Eating the “European” crêpe at Profi’s at Reading Terminal made me think of the crêpes I made back in the days when I cooked, ate whatever I pleased, and gave nary a thought to consuming massive quantities of rich, flavorful butter.
I had — well, I still have, it’s just unused now — a marvelous crêpe pan, and, more importantly, a proper crêpe batter bowl to use with it. The bowl is curved so that its internal angle perfectly matches the curve on the crêpe pan. A flick of the wrist is all it takes to pick up the requisite amount of batter: Three minutes later, a perfect crêpe slides gently off the pan, ready to be filled with whatever.
“Whatever”, in my culinary heyday, was usually mushrooms sautéed with finely chopped onion and white wine, smothered in a buttery cream sauce. On occasion, I was not above folding the crêpes into quarters and simply dipping them into melted butter as an alternative to dinner. I was a tiny person with fierce metabolism; this activity did not seem particularly hazardous at the time.
Where’s the lovely melted butter for dipping? (Oh, the arteries!)
Image source: Our Recipe Club
(Robyn’s crêpe recipe uses oil, not butter).
It was unclear exactly what made my Profi’s crêpe “European”. The Profi crêpe itself was light, flavorful, and far larger than the little 7- or 8-inch versions I made at home. The cashier had been vague about exactly what I could expect to find in my “European”, but the finely minced vegetables seemed to include everything she mentioned: mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, olives and possibly broccoli. And cheese, lovely cheese: In this case, feta, which you may or may not consider European..
The Profi’s crêpe in no way resembled my crêpes of yore. Nor did it resemble anything I’d consider French. The filling came closer to what I’m used to seeing in “wraps”, but was more refined (those tiny, tiny minced pieces! the olive oil, the feta!). A wrap leaves me cold; the Profi’s crêpe was satisfying, light and delicious. Not gourmet, mind you, but tasty and so much better than I expected.
Reflecting on how differently we’ve come to eat over the years made me think about Regina Schrambling’s recent mediation on Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Schrambling discourses on what she calls the “inconvenient truth” belied by the major fuss over the movie Julie and Julia.
1965 on left; 1979 on right. Note author shift.
The blue jacket is a dust cover;
the cover underneath is nearly identical to the 1965 edition.
No contemporary human, Schrambling argues, will ever willingly choose to cook from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s not just that truth that’s inconvenient, she says, but the cooking itself — recipes that go on for pages and pages. She doesn’t claim that the results may be anything but wonderful; just that Child’s carefully recorded techniques are no longer viable in what is now a very different world. “You will never cook from [Mastering the Art]” she asserts gloomily.
Yeah, well, maybe not. It really is a different world; most people, like me, who inherited the original version of Mastering (and who may have actually been fed from it as children), probably have never used the book as a cookbook. And most of the newly-created Child fans probably won’t either, just as Schrambling claims.
We don’t have time to cook now, and we’ve been told ceaselessly that we really can’t afford to eat as Child once ate. If we’re going to eat in the French manner now, we must attend to portion control, and as French portions are so minuscule compared to US ones, it hardly seems worth the effort to plow hours and hours of work into food preparation.
Cooking wasn’t Child’s only avocation.
Image (and more) from CBC News.
So I wondered a bit, as I ate my Profi’s crêpe, why I wasn’t a bit sadder about this lost world, in which butter and cream sauces were featured so prominently and so satisfactorily. But I couldn’t drum up any dismay at all; my lunch was perfectly suited to the needs of the moment, and, maybe, of the era.
Tastes change, culture changes, science changes and we move on as we must, accommodating as we see fit or need to. They were lovely, those homemade buttery crêpes, but now my breads (of any sort) are few and far between, and my vegetables mostly unadorned. Accommodation: Life requires it. Fortunately, good flavor comes in many guises, not all of them buttery.