The other day someone asked me to explain jazz music to them, which is deceptively simple (at its best) when the complexities of the music are dealt with properly. Most people will describe the conceptual, historical, and/or technical aspects in providing such an answer, but for a fun change of pace I am going to describe jazz in a more delicious manner, through the creation of simple recipes. These recipes are so easy to make that even if you have never cooked anything before you will have no problem figuring out what to do. The key is to trust the ingredients: they will do what they are meant to do without you needing to worry about the outcome… if you follow even the most basic interpretation of the recipe.
Jazz, when it is at its best, is a music of nuanced time and tone color: when it feels right (time) and sounds right (nice sounds). Food is at its best when it tastes great and has a pleasing feeling when it is in your mouth. Like nuances in jazz, the slightest change in flavour can be enough to make food go from tasting good to tasting amazing. The same with jazz: a little adjustment to the timing of the notes and the music comes much more alive with emotion. Let’s taste this difference… by merely making toast.
We’ve all made toast: heated bread. Simple, very difficult to do wrong! But instead of smearing it with commercially made jam and such let’s add more natural ingredients with more nuanced flavours. You will need to buy: black berries, whole wheat bread, and a kind of Italian cheese called Mascarpone, a cream cheese that has been curdled using some kind of acid (lactic acid, etc.). It sounds rare but you can find it at most large grocery stores. People who like to put regular cream cheese on their toast or bagels will love mascarpone. It is super rich (lots of fat) and has a slight tang to it, which creates a nice balance of fruit and cheese flavour, with the crunch of the bread adding a great feeling in your mouth. Jam on toast tends to reduce the toast’s crunchiness, so fresh ingredients will bring out the toast’s natural crispness and warmth.
1). Wash the berries then put the toast in the toaster.
2). While the toast is being heated, cut the blackberries in half (use the part without the little white spot).
3). When the toast is done, spread the mascarpone cheese on it in a nice, slightly thick layer.
4). Place the berries on the toast in a nice little design. Sometimes I like to put all the blackberries on one side and blueberries on the other so I can have 100% blueberry toast or blackberry toast. Most often though I eat all blackberry toast.
5). Eat the toast.
6). A bonus to eating more “natural” recipes like this is that you begin to notice more subtle flavour mixes, as your tastebuds are weaned from hyper-flavoured mega-sugary jams and spreads. You will discover that you can get so much flavour from so little, and these flavours are not typical. This is why “foodies” get so excited about all the various gourmet dishes. High level chefs can give you access to whole worlds of hidden flavour only they have discovered. Great jazz artists write songs (recipes) and create improvisations (food) that only they can bring to an audience. The great chefs and great jazz people are pilots, and we are their passengers. We can even go off and write our own “music” in the kitchen.
7). Another bonus is that people appreciate the effort. It shows you care enough about someone that you will go to the store and buy Italian cheese and fresh berries… “just” to make them breakfast, a snack, a side dish, etc.
This simple recipe has a more interesting flavour than just toast and jam. You get the nice taste of fresh blackberries, the nice crunchy feeling of the toast in your mouth, and a nice buttery cheese to give you all the energy you need all morning. In jazz terms it uplifts your mood, sounds great, and uses sound in a less is more manner, like trumpeter Miles Davis and his various classic works. Simple yet surprisingly nuanced, and very uplifting: jazz and blackberry toast.
To be fair, mascarpone cheese is not expensive, but it is also not cheap. Quality food costs more, sometimes. But consider it an investment. It expands your understanding of the world of cuisine, provides your friends and family with a rewarding dining experience, and helps build confidence in the kitchen as you eventually learn to work with better and more challenging techniques and ingredients. The occasional blackberry toast for you and your friends is worth the extra couple of dollars, all things considered.