Monday, 7 May 2012

Dear Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880),

It was only a matter of time before I came to you.

Your method of writing was very similar to how a great chef cooks. You were creative, yet precise. You paid excruciating attention to every word, every syllable. You would spend weeks, if not months, balancing the perfect blend of ingredients for a single sentence. And you were a sensualist. A luxurious, romantic, sometimes pornographic, casually syphilitic sensualist.

I am referring, of course, to Madame Bovary (1857). Your most famous novel, Monsieur Flaubert, is rather like last week's extract from Mr. Burroughs, in that both provoked passions and obscenity trials. In fact, it occurs to me that literary obscenity trials might have been the precedent for celebrity sex tapes. Think about it: they both guarantee scandal and notoriety, and they're both used as marketing strategies. Madame Bovary sold a gazillion copies after its trial, and that geeky guy from Saved By the Bell almost became famous again after doing things on camera that nobody wanted to see. So kudos, Gustave, for pioneering the modern route to célébrité.

To a modern hedonist, however, Madame Bovary is much more interesting than a grainy home movie. Its blend of food and sensuality is positively saucy (pun apologetically intended). The chapter in which Emma attends a ball and, discovering a world of sophisticated finery, grows tired of her clumsy husband, is ripe with descriptions of food so dripping with double entendres that I'm almost embarrassed to quote them. Revellers were offered "rich fruit in open baskets" and "cold meats with jellies that trembled in the dishes." Emma herself "shivered all over" at the taste of cold champagne, and seductively ate "a maraschino ice that she held with her left hand in a silver-gilt cup, her eyes half-closed, and the spoon between her teeth."  Having been raised a good girl, I'm not even going to mention how the bread rolls were arranged in the folds of napkins. Suffice to say, Georgia O'Keeffe would have been proud.


In fact, your salacious prose is so saucy, it inspired Vancouver slam poet Alexandra Oliver to write the following genius rhyme: "I'm a home wrecker baby / I'm Julie Andrews' nightmare / When other girls read Nancy Drew, I was reading Flaubert."


Let's leave all that aside, though, because what really got me salivating was this:

            She had never seen pomegranates nor tasted pineapples. The powdered sugar even seemed to her whiter and finer than
            elsewhere. 
  
Alright Flaubert, you got me. I'm motivated more by your flavours than your fictive finesse. Ever since I got an ice-cream machine, I've been dying to churn fruits and sugars into scoops of satiny sorbet. And you have given me the perfect excuse! Emma, come over to my place, we will taste pomegranate sorbet and pineapple-mint sherbet together. But just to be clear: when I lick the utensils, a spoon is just a spoon.


Pomegranate Sorbet

Adapted from here

1 L pomegranate juice (I cheated and used bought, not fresh-squeezed)
1 C sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Monin pomegranate syrup

Warm all ingredients together in a saucepan, until the sugar has dissolved. Cool overnight in the fridge, or at least until it's cold enough to make Emma Bovary shiver. Churn in an ice-cream maker. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, you can freeze the sorbet by sticking it in the freezer and running it through a food processor every couple of hours to break up the ice crystals.


Pineapple-Mint Sherbet

Adapted from here

1 pineapple
1/2 C caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 C mint leaves, packed

Chop the pineapple into chunks and freeze it until frosty, but not brick-solid. Once it's cold enough, blend it in a food processor with the sugar, lemon juice, and mint. Churn in an ice-cream maker. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, just freeze the processed mixture as-is. Because it's already been churned in the food processor (and it's already in a semi-frozen state), you shouldn't need to mix it again during freezing.

1 comment:

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