Monday, May 24, 2010

The week of living meatlessly. day 2.

I remember clearly the last time I ate a steak. I was maybe 19, or 20. We were in Portland, having dinner in the hotel restaurant, the kind of place that is all dark wood and forest-green carpet and dim lighting, clubby, with a hint of a bygone era still lingering like the smoke over a grill. I can still taste the slight char of the beef, the rich fat streaked through it all. I don't mean that I haven't eaten steak since then; I have, again and again. I mean that I haven't eaten an entire steak, as served in a restaurant, all 16 or 20 ounces of marbled beef lounging insouciantly on a heavy oval china plate next to the sautéed green beans and baked potato. I haven't finished a steak since. Maybe I'll eat half, or even a third, and take the rest home. Last Friday, I went out to dinner and ordered a Porterhouse the size of my face. I remembered how full I was, that time in Portland, that uncomfortable sensation of having eaten more than I should have.

Tonight I came home and rummaged around in the fridge for something to cook. Earlier, the idea of a spinach soufflé had been tumbling around in my mind. There was spinach from the farmer's market, and half an onion left from last week's carrot salad. I had milk and a small wedge of cheese. I didn't have a recipe; sometimes you just have to wing it. I browned the diced onions in butter and olive oil, added flour, milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and a few scrapes of nutmeg. In went the spinach, stirred until wilted and tender. I beat some egg whites until stiff, buttered and bread-crumbed an oval baking dish, grated the cheese. Folded the egg whites into the creamy spinach, poured it into the pan, sprinkled it generously with cheese, and slid everything into the toaster oven, crossed my fingers.

The soufflé rose gloriously, golden brown and crusty, and collapsed almost as soon as I took it out of the oven. It was perhaps a little damp and under-seasoned inside, but never mind. It was good, better than good enough.

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