Remember that gorgeous ratatouille I made last week? The one from smitten kitchen, the one that winds itself in a multi-colored swirl of eggplant, squash, and sweet pepper, over a bath of tomato puree dotted with onion and garlic, the one with the sprinkle of thyme over the top. If you made it, did you smell your hands afterwards and then laugh that you’ve got thyme… on your.. hands…?
That ratatouille was gorgeous and pure and healthy and meatless. And you know, I sometimes like meat. I apparently used to like it a lot more. I’d throw down with meat-lovers pizza, I had thoughts of going to a Brazilian steakhouse so I could get meat shaved off in fresh slices that would plop right down onto my plate. And so when I got squash and eggplant again in my CSA this week, I thought, hey, meat-lovers ratatouille. Boom.
Not so boom, as it happens. It wasn’t bad. I’ll go ahead and say that.
I made it in a very similar fashion. I lined the bottom of the pan with tomato puree into which I stirred the sliced garlic and minced onion. I then lined that with a row of roma tomato slices because I needed to use them up. Then I added sauteed crumbled Italian sausage. Then the veggie slices on top in that swirling circle pattern that is so pleasing to the eye.
So I added sausage and roma tomatoes. Couldn’t make that much of a difference, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. The beauty of the original cooking method is that the tomato puree and the sliced veggies work together to keep the top veggies moist as they cook, so that even as they soften and become a little translucent, they don’t dry out. This newfangled ratatouille I made last night still cooked through, but the vegetables got a little dried out; they didn’t have any moisture to rest on as any remaining juice from the sausage trickled down into the puree instead of up into the vegetables. (Gravity: 1. Dana: 0.)
The other problem, the one I didn’t account for, is that I never do this to my stomach anymore. I eat lean meats – chicken, seafood – and actually very sparingly eat pork. A few slices of bacon now and then, sure. A little pancetta fried up and sprinkled on salad or pasta, okay. That’s moderation. A whole heap of Italian sausage? My stomach jutted out its hip and pointed its finger at me and said, “You crazy, bitch, you can’t handle me anymore!”
I hate it when my sausage calls me a crazy bitch. And I hate it when it’s right.
I’ve gotten to a point where heavy foods, fatty foods, foods that are decadent and intense in that old fashioned, “stick to your bones” kind of way just make me sick. When I was going to bed last night, I imagined I could smell sausage in my hair, coming out of my pores, my body rejecting the flavor that, really, should have been so good.
I can tell you this, though, with a pretty good dose of certainty: there’s nothing like a bout of sore stomach after dinner to send you racing back to the arms of beans, grains, vegetables and fruits; back to quinoa and lentils; back to curry and chickpeas; back to the purity of ratatouille devoid of meat, devoid of my crazy, hair-brained schemes of sausage and indigestion.
I’m sorry, ratatouille, for what I did to you. I’m sorry I was a crazy bitch. Let’s make up without the pork, over a soft bed of quinoa, with a dollop of the goat cheese I know you and I both love.