I may have mentioned before that one of the most delightful things about my friend Jason Fout is that his often serious and challenging obsession with matters theological is tempered by a similar obsession with matters culinary. As such, Jason stands as a living example of the importance of sensual experience in spiritual understanding, every bit as much as the cinematic joy that is Babette’s Feast.
Jason was our very own Babette a couple of weeks ago at St Mark’s, when he prepared a selection of pizzas along these lines:
And the pizza in question did indeed live up to the look on his daughter Alex’s face.
On Sunday I invited Jason and family back to Victoria Street after he preached at St Mark’s (a sermon in which he disappointingly ignored my suggestion to preach on Guy Fawkes) and became increasingly nervous that, even with Alastair’s capable assistance, we would end up serving something which to an expert like Revd Fout would seem the equivalent of beans on toast. Actually, I even considered cutting my losses and making him beans on toast.
But Alastair and myself discovered something wonderful; cooking is not about following instructions, or trying to recreate something you’ve seen your Mum do. In fact, you can make it up!
We even cooked something with a name that we thought had been made up too – a poussin. (Well, four of them actually – poussi?) Though later we were informed that a poussin is a teenage chicken, and I suddenly felt quite bad about eating them. I mean, they were probably quite unhappy in a sulky, listless way, but they still had their whole adult lives ahead of them.
The joy of cooking the poussi was not in the simplicity of the process (you put them in the oven) so much as the little artistic details we achieved. Alastair bought some fresh basil and liberally shredded it over the teenage birds, whilst I slapped on olive oil and herbs. Then I sliced up some apple and stuffed it into the teenage birds’ orifices. And finally (possibly getting a bit carried away) we sprinkled them with mulled wine mix.
An example poussin follows.
The look on Jason’s face says the following:
1. That joy at freshly cooked food runs in his family.
2. That the poussin was a success.
3. That Jason was actually quite jealous of our achievements with the poussin.
The reason I bring all this up, apart from the need to brag, is that if we were in a television programme called Can’t Cook, Can Cook (I admit it’s not conceptually as brilliant as the original), in this instance the Can’t Cookers put up a pretty good fight.
I’m quite keen to know how the audience would have voted. So if you feel you can judge our efforts on the above photos, please do let me know.*
If you prefer simpler pleasures, maybe you’d like to draw me a picture of what you think a poussin looks like when it’s still running around?
*Keen judges may wish to take into account the fact that I was aided in the Can’t Cook kitchen by Alastair, who can cook, whereas Jason made several pizzas alone. In this case, I feel for the sake of fairness I should point out that Jason managed to lose the middle of one of his pizzas in the oven, along with half a jar full of anchovies – which was of course a huge tragedy.