Reading Paul Auster’s novel The Brooklyn Follies, I collided with a disturbing idea. According to Auster’s thwarted character Tom, we’ve entered a new era, an era of the ‘post-past age.’ Tom elaborates that the ‘post-past’ means ‘The now. And also the later. But no more dwelling on the then.’
Could that be true? Are we so dislocated from anything that’s gone before that we have no choice but to stare fixedly ahead and wait for what’s coming? What kind of cynic do you think I am? Of course I don’t agree with that notion and neither, I suspect, do you. At this time of year you need only go to a child’s nativity play, or flick through an old cookery book to find the recipe that your mother swore by for Christmas turkey, or attend a Remembrance Day service, or go to a Thanksgiving party, as I did last week. And then you will know that the post-past is a fiction dreamed up by people who favour the smart remark above the truth.
And just in case you need a little more persuading, here is my recipe for celeriac and chestnut soup, a divinely fragrant concoction that I first ate when I was a child. As far as I’m concerned, the post-past is dead. Long live the pre-present….
Celeriac Soup With Apple and Chestnut
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 floury potato
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
I whole celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
I litre vegetable stock
100 ml double cream
100 ml full cream milk
100 g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts
2 Granny Smith apples
Cut the potato, onion, 1 apple and celeriac into chunks and slice the garlic. Soften the onion gently in the olive oil for five minutes, and then add the potato, garlic, apple and celeriac. Don’t allow the vegetables to brown. Season and continue to cook gently for another five minutes and then add the hot vegetable stock and simmer for twenty minutes. Puree with a stick blender before stirring in the cream and milk. Reheat the soup, but don’t let it boil. Adjust the seasoning. Break the chestnuts into smallish pieces and saute briefly in a little olive oil. Cut the second apple into the finest julienne – (don’t peel the apple – the flash of green at one end is good). Serve the soup with a scattering of chestnuts, a sprinkling of apple and a circular drizzle of truffle oil. Eat your soup like the Roman god Janus, facing backwards and forwards at the same time. And let’s have no more talk of the post-past.
Entirely agree about the post-past but consuming soup like Janus would seem a bit of a stretch, but then he must have had two mouths. Soup looks good enough for my single one. When I cook celeriac I never seem to be able to exclude those little woody bits so I imagine the younger the root the better.
Hi JakeyThe secret is to be brutal when you're peeling the celeriac – just chop all those twiggy bits out, rather than attempting to peel round them….
I was 35 years old before I saw celeriac for the first time and chestnuts is something only available for speciality stores in tins.Just shows, your past is my future! Soup looks beautiful.
'Your past in my future' really made me smile. Thanks for your lovely comments.
Hi CharlieLovely recipe – will give it a go. Yesterday we cooked chestnuts on the stove-top for the first time – overdone, but still very good. Very easy – just soak the whole chestnuts in hot water for a bit then put them on a metal dish and cover with foil and stick them on top of the cast iron stove. We left them for two hours but I think one hour would be fine – depending on your stove. I doubt anything bad can happen but probably best not to go out while they are on there. Last Xmas Eve we set fire to the sitting room after stupidly putting wood all along the sides of the stove. Is your boiler still on the blink?Fergus
Hi FergusThe chestnuts sound delicious. I just wish I wasn't snowed-in, otherwise I would be straight round to try them out. The boiler is back on the straight and narrow – just as well in the circumstances. x