On lazy days, breakfast takes an hour. I was feeling especially lazy today and it took two. It starts with pre-heating the oven for bread, and boiling water for coffee. Meanwhile, I would be cleaning the grinder and the press-pot. Then it comes to taking a sniff out of the bag of beans, before weighing out 22g of coffee. No prizes for guessing where the beans came from. The bread goes in the oven for five minutes, while I work on the hand grinder. The water is 95C and part of it is used to pre-warm the glass. While the water cools to 90C, the grounds are emptied into the press-pot and brewing begins with a steady stream of water. The bread is sliced and three minutes into immersion, the filter is plunged down and out comes the brew. The ritual ends with taking out a dollop of jam for the bread.
That, my lad, is breakfast.
I made myself a second cup of coffee today, because I can. As I nibbled on the crust of bread, I thought to myself how simple things intrigue me most. It might not be the best way of brewing nor the best bread, just ordinary jam and humble coffee, but it works for me. It may seem frivolous, but grant me that bit of luxury with bread, coffee and jam on my days off.
Simplicity is my most recent idée fixe. It means slowing down to appreciate the things that surround us. It is about finding coherence in the haves, instead of losing faith because of the have-nots. Our definitions of ‘simple’ differs, but it is easy to mistake simplicity for difficulty, or effort. The simplest things could be most difficult to come by. What had impressed me most during my stay in Paris was a modest tarte au citron, one that I have never succeeded in replicating it faithfully.
Due in part to the first kitchen I had worked in, plated desserts had intrigued me most. Like drawing on a blank canvas, one’s imagination is the only limit to put different flavours, textures, colours and temperatures together. Increasingly, my attention slants towards doing the simple things right – churning ice-creams, making bonbons, and in general, being positive. I can’t recall the slightest reason that has sparked this preoccupation, but it becomes self-reinforcing. Simplicity implies contentment; contentment perpetuates simplicity.
I’d always thought that the state of being content is dangerous. It breeds laziness and stifles progress. Yet, the impetus for improvement can come from elsewhere – such as the spirit of excellence or the drive of passion. Being content can be a source of strength. It’s like patting oneself on the back for making the small little steps, while not forgetting the distance ahead to strive further for. On the other hand, putting oneself down, for the sake of progress, can become toxic, and is uncalled for. As with words, simplicity is also a choice.
I like making bonbons because they are simple, but challenging. In light of the aforementioned, I am happy with these. They aren’t perfect, perhaps nowhere close, but I have found some familiarity in its execution. It was exciting too, to try out flavour combinations, and I had nutmeg, fennel, and vanilla for the ganache. There aren’t many chances to make bonbons in a proper setting for long, and I am glad that I could finish (for now) with a proper batch of chocolates.