前文說起Joan Didion，看了她的書（或是訪問？），她說她喜歡海明威的行文，會把他的文本逐句逐句細讀、拆解、分析其結構等等。我喜歡她的文字，便找海明威的短篇自傳《A Moveable Feast》來讀。讀書還是看機緣，書買來了，卻一直擱在書架上，總未想開始看。半年過去，某日開始，人總在清晨醒來，五時許，有時六時，有天四時多就醒來，眼睛張開便睡不回去了。太陽完全升起前的blue hour好寧靜，好像日與夜在天地間交替時遺下的一片寂靜。起床給貓兒餵食和說說話、照料植物、內觀靜坐、安靜的做家事、天氣好時就往山裡走走。有時下雨天也往山裡走走，因為最近雨下得密，做了平時一天要做的事，天才亮透。
現在莫名早起，醒來精神，連喝咖啡的慾望也沒了，在早起多出來的時間上再添上平日煮咖啡的幾分鐘。過去早上只喝黑咖啡，純粹提神，肚裡有食物往往已是下午一、二時，現在得做早餐、吃早餐，好打發時間。一個人的早餐找來書本作伴，《A Moveable Feast》寫作家二十來歲在巴黎的生活片段，輕鬆易讀，而且可以單手拿着，心情場景都合意，海明威自此成為吃早餐的伴兒。他喝他的café au lait，我吃我那烤熱了的朱古力牛角酥，朱古力漿在指間流瀉；今夏初嚐西班牙扁桃，其口感比平常愛吃的日本蜜桃要綿密，香甜味道內斂卻又濃，不如日本蜜桃的絢麗張揚；自己烤的柔軟生吐司夾着雞蛋沙律老是出場，間中也有自己烤的香脆酸種麵包配發酵牛油和水果。某天特別餓，煮了一鍋辣泡菜豆腐海鮮湯和白米飯，在34°C的早上吃個汗流浹背；讀到他吃生蠔時，我在吃流心蛋黃在中央的法式鹹班戟，芝士火腿作餡，上面再撒把乾辣椒碎。
小書二百頁不到，記錄寂寂無名的海明威與能夠容納所有beautiful encounters的城市。大概是晚年記事，這些短篇自傳故事裡的他雖然貧窮（後人有說海明威當時其實不甚拮据）、人浮於事，但書裡的海明威活得多alive，身上有幾個法朗便去當那時代的文青，大冷天去泡咖啡館、去小酒館點杯酒，偶有餘裕便和太太出城玩幾天；肚子餓着會繞路走，避過餐館林立的街道，去博物館看Paul Cézanne的畫作，他說肚餓時看畫會看得更深更懂，後來意識到Cézanne創作時大抵也是餓着，而大家餓的卻有所不同。海明威所飢渴的是生命的本身和歷練，因此故意空着肚子，讓感官更敏銳的去覺知世界。以往我不吃早餐，因為當肚子空着，腦袋好像靈敏點，心也澄明，海明威大概也是如此。
- 麵糊拌勻，以湯勺倒入80毫升（約1.5 – 2勺份量）在平底鍋中央，以湯勺底部快速而輕柔地推開麵糊以覆蓋鍋面。班戟皮雖以薄為佳，但家用廚具難以做到此效果，而且蕎麥麵粉沒有麵筋，班戟皮若太薄，在下一步驟便容易折斷。
- 煎2 至3分鐘至蛋白熟透、芝士溶化即可。想蛋黃熟一點，煎時可加上鍋蓋。
When I read The Old Man and The Sea as a young teenager, I hated it. The sea, an old man, a young boy and big fish, plain and longwinded proses, unbearable. Despite of his fame everyone praised and the literary importance of the novella, it did not call for a primary school girl who was born in a peaceful time and knew nothing about the solitude in adulthood and depression after wars. They were just too far away, and the book was put away for as long as it’s forgotten. Later in school, I was introduced to a wonderful lot of philosophical ideas, philosophers and their work through my Chinese teacher who was a graduate in the discipline, and then on I consumed work by Nietzsche, Márquez and other Latin American literature writers, got addicted to magical realism which depicted the reality in absolute bizarre. I also immersed into the serenity and desolation in Japanese literature, while English and Russian plays were heavily read during university due to course work. Chinese literature and poetry came in later though, I adored and delved into it that I’ve kept two small books, size of a mobile phone and with leather binding, of Song poetry by Li Qingzhao in my bedside cabinet so that I could sometimes flip through it before sleep. And right, I just haven’t read a lot of work by American writers.
Joan Didion, the American journalist/writer I mentioned a couple of months ago in this column, said in her book (or interview?) that she loved Hemingway’s writing. She read it line by line, word by word and analysed the syntax. I love her writing, so I got myself a copy of his memoir A Moveable Feast. You know, a book needs its right timing to be read. There was a book sitting on the shelf, but I just didn’t feel like reading it yet. 6 months gone by, and I started to wake up in the early morning somehow. 5am, 6am or as early as 4am. Once my eyes were open, I couldn’t fall back into sleep. The blue hour before the sun fully risen was tranquil; it’s a stretch of stillness that day and night left behind when they briefly met between the sky and earth. I left my bed and fed the cat, talked to it, cared for the plants, meditated and quietly did some household chores. When the weather was fine, I took a stroll on the hill, and later I took the stroll regardless of the weather since it rained too much these days. The sun had fully risen by the time I’ve done all those for the day.
Now I wake up early for no reason, and so wide awake that my desire for coffee vanished, topping another few minutes from brewing morning coffee onto the extra hours from rising early. I used to drink only black coffee for the morning, merely for waking myself up. When there was food in my belly, it’s already one or two o’clock in the afternoon. Making and having breakfast is necessary now to kill time. For my lonesome breakfast, I’ve found a book to be my company. A Moveable Feast writes Hemingway’s Parisian life in his 20s, a light and easy read, and can be held single-handed, making it the perfect little book for the occasion. I’ve had breakfast with Hemingway since then. When he had his café au lait, I had my pain au chocolat, toasted warm, and the molten chocolate dripping down between my fingers. This summer I had my first taste of Spanish donut peaches. It’s creamier than Japanese peaches that I love and sweet in a way that is modest yet rich, not as loud as the Japanese one. Egg salad sandwiched in soft shokupan bread that I baked was often seen on the table, sometimes it was sourdough toast, also baked by me, with fermented butter and fruit. One morning I was particularly hungry that I made a spicy kimchi hotpot with tofu and seafood, paired with a bowl of steamy rice, giving me a sweaty breakfast on a 34°C morning. When I read him eating oysters from the shell, I was having galette Bretonne complète, a French savoury crêpe with a runny egg yolk at the centre around which was covered by ham and cheese, finished off with a dash of dried chilli flakes.
Just under 200 pages, the memoir is a recollection of the obscure young Hemingway and the city allowing all kinds of beautiful encounters to happen. Written in the latter part of his life, Hemingway was broke (book critiques commented that he was in fact not that short of funds though) and getting nowhere in the short stories, but he was so alive. When he had a few francs in his pocket, he nestled in a café on frosty cold days, had a pint in some pub or went on a short trip with his wife if financially allowed. He made a detour to the museum to see Paul Cézanne’s paintings so as to bypass streets full of bistros when his stomach was empty. He said, when you are hungry, you see deeper. He realised that Cézanne was probably in hunger too when he was creating but what they starved for was different. The writer was starving for life itself and what to experience, so, he stayed hungry on purpose to feel more deeply of the world with sharper senses. I used to skip breakfast because I felt that when my stomach was empty, it gave me a sharper mind and clarity. I guess, it was the same story for Hemingway.
I recently read The Old Man and The Sea again. It was the same plain and longwinded proses, but I saw it now. Thank you to those who wrote, keeping me company across time and sharing sorrow and joy.
Galette Bretonne Complète
(For 6 galettes)
Buckwheat flour 200g
Egg 7 pieces
Gruyère cheese A handful, grated
Ham A handful
Sea salt 1 teaspoon
Black pepper To taste
Cooking oil 1 teaspoon
Unsalted butter A knob
- In a big bowl, add the buckwheat flour, an egg, water and sea salt. Whisk till it forms a smooth and loose batter. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat up a cast iron pan (mine is 26cm) over medium high heat till you see white smoke. Turn down the stove to medium heat, grease the pan with oil evenly with a piece of kitchen paper. Add some butter.
- Mix the batter thoroughly. Ladle in 80ml (about 1.5 to 2 ladles) at the centre of the pan. Quickly but gently smooth out the batter to the edge of the pan with the bottom of the ladle. It is best to have a thin crepe but it is not easy to achieve it in a domestic kitchen, and since buckwheat flour contains no gluten, iof the crepe is too thin, it’s prone to breaking in the next step.
- After 30 – 40 seconds when the crepe has turned brown, quickly flip it over using an offset spatula or a pancake turner with a thin edge.
- Turn it over again after 30 – 40 seconds. Crack in an egg in the middle of the crepe. Gently spread the egg white outwards, put the ham around the egg yolk and then the cheese. Grind some black pepper on top. Fold the sides, about an inch wide, up to make a square.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes till the egg white is cooked and the cheese melted. Cover the pan with a lid if you want the yolk less raw.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.