As I sit here expecting the power to go off any minute and the ice limns the trees right outside my writing window and the birds frenzy themselves at the feeders, I think about food that will sustain me in this time of tightness. Here goes.
This picture show us at Lois’s garden. We all knew it would be her last growing season, but in the true Lois spirit, we planted peas and potatoes. I don’t think we thought this would stave off the inevitable, but it was just what you did if you were Lois. It looks like Jane is holding the peas we harvested on this particular day on our way to lunch. We were able to get back a few more times and finish the pea harvest and dig out the potatoes. Lois’s last order, delivered in her fake gruff manner from the hospice bed was Get the rest of those potatoes out of the ground; not doing anybody any good in there!
After Lois died, we did take the last of the potatoes out and split them up.
We haven’t had Lois for several months now, but our Lunch with Lois bunch still meets for lunch. After some trepidation, a bit of lip-biting and frowning that we were somehow being disrespectful, we decided that Lois would love for us to call ourselves The Lunch Without Lois Bunch (LWOLB) So, that’s that.
When we were With Lois for these lunches we usually ate at her place in the cafe. We each had certain menu items that we thought about on the drive over. Lori and Margaret loved The Happy Pilgrim. I loved the grilled veggie wrap, dripping with oil and packed with three kinds of squashes and lots of peppers. Jane loved the chopped salad that contained every one of the food groups. Lois had the tuna fish with hot coffee, and keep the cup filled if you please. For sides, I ordered fried onion rings; the rest had fruit. We shared the onion rings. I think we ate the fruit, but not with gusto.
Recently the LWOLB met at Margaret’s house. On our menu was Socca.
Go to https://wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/foment-community-with-socca-part-one/ (where I describe the beginning of my love affair with socca) and Food We Women Cook (I’ll put a final, PERFECTED recipe there when I’ve figured it all out) for the particulars, but I’ll tantalize your taste buds for a few sentences here.
First off, we think Lois would have adored this bread, more so even when we finally perfect the making of it. Lois was down to earth and a good cook. She favored fast with no-frills. Socca would have been right up her alley. The ingredients are few: chickpea flour, water, olive oil, coarse salt, and ground pepper. Prep involves mixing the flour and water, letting it sit for a few hours, and then, after super-heating a pan that’s been smeared with a pour of olive oil, pouring the batter in, and watching it bubble and curl up at the edges in the same very hot oven. Simple. Elegant. Like Lois.
When made the right way, the socca can sit in place of honor, center table. The eaters can sit around the table and pull and tug at it, talking, and munching. You can’t just pull on your own or the whole thing comes into your lap. On second thought, that might be a good idea; you’d get to eat it all yourself! But in the spirit of community, each puller needs a tugger. Lois would like that aspect of socca too.
Full disclosure: I haven’t yet made socca so that the cooperative eating story works, the consistency isn’t exactly pull and tuggy, if you get my meaning. Right now, until we fuss with the cooking tactic a bit more, it’s a cut in wedges, and serve fast with a spatuala consistency. I say “fast” because the guests start reaching into the pan and burning their fingers on the cast iron if you dwaddle too long.
If you Google the words Mark Bittman and socca, you’ll come to a site with a picture of Mr. Bittman (NYTimes food writer) wandering some abandoned street in France. The caption says something about him hunting in vain for socca. It’s sold by street vendors who bake it in a hot, wood-fired oven while you wait, then after dusting it with a sprinkle of seasalt and a turn or two of pepper, the vendor wraps it in paper, hands it to you and watches while you devour it on the spot, trying to hold the dripping wrapping paper and salt and pepper crusted oblong of bread away from your only travel blouse, opting for fast satisfaction, oil-splatters be darned.
At Margaret’s we worked to replicate the wood-fired oven. We used a broiler setting and a cast-iron pan. We watched while it blistered and started to singe, and then pulled it out with all sorts of sizzle. It was hard not to pick it out of the pan and pull it apart right then and there.
Lois would have loved it.