It’s easy to see the attraction of simplicity. Often the simpler approach means less thought for our tired minds, and promises time savings so we can get onto the next thing in our schedule. And isn’t industry ready with inexpensive “solutions” for us?
Yet what do we praise about food? It’s got complexity, we say of a wine we savor. Oh, that’s good, we say of a carefully marinated dish blending sweet and tart, hot and cool. It’s heaven! I said of a bruschetta at Fairburn Farm one August. Now, you can get bruschetta anywhere. A regular restaurant simplifies bruschetta—it looks nice, the diced tomatoes on the slice of toasted baguette, but it’s disappointing, if it tastes at all. We tell ourselves it’s good, that’s what bruschetta is, and maybe we go looking for ways to amp it up. The internet recipes are full of variations, usually simple, with one famous chef using canned tomatoes yet calling his recipe a “late summer bruschetta.” In four minutes flat.
Ah, but our chef Mara Jernigan had gone out to her kitchen garden at Fairburn Farm, near the tiny town of Duncan on Vancouver Island, for her select variety vine-ripe tomatoes then peaking, or bursting, and whatever she did I’m sure there was a whisper of long-aged, fancy vinegar. We bit into small, two-bite bruschetta and our eyebrows shot up and we fell back in our chairs, and we looked at each other like young love. You might say it was a simple dish, but only if you didn’t think about preparing compost-nourished soil, finding flavorful varieties of tomatoes, and growing them in the sun. Slow food, but so satisfying I could go years before another bruschetta, content to wait for a good one, or to prepare it myself when I get the opportunity of flavorful tomatoes.
Everything put before us that evening was memorable, and we enjoyed the company of the other couple on the dining veranda, only one of whom could speak English, though we all spoke “wine” and shared our bottles back and forth, watching chickens scratch in the near yard.
No, Mara Jernigan isn’t there anymore. She moved on to bring her magic to Belize.