grey Poupon type)
1 cup of goat milk yogurt
Mix & add:
1 grated clove of garlic
1/4 cup of finely chopped onions
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup of cooked brown rice
Mix & add:
cucumbers
salt+pepper to taste & mix well

Voilà!