That David Levobitz. He’s such a mensch. Last month, he posted a tart, alluring recipe for Seville orange marmalade. Seville oranges are wonderfully bitter, in a way that makes your mouth pucker and forget the world for just an instant. All you can focus on is the sweet, surprising taste squelching the inside of your mouth into contorted shapes. Nothing else exists. You don’t want to eat them in single segments, for breakfast. But in marmalade? Oh, the ephemeral joy of Seville orange marmalade.
Idly, last week, I mentioned this recipe to the Chef. “Do you think we could make some?“
“Hm,” his face took on that far-away gaze that meant his mind was melding ideas into something tangible on the plate. “Yeah. Let’s try it.”
Yesterday, in the frenzy of the day-before-the-new-menu-debuts running around the kitchen, the Chef called me. “Hey, can you read me that recipe of David Lebovitz? The one for marmalade?”
I scrambled to the computer. This is one of my favorite phone calls of the day — when the Chef asks me to look up something about food. He never copies a recipe, straight out of a book, or from an internet page. He rarely even asks me to read the directions to him. Instead, he simply wants the ingredients, the proportions, the skeleton of the beast. He’ll flesh it out with his hands.
Me? I’ve never had the nerve to make marmalade from scratch. The Chef? It’s just one of his daily tasks, before he moves onto the rest.
Last night, when I was driving him away from the restaurant, he turned to me and said, “That marmalade?” And he threw his hands into the air, hitting the ceiling with a resounding thwack, and then he waved them, while squealing — the universal sign for “Oh my god, it was sooooo good.”
This afternoon, when I walked in with his coffee, I said, “Can I see the marmalade?” I thought he had made a jar or two. No. In true Chef style, he had made an entire bucket full of tangy, extraordinary Seville orange marmalade. The slices of rind floated, suspended, in vivid, translucent orange.
If you look closely enough at the photograph (which came out naturally with that 70s-style-Vaseline-on-the-lens softness, an aura all its own), you might see the indentation of my finger. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. I couldn’t resist.
Tonight, however, I’m having more, with his roast chicken.