We originally created this recipe to share on our fellow blogger’s Brendon the Smiling Chef‘s beautiful site, where he elaborates delicious recipes in Sydney, Australia. In turn, Brendon will soon share one of his favorite dishes with us!

Beetroot & squash galette 8 | Infinite belly

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;

I took my gun and vanished.

Old village house in Auvergne | Infinite belly

Hâchoir illustration | Infinite belly

Auvergne landscapes | Infinite bellyBeetroot & squash galette | Infinite belly

This song gives me the chills as I drive through the green pastures surrounding our cottage. Slowing down on the curvy road, the trunks of pine-trees turn to gold with sunrise. It could almost be the set of an old Hollywood movie, like the ones you see at the Universal Studios train ride. Vibrations rhythmically bounce around me inside the car as Leonard Cohen’s version of The Partisan takes my mind back in time with its descending steps of bass notes and arpeggio motif on guitar strings. His voice is dark like the deep of these woods.

By the forest at dawn | Infinite bellyAutumn flowers | Infinite bellyGlass illustration | Infinite bellyBeetroot & squash galette 5 | Infinite belly

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;

she died without a whisper.

Vintage cutlery & pepper grinder | Infinite bellyBeetroot & squash galette 7 | Infinite belly

It’s an English version of La Complainte du Partisan, a French resistance song from the second World War. At the time the Germans occupied the country, thousands of Jews, resistants, Communists… found shelter and hid in these very hills I drive by, these sleepy farms and villages like Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, where they survived thanks to the wilderness and the local villagers.Wooden spoon illustration | Infinite belly

there were three of us this morning 
I’m the only one this evening
but I must go on

the frontiers are my prison

Beetroot & squash galette 4 | Infinite belly

The song conjures so many images and feelings, things that I would rather not think about but that cannot be forgotten. I ask myself what it would have been like to be here 70 years ago, to be on the run from the Nazis and the collaborators. I can feel that the relationship to memory here is somewhat different. The soil was wounded in its flesh. The trees and walls and windows and fences would have stories to tell. Terrible stories. Beautiful stories too. It is an odd thing to wander around the silent remnants of anonymous, faceless crimes and rescues.

Hay & wood | Infinite bellyFunnel illustration | Infinite bellyBeetroot & squash galette 3 | Infinite belly

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we’ll come from the shadows. 

Beetroot & squash galette 6 | Infinite belly

Squash, beetroot & ricotta
+ chestnut & rice flour gluten-free crust galette  |  Serves 4-6

Continue reading “Serendipity”

The beauty of French dragonflies


Chickpeas massala 6 | Infinite belly

I turn it up all the way to hear over the sounds of sizzling shallots coming from the pan in front of me. The radio talks about everything, and while my hands are busy chopping vegetables and uncovering steaming pots, it’s a relief to let it run through a slew of topics: elections, the Havana film festival, discoveries in astrophysics, etc… just when my mind starts to wander I’m drawn back by an Alabama Shakes track. No topic is left uncovered. And always taken to the brainiest extent (e.g. I would have never guessed that organized sports were not popular in the U.S. until after the Civil War because they used to be associated with European aristocracy and English domination!).Basket illustration | Infinite bellyColorful doors in French village | Infinite bellyMasala creamy sauce & peppers | Infinite bellyLadle illustration | Infinite bellyBut today the show I listened to was about a very French subject. An excruciatingly divisive debate in the French Academy that’s been tearing society apart for decades: Spelling. Four voices alternate opinions, rising and falling in their allotted times. The kitchen sounds are louder than expected and I have a hard time hearing everything but I catch some snippets: “the genius of the French language”, “the 1990 orthography reform project”, “a literary nation”, “the poetics of language” — like the word for dragonfly, libelulle, with four “L’s”, a letter that phonetically sounds like the word “ailes” meaning “wings” — as one interlocutor calls it, “a symbiosis of biology and orthography”, in which both the animal and the word referring to it have the same physical characteristics. With the proposed changes, schoolchildren would have less supposedly useless accents to memorize, less dashes, less superfluous consonants.

Chickpeas massala 5 | Infinite bellyOrnament illustration | Infinite bellyCows in Auvergne landcsape | Infinite belly

The questions from callers continue to pile up. Is orthography an art or a science? Does it even matter that much or isn’t it more important to simply teach students to love reading great books? At that point the four voices culminate into a cacophony of linguistic arguments. One of them says, half-joking, that the subject of spelling touches a nerve in France, much like the way that the subject of gun control polarizes Americans. The French have turned their writers into stars, high priests of a literary religion. In no other country have writers enjoyed such high status. Bernard Pivot — a literary critic and former host of a wildly popular TV show about books, Apostrophes — recounts how as a child, he read new words in the Larousse dictionary and thought of them as new friends that he would gradually get to know better over a lifetime. We can love, hate, or love-hate them. Words are our friends but also our enemies, our slaves and our masters.

Chickpeas massala 2 | Infinite bellyLeaf illustration | Infinite bellyColorful tree in the winter | Infinite belly

“Word” is mot” in French, phonetically recalling “maux” (same pronunciation) which means “evils”. There’s a heaviness to it, something to be confronted and deciphered like Sartre’s autobiography, Les Mots. In Portuguese, palavra, sounds like abracadabra with its rhythmic vowels. “Word” is a unit, it’s Microsoft Word, it’s the cog in a mechanical system, the brick and mortar of sentences and paragraphs.
There is also the French word “chat” (the “t” is silent) meaning “cat”, which in Portuguese sounds like “chá” meaning “tea”, and is written like the English word used to describe early Internet forums. Reverse it and it works as well: “gato” is the word for cat in Portuguese but sounds like “gâteau”, meaning “cake” in French. And somehow when I find myself talking to my cats I end up having a brief mental image of a teacup with cake…Caldron illustration | Infinite bellyChickpeas massala | Infinite belly

Masala garbanzo beans + zucchini & spinach  |  Serves 2-4

Continue reading “The beauty of French dragonflies”

Memory’s fictions


Pine nut & rum pie | Infinite belly

When I was 6 years old, I was forced to eat a tomato for the first time during summer camp. It was in a long and narrow room buzzing with hyperactive kids at mealtime. Taking my hand and dragging me to a place where the red slivers full of seeds and geometrical innards were displayed, the counselor, I still don’t know for what reason, took one and plainly inserted it in my mouth.
Brioche illustration | Infinite belly

Chaise-Dieu church 9 | Infinite bellyPine nut & rum pie 4 | Infinite belly

For many years, when recounting this story, I would conclude it with a grand finale that featured my vomit all over the floor, screams and cries. But with time, I revised this ending, coming to the realization that I must have spit the tomato back in the counselor’s face. As distance from the original event blurs an already foggy image, I begin to seriously doubt many of the details of my testimony. Was I really wearing my favorite stripy shirt? Was the counselor’s name Tomas and did he really have a curly mustache that I’ve ever since associated to tomatoes? Did the other kids actually jeer when they saw my overblown reaction?
Skillet illustration | Infinite belly

46 Landscape | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 2 | Infinite belly

Luckily, I have a lot of other food memories, most of which are very pleasant: Eating fish and chips on rickety wooden tables covered in newspaper at grandma’s favorite place on the Redondo Beach pier. The chocolate ice cream cake I had on my tenth birthday. Long sunday afternoons spent with my family at the leafy patio of a Mexican restaurant bordering the water near the San Pedro port. We would order fajitas and a while later they would come sizzling in a hot platter with fresh tortillas. Enormous ships passed by as we assembled our tacos and took bets on whether they would really fit under the suspension bridge marking the port entrance. Matzeball soup. Gefiltefish. (Never mind, the latter is not exactly a pleasant experience).

Chaise-Dieu church | Infinite bellyCake pan illustration | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 11 | Infinite belly

There is something about a taste, the experience of eating a delicious (or repulsive) meal that impregnates the mind with a kernel of memory that is more resilient and less prone to be forgotten than most banal experiences of daily life. But what about when memories are simply invented? Today, I don’t remember what I ate exactly two weeks ago, but if somebody I trust, say, Adélaïde, told me that I had a magret de canard, I would probably believe her.
Sugar jar illustration | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 5 | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 6 | Infinite bellyCake slice illustration | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 10 | Infinite belly

Not only that, but I might even visualize the memory, depending on how much detail is given. It scares me sometimes when I believe recalling an exact event, like storing a valuable in a particular place, only to find out that I was totally wrong. The images in my brain recalling that event were completely fabricated. How much of our past is fiction?

Vintage cutlery | Infinite bellyChaise-Dieu church 8 | Infinite belly

The elasticity of our memories drives me to think of the range of moods and feelings that alter perceptions of ourselves and the world. In accessing the past through memory, we are always selecting and editing from the archive of a constantly evolving personal history. Not to mention the fact that the very way we reflect on particular events also changes over time and according to experience. Maybe the revision of my tomato memory occurred after eating so many delicious tomatoes that I simply cannot believe it was ever this bad… I guess exercising awareness of this fact is a way to gain greater autonomy over something that seems uncontrollable?
Leaf illustration | Infinite belly

Pine nut & rum pie 9 | Infinite belly

Pine nut, rum & lemon golden pie  |  Serves 6 

Continue reading “Memory’s fictions”