A lovely tale in the aroma of an orange rind
Within that combination of words and cooking, some touch of magic ignites.
Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris (the author responsible for Chocolat) just took hold of my hand and led me down a path that filled my senses.
She describes her mother:
"Food was her nostalgia, her celebration, its nurture and preparation the sole outlet for her creativity." (page 4)
"She lacked any capacity for tenderness. Her defenses were too good, her sensual impulses sublimated into her recipes, into creating the perfect lentilles cuisinees, the most ardent creme brulee." (page 228)
"I'm 64 years old, for pity's sake. I ought to know better. And yet there's something in the way he looks at me that sets my old heart lurching like a tractor engine...A feeling of peace. The feeling you get when a recipe turns out perfectly right, a perfectly risen souffle, a flawless sauce hollandaise. It's a feeling which tells me that any woman can be beautiful in the eyes of a man who loves her." (page 229)
"Secretly she dreams of a soft-voiced stranger, in her mind's eye she sees him, a man who could see beyond what she has become to what she might have been." (page 230)
"Drunkenness, she told us once in a rare moment of confidence, is a sin against the fruit, the tree, the wine itself. It is an outrage, an abuse, just as rape is an abuse of the act of love. She flushed then, turning away gruffly...
Wine, distilled and nurtured from bud into fruit and then through all the processes that make it what it is, deserves better than to be guzzled by some sot with a headful of nonsense. It deserves reverence. Joy. Gentleness.
Oh, she understood wine, my mother. She understood the sweetening process, the seething and mellowing of life in the bottle, the darkening, the slow transformations, the birth of a new vintage in a bouquet of aromas like a magician's bunch of paper flowers. If only she had had time and patience enough for us. A child is not a fruit tree. She understood that too late." (page 194)
The story is set in France during the occupation. Live music was forbidden, so I can literally feel the joy coming off the pages when she writes of the sweet treat:
"...then they began to play some bright sharp-sounding tune that we did not recognize, though I think it might have been some kind of jazz. A light beat from the drum, a throaty burble from the clarinet, but from Tomas's saxophone a string of bright notes like Christmas lights, sweetly wailing, harshly whispering, rising-falling above the half-discordant whole like a human voice magically enhanced and containing the entire human range of softness, brashness, coaxing and grief...
...Of course, memory is such a subjective thing....
...the music was hot, and the heat burnt off us like alcohol in a flambee, with a sharp, sour smell, and we whooped like Indians, knowing that with the volume of sound indoors we could make as much noise as we pleased and still remain unheard." (page 109)
"It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home." (page 306)