It feels so good to get your appetite back after you’ve been sick. I love that moment of realization that what I’m experiencing is hunger and not nausea. I like to be hungry – it makes me feel healthy and alive. I know that it’s a privilege to feel this way. Not to feel hunger, of course, which is fairly universal, and is decidedly horrible if you don’t have food for yourself or your family. I know it’s a luxury to enjoy hunger, to know that you have a meal coming – that you have all the food you need and more – and to know that you’ll relish it more for being hungry for it. It strikes me that we complicate hunger these days – we eat when we’re not hungry, we eat more than we want, we have appetite suppressants, for god’s sake! What an insane idea! What an indication that we have too much, that we’d need to simulate sickness to try to make ourselves more healthy. This is one of those times that I look at my boys, and they seem to have it all figured out. They have good appetites, it seems as though they’re always hungry. So they eat what sounds good to them, until they’re full, and then they stop. It’s so simple! It makes so much sense! And it has so little relation to the way most adults eat. It’s harder to earn our food these days. We sit all day at desks or computers, we snack constantly, we don’t “build an appetite.” I love the idea of a healthy appetite – not just for food, but for learning, and living, for ideas and enjoyment and music and art. I like the idea of voraciously reading or writing or drawing or cooking – it seems all connected in our spirit, and when one fades, they all fade. Just as you can be sick in your belly, you can be sick in your soul or your heart or whatever you call the part of you that makes you feel creative and curious and alive. And you can spoil these appetites, too, with too much snacking on all the noise from the computer and the television and the tabloids, so you lose that keen edge of hunger. I’ve read that all animals instinctively know what kind of food they need. If they have some sort of deficiency in protein or a nutrient, they’ll seek out foods rich in those things. Humans must have that, too, under layer upon layer of ideas about what we think is healthy or we’re told we should or shouldn’t eat, under all of the nonsense that passes for knowledge. And we must have this instinct, too, about what we need to feed our minds to make them healthy and alive, so that they can work and grow. Of course, sometimes it’s nice to cuddle on the couch with your ten-year-old son, eating junk food and watching dopey historical dramas! Sometimes that’s what you’re hungry for, and that makes it good for you, too.
I’m better, but I still feel a little blurry in my head today, so I hope you’ll forgive all the nonsense I’ve been prattling! There are some clear ideas under there somewhere. When I first regained my appetite, I wanted soft, mild comforting foods. I wanted mashed potatoes and popovers, and I wanted them all at once! So I combined them. David said that these are the food equivalent of a warm snuggly blanket. They’re flavorful with rosemary and black pepper, they’re soft with mashed potatoes and eggs and cheese, they’re nourishing, and they’re delicious! We ate them with carrot parsnip and apple soup, and it was a lovely meal! They do pop up, but, obviously, not as high as regular popovers, and they deflate pretty quickly. But they still taste lovely!
Here’s Bob Marley with Them Belly Full.
3 medium-sized potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup flour
2 t rosemary, finely chopped
1 t salt
lots and lots of black pepper
3 T butter
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
butter for the pans (makes about 18)
Preheat the oven to 450
Put the potatoes in a large pot of water over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until they’re soft but not falling apart. Drain completely, allow to cool, and then peel. Transfer the potatoes to a big bowl and mash them.
Add the flour, rosemary and salt to the potatoes, and mix well, breaking up any big lumps.
Meanwhile, combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook till the butter is melted. Pour this mixture into the mashed potatoes, and stir to mix well. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the cheese and pepper.
Put a tiny bit of butter in the bottom of each cup of the muffin pan. Put the muffin pans in the oven for about a minute, just to melt the butter.
Using a ladle, fill each cup of the muffin tin about 3/4 full.
Pop the tin in the oven. Cook for ten minutes, till puffed and brown, and then reduce heat to 350 and cook for about another ten minutes, till nicely browned on top and firm to the touch.
These will deflate pretty quickly, but they’re still delicious!