It is not possible to make Risotto on any other day than a Sunday. To me Sunday spells Risotto and so there is nothing better to contemplate after a brisk walk in the park than slicing up a butternut squash, tossing it in good olive oil to roast in the oven. The basis for my Risotto. The other basis for making Risotto is to open a good bottle of red wine and drink it. H produces a Mondavi, a rare treat around here and so we sip with memories of our trips to the Napa Valley coming out in bits and bobs and nostalgia too is a great recipe for cooking this meal. Carefree days when we would head from the East Bay to discover another world, far from here, far more as our lives are complicated and mired in recession. Still we refuse to be dampened by the prevailing climate and choose to turn the kitchen into an escape of sorts, a way to cope. On this Sunday time is on our side.
Risotto is interesting. I love to make it. It requires Jazz. Soft sax. It requires a warm room and casual clothing i.e. the mandatory socks, very large apron, baggy jeans and t.shirt. It requires a certain attitude. It helps to finds some leeks in the vegetable basket along with a small onion, fabulous garlic bought at the Saturday market in Galway. It really helps to have a block of good parmesan cheese purchased from my favourite cheesemonger, Sheridans of Galway. It helps to be in the mood. I am.
I sweat down the leek and onion and clove of garlic until it is nice and soft. The smell is only a delight. It permeates the kitchen. I then add the rice and stir to coat with the marvellous olive oil and veg until it glistens. The stock is added in careful increments, warm and aromatic. Keep stirring. Have other people stir. Anyone who comes in to the kitchen in fact. Invite them to participate. Keep adding and building and keep an eye on the progress. Do not become complacent. Have shavings of parmesan to the ready. The squash to hand. When the rice is almost al dente add the squash and top with the cheese. It is then that you will become transported. This food comforts. Provides another angle to eating.
Our table is set. The candle is lit. Roast chicken golden and rich with lemon juice wafts to the nostrils. Peas in mint add necessary colour. We eat and for once no one is too jovial or too conversational. Perhaps we realise how blessed the table is and our palates are to settle for triviality. There is nothing but to open our mouths to the pleasure of food and for that, for that brief time, we are contented. Risotto blended with our existence and a sense that food always matters and for that I am grateful. For that, I thank the gods who showed me how to eat. How to eat what matters.