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White Truffles in Winter White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby
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“And he was forever hers. No matter whom he loved, or was loved by, the shadow of her always remained.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Her heart beat with the rattle of broken wings.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“A well-told story, true or not, reminds you that, yes, the world is an exotic and magical place, and yes, it can be yours for a price. Enchantment always has a price--and sometimes the cost is love.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Earlier that morning, Escoffier ad brought up a large bucket of white rose petals, white violets and vanilla orchids that he'd been thinking of creating a dish with. The pâtissier had crystalized some of the flowers, and left him a plate of meringue shells, a handful of vanilla beans and fresh cream. He wanted to create a new dish for Sarah, a sweet, something surprising, something to engage her. She'd been playing Joan of Arc, the virgin saint, a seventeen-year-old girl. It was a role she made famous, difficult at any age, but for a woman in her mid-forties, it was nearly impossible.
Escoffier tossed a handful of white rose petals into Rosa's bathwater.
The white skin. The white roses. 'The essence of Saint Joan is in shades of white, like shades of innocence.'
'Spun sugar,' he thought. 'Vanilla cream, of course.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“He closed his eyes and tried to remember the taste of snow apples. When he was a child, there was a gnarled tree of them behind his father's blacksmith shop. His mother would always pick them but there were never enough for more than a single tart. Spicy and yet sweet, like McIntosh, but the flesh was so impossibly white, pristine, and the juice was so abundant, that it was like no other apple he had ever tasted.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“That odd alchemy of married love - passion, betrayal, fury, kindness, and companionship - lay there exposed between them.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“That last summer, the kitchen reeked of pickling spice, anise seed and juniper berries. Watermelon jam, lavender jellies and crystalized fennel cooled on the pantry shelves. Jars with mango pickles and pickled onions, an old habit from his days in London, were set aside in the wine cellar to cure. Honeycombs were stacked in bowls on the sideboard, draining, waiting to be melted into candles mixed with olive oil and pressed into soaps. Thunderstorms were canned along with plum jam. Memories seeped onto the pine floorboards.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“By morning, Delphine had let go of dreaming. She had decided that all she required was the deep cool darkness of sleep. Dreams were too untrustworthy. they could turn quickly, without warning. She was no longer willing to accept their mercurial ways. There was no need. Her stillness allowed her to live between time. She was no longer a slave to it. She could be young or old. She could pass into the next world or stay in this one. With the taste of the langoustines still on her tongue, she could feel her husband's soft hand against her thigh and the tangle of their bodies, the heat of it. 'Quick. Quick.' Dreams had become unnecessary.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Did you pack our supper?" Paul asked.
She had indeed. For the trip, Sabine put 'Ma Cuisine' aside and filled the food hampers with luck and industry. She made little green pies of wild leeks that she'd found growing alongside the road on the way back from the hotel. A Joséphine salad was thrown together using leftovers and bits from the garden and pantry- chicken from the night before, curry powder, preserved lemons, and dried coconut. And for something sweet, she made curd tarts of lavender honey and lemon jam.
They were the recipes of her grand-mère, not of Escoffier. And as she made them they felt like a gift- not for the children and the interchangeable grandchildren and great-grandchildren- but for herself. She also placed a small cask of wine in the hamper, some soft cheese that she had made from goat's milk, and several bottles of lemonade.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Close your eyes," he had said to her. "Food demands complete submission." And then he placed a perfect scallop in her mouth. "Do you taste the sea?"
Delphine did. Not just the salt of the sea but the very air of the moment that the shell was pulled from the sand. "A storm, perhaps. There is a dark edge to the sweetness of the meat.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Innanzitutto scegliete quaranta gamberi piuttosto grandi e vivaci. Devono essere pieni di vita e in grado di pizzicarvi con facilità il mignolo. Se avete bisogno di verificarlo, chiedete a un assistente; sono lì per quello.”
N. M. Kelby, Tartufi bianchi in inverno
“Dopo un po' chiuse gli occhi e stava quasi per precipitare nelle oscurità del sonno, quando lui disse: «Nulla è reale, eccetto i sogni e l'amore.»”
N. M. Kelby, Tartufi bianchi in inverno
“Poi lui la baciò e sentì il sapore del formaggio, intenso e salato, del burro e delle patate. E per la prima volta da molto tempo risero insieme. Mi sei mancata tanto, avrebbe voluto dirle, ma temeva di suonare falso.”
N. M. Kelby, Tartufi bianchi in inverno
“Slowly, Delphine began to understand that each dish was created, not merely cooked as one would cook a slice of toast. Each had its own beauty and depth: its own poetry.
Course after course, the finished plates were passed among the chefs and sampled with care: small briny oysters from Corsica were nestled into a bed of pink rock salt; white asparagus were trimmed and served alongside a smoked duck salad; cream-fed pork was braised with pears and apples, and new potatoes were browned in duck fat and dusted with late summer truffles. Each dish was more amazing than the last.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Escoffier set the table. He'd found a Japanese kimono, an obvious prop from some theater production, to use as a tablecloth. Paris had secretly fallen in love with all things oriental. It was red silk brocade, covered with a flock of white flying cranes, and made from a single bolt of fabric. The neckline and cuffs were thickly stained with stage makeup but the kimono itself was quite beautiful. It ran the length of the thin table. The arms overhung one end.
Outside the building he'd seen a garden with a sign that read "Please do not pick." But it was, after all, for a beautiful woman. Who would deny him? And so Escoffier cut a bouquet of white flowers: roses, peonies and a spray of lilies, with rosemary stalks to provide the greenery. He placed them in a tall water glass and then opened the basket of food he'd brought. He laid out the china plates so that they rested between the cranes, and then the silver knives, forks and spoons, and a single crystal glass for her champagne. Even though it was early afternoon, he'd brought two dozen candles.
The food had to be served 'à la française'; there were no waiters to bring course after course. So he kept it simple. Tartlets filled with sweet oysters from Arcachon and Persian caviar, chicken roasted with truffles, a warm baguette, 'pâté de foie gras,' and small sweet strawberries served on a bed of sugared rose petals and candied violets.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“She returned to the kitchen, where she'd been making sugared flowers. Mint leaves, tiny violets and old-fashioned rose petals, heavy with perfume, lay on the counter. Very gently she dipped each one into the stiff egg whites, then in confectioners' sugar, and then placed them on the baking sheet, which she put in the warm oven, the door ajar. It gave the room the scent of a garden, heady and sweet.
Sabine had planned to store the sweets in canning jars- there were still a few gaskets and lids left- and save them for cake. When she was a child, her grand-mère had once made her a Saint-Honoré for her birthday. It was the most wondrous cake in the world. Not a cake at all but a composition of tiny puffs of choux pastry filled with vanilla cream, very much like profiteroles, but molded together with caramel and covered with whipped chantilly cream fresh from the dairy. Her grand-mère decorated it with candied flowers and mint leaves.
Sabine never had anything like it before or since and suddenly wanted to make that cake again.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“No kitchen is complete without veal stock."
"Do you have veal stock in this kitchen? Does your neighbor?"
"It is the foundation of all sauces. It adds a complexity. Deliciousness. Has Escoffier not told you of this theory of five tastes? A Japanese chemist proved it, and called it 'umami,' which means deliciousness.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Not many could remember the great diva Nellie Melba anymore. But when she performed 'Lohengrin', her soaring operatic voice greatly moved those at Covent Garden, including Escoffier. And so while the details of her performance are forgotten, as is the opera itself, nearly everyone in the world has had a variation on Peach Melba. Perhaps, unlike the original, it was not covered in a lace of spun sugar or served in a sliver bowl resting on a block of ice sculpted to look like the wings of the mythical swans that appear in the opera's first act, but it still contained ripe peaches, vanilla ice cream, and a puree of sugared raspberry, and was most certainly called "Melba.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“The fruit alone inspired him. In the heat of summer there were mirabelles from Alsace: small and golden cherries, speckled with red. And Reine Claude from Moissac, sweet thin-skinned plums the color of lettuce touched with gold. In August, green hazelnuts and then green walnuts, delicate, milky and fresh. And of course, for just a moment in early fall, pêches de vigne, a rare subtle peach so remarkable that a shipment was often priced at a year's wages. And right before winter, Chasselas de Moissac grapes: small, pearlescent, and so graceful that they grow in Baroque clusters, as if part of a Caravaggio still life.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“The Rothschild is very lovely. You will be quite pleased. It reminds me of brown sugar, chocolate, and dried plum- very powerful and elegant. Let me show you. The color is remarkable."
Escoffier uncorked the wine and slowly began to decant it in the candlelight, carefully leaving the sediment behind. "Amazing, isn't it? Rubies- those are the only things on this earth that are as beautiful as this is, are they not? No?"
Gabetta watched as Escoffier deftly poured the ruby river of wine, gently, slowly and carefully. The musty air was filled with the particular lushness of late summer with its ripe cherries and tart apples.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Chicken legs, beef ribs- they ate the food with their fingers, dipping into the horseradish sauce, feeding each other greedily. Laughing. They rolled leaves of cabbages and chewed on them like monkeys. They ate the golden potatoes as if they were apples. By the time they returned to the making of stock, and took the roasted veal bones from the stove and put them into the pot and filled it with enough cold water so that it could slowly simmer, their own legs no longer ached, their feet felt as if they could stand the weight of their bones for yet another day and they tasted of garlic and wine.
"Thank you, chef," he said.
"Thank you, chef."
She opened the cheese larder and took out a wedge of runny Camembert, which she covered with a handful of white raspberries that he had draining in a colander by the sink. He opened a bottle of port.
The dishes could wait. They sat on the back stairs of the tall thin house and looked over the lights of the steep city of Monte Carlo and out into the endless sea. The air was cool, the cheese and raspberries were rich and tart; the port was unfathomably complex with wave and wave of spiced cherries, burnt caramel and wild honey.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Nothing speaks more accurately to the complexity of life than food. Who has not had, let us say, a béarnaise, the child of hollandaise, and has not come away from the taste of it feeling overwhelmed?
At first, it fills the mouth with the softness of butter and then the richness of egg, and before it becomes too rich or too comfortable, the moment shifts and begins to ground itself in darkness with the root of a shallot and the hint of crushed peppercorn. But then, the taste deepens. The memory of rebirth is made manifest with the sacred chervil, sweet and grassy with a note of licorice, whose spring scent is so like myrrh that it recalls the gift of the Wise Men and the holy birth whenever it is tasted. And then, of course, the "King of Herbs," tarragon with its gentle licorice, reminds us not to forget that miracles are possible. And just when we think we understand what we are experiencing, the taste turns again on the tongue, and finishes with shrill vinegar followed by a reduction of wine so that the acid tempers the sauce but never dominates.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“«Ti amo, Madame Escoffier.» «Ci sono state delle volte in cui l'hai dimenticato.» Non replicò nulla. Era vero e lo sapevano entrambi. «Essere dimenticati è la cosa più triste al mondo», affermò lei.”
N. M. Kelby, Tartufi bianchi in inverno
“Madame Escoffier," he said. In his white apron, he was again the man she loved. The gentle man who only spoke in whispers.
"I am sorry," she said.
"I am not."
He leaned over and kissed her. His lips tasted of tomatoes, sharp and floral.
The moment, filled with the heat of a reckless summer, brought her back to the gardens they had grown together in Paris in a private courtyard behind Le Petit Moulin Rouge. Sweet Roma tomatoes, grassy licorice tarragon, thin purple eggplants and small crisp beans thrived in a series of old wine barrels that sat in the tiny square. There were also violets and roses that the 'confiseur' would make into jellies or sugar to grace the top of the 'petit-fours glacés,' which were baked every evening while the coal of the brick ovens cooled down for the night.
"No one grows vegetables in the city of Paris," she said, laughing, when Escoffier first showed her his hidden garden, "except for Escoffier."
He picked a ripe tomato, bit into it and then held it to her lips. "Pomme d'amour, perhaps this was fruit of Eden."
The tomato was so ripe and lush, so filled with heat it brought tears to her eyes and he kissed her.
"You are becoming very good at being a chef's wife."
"I love you," she said and finally meant it.
'Pommes d'amour.' The kitchen was now overflowing with them.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“The studio was filled with candles. Some Escoffier had brought earlier for their luncheon- they were made from beeswax and filled the air with a sweet caramel scent. The rest were Sarah's. There were exotics such as blood orange oil, frankincense and myrrh. The flowers he had picked- roses, peonies and a spray of lilies- opened into full blossom under the heat of so many flames and joined the heady mix.
Like dozens of tiny flickering stars, the candles and their scents made the dark night seem even darker, made the cream of her skin seem incandescent.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“While taste conveys the complexity of life, a good chef should keep in mind that food can have a meaning that is often not apparent but affects the palate nonetheless. For example, the "A1 sauce" is now very popular in America. I have tried it. It is very good. What is not understood is that when one takes a bite of a steak that has been smothered in "A1," as the sauce was proclaimed by King George IV, they are eating history. The combination of malt vinegar, dates, mango chutney, apples and orange marmalade all serve as a reminder that the United States was settled by England and will always be England's. The bold combination of malt vinegar and orange marmalade- England's lifeblood- and those flavors of England's conquered- mango from India and apples so strongly identified with America- cannot be ignored.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“When it came to the frying of chicken, they took pity on the captors and incorporated the seasonings and spices of Africa- garlic, melegueta pepper, cloves, black peppercorns, cardamom, nutmeg, turmeric and even curry powder. They forgave them their cruelty and presented them with what can only be described as a gift born in sorrow.
Food has the ability to move people in this manner. It can inspire bravery.
These kitchen slaves could have been beaten for this insolence, or perhaps even killed for such an act, but they served their fried fowl anyway. Not surprisingly, their captors were entranced by it. Soon southern fried chicken became a delicacy enjoyed by both cultures- it was the one point where both captors and captive found pleasure, although the Africans were only allowed to fry the discarded wings of the bird for their own meals. Despite the continued injustice, it was an inspired and blessed act of subversion.
Although born in slavery, this dish has not only brought together an entire region of people, it has transformed them. It is, as the Americans say, "democratic," and is now enjoyed by people of all walks of life and all parts of the country.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“The last meal aboard the Titanic was remarkable. It was a celebration of cuisine that would have impressed the most jaded palate.
There were ten courses in all, beginning with oysters and a choice of Consommé Olga, a beef and port wine broth served with glazed vegetables and julienned gherkins, or Cream of Barley Soup. Then there were plate after plate of main courses- Poached Salmon and Cucumbers with Mousseline Sauce, a hollandaise enriched with whipped cream; Filet Mignon Lili, steaks fried in butter, hen topped with an artichoke bottom, foie gras and truffle and served with a Périgueux sauce, a sauté of Chicken Lyonnaise; Lamb with Mint Sauce; Roast Duckling with Apple Sauce; Roast Squash with Cress and Sirloin Beef.
There were also a garden's worth of vegetables, prepared both hot and cold. And several potatoes- Château Potatoes, cut to the shape of olives and cooked gently in clarified butter until golden and Parmentier Potatoes, a pureed potato mash garnished with crouton and chervil. And, of course, pâté de foie gras.
To cleanse the palate, there was a sixth course of Punch à la Romaine, dry champagne, simple sugar syrup, the juice of two oranges and two lemons, and a bit of their zest. The mixture was steeped, strained, fortified with rum, frozen, topped with a sweet meringue and served like a sorbet. For dessert there was a choice of Waldorf Pudding, Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Chocolate and Vanilla Èclairs and French ice cream.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“Escoffier knew if he could win Sara's heart it would be with a dish made of truffles and pureed foie gras, the one she often doted over. The subtle aroma of truffle, according to the great Brillat-Savarin, was an aphrodisiac. And so, "Let the food speak where words cannot," Escoffier said, making the sign of the cross, and cooking as if his life depended on it, because on some level it did.
When the chef finally knocked on the studio door, his small hands shook under the weight of the silver tray and its domed cover.
Escoffier had changed into clean clothes and now looked more like a banker than a chef. But he was, most certainly, a chef. Beneath the dome, caramelized sweetbreads, covered with truffles, lay on a bed of golden noodles that were napped in a sauce made from the foie gras of ducks fed on wild raspberries, the 'framboise,' of the countryside.
It was a dish of profound simplicity, and yet luxury.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter
“From the darkest beluga to the golden almas, creamy and subtle, to the osetra, with its hint of walnuts and cream, to the small gray eggs of the sevruga, with its overwhelming flavor of the sea, Escoffier fed Sarah a universe of moons. And she, in turn, met each kiss that was deeper than the last.”
N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter

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