Monday, July 04, 2005

on taste and tobias: back to earth with gazpacho

I sat on a hard gray bench; the wind violently whipping my hair, bright sun soaking into my shoulders. People were laughing and chatting all around me, moving wobbly on the rocking ferry boat. A plump brunette woman napped against her tattooed boyfriend, his leather jacketed shoulder a soft pillow. A hip looking younger man wearing a bright blue bandana painted bright smears on a canvas near my feet. Muscled, bronze men sipped Bloody Marys, leaning comfortably against the railing, looking out at the calm sea. The early ferry to Provincetown from Boston to kick off the Fourth of July weekend contains an interesting crowd. But I could hardly do justice to my usually passionate people-watching. I sa t there for two hours, hardly comprehending what was going on around me, lost in a book.

Tobias Wolff’s Old School is a short novel, one that I randomly grabbed from the bookshelf on my way out the door. But once I started reading I was lost. I was completely entranced by the narrative, the words. I left my body for the world of the novel. I haven’t had that sensation of involvement and total immersion within a book in a long time. By the end, college had given all reading, for class or fun, a repugnant aura of intensely academic over-analysis. I lost the ability to lose myself in the moment of reading, of wholly traveling to the realm of the story. But in the most unlikely of places this Saturday, that bench on the deck of a crowded sea-vessel, I entered completely into the world of Tobias Wolff’s boarding school narrative. I practically forgot to breath I was so intent on devouring the words and turning the pages.

The story itself (an intriguingly woven boy-to-man tale, piercing and believable) is not so important for these food-blogging purposes. As strange as it sounds, it was the feeling of complete bodily abandonment juxtaposed with a summer’s evening gazpacho that was the most interesting revelation.

Reading so intently I felt as if I had abandoned my body, lost in that book I was without all normal bodily sensation. I was left with only words, story, internal literary imaginings. And eating the freshly chilled soup later that night my tongue and I were very much grounded in the wonderful physical reality of taste. With the first spoonful of gazpacho – the tangy jolt of sherry vinegar, garlic and cilantro; the visual feast of reds, yellows and green – I felt the full extent to which I had previously lost my senses to the literary world. It was a surprising taste awakening. One that brought me back to earth and made me feel very much alive.

I would like to have Tobias Wolff over for dinner. I wonder if he likes gazpacho.

Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network (loves of my life)

3 slices wheat bread, crusts removed

2 pounds vine-ripe medium tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 jalepeno pepper, minced

2 cups tomato juice (the organic kind from whole foods, yum)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika

salt and pepper

1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 handful cilantro, coarsely chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

-Soak the bread in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes, and then squeeze out the excess water.

-Place the bread in a blender or food processor; add the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, onion, garlic and jalapeno.

-Puree the ingredients until slightly smooth, keeping a modest amount of texture.

-Pour the vegetable mixture into a large bowl; stir in the tomato juice, sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar, oil, cilantro, and lemon juice until well combined.

-Refrigerate a few hours until very well chilled; the flavors will develop as it sits.

-Garnish with chopped yellow pepper, radish, tomato, avocado, and a few more leaves of
cilantro. (Adding color and crunch). Do another round of salt and pepper before serving.

1 comment:

Justin said...

I saw this recipie on TV, made it, and really enjoyed it. However, the one I made is different from the one now posted on It looks as if Tyler Florence changed the recipie some time after it was published. The new one does not include the nice pureed avocado topping. The new one also avoids using cilantro, to my dismay. I suppose traditional gazpacho is parsley only.