Kahlil Gibran said: “Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death.”
That’s how I feel about food. My cravings are specific and forceful and make me feel alive. Moroccan lamb tagine! Pad Thai! A blue cheese burger with sweet potato fries!
Whatever it is, I desire it with the deep parts of my brain that remember texture, color, smell, and the warm feeling I get when I eat certain things. Satisfying that craving is physically intoxicating and one of the most rewarding experiences I can have in a day.
That's why I was disturbed to discover that, after three days off from work doing nothing but reading the paper in my PJs, I had no cravings.
Usually I fill my days off with menu planning, shopping, mise en place, cooking, and at last, the consummation of hard work and pleasure, eating the delicious meal I have prepared accompanied by a good glass of wine.
Not last week. It was strange: I had no oncoming flu or cold, no emotional upset. I just didn’t know what I wanted to eat.
I pored over my cook books looking for that one spectacular recipe that would trigger my deep brain sensors and replace the dullness I felt with a lively craving.
Duck confit? Blah.
Not even the thought of a juicy roast chicken with crispy skin could pierce through my indifference.
My favorite Moroccan cookbook, chocked full of lamb and fruit tagine recipes, which I usually adore, left me bored and restless.
Finally, I grabbed “My French Kitchen,” by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, and flipped past the country meat dishes, which I would normally ponder for hours, and stopped when I spotted a simple recipe for buckwheat crepes stuffed with leeks and gruyere.
I felt a stirring and noticed water rushing to my mouth. I was relieved to know I could still crave something even in hibernation mode. The desire made me feel human, warm blooded, and normal again.
Perhaps the harder we work, the more deeply we crave. I certainly reward myself with indulgences for work well done. Taking time off -- and stopping the cycle of hard work and reward -- was a shock to my system but thankfully a shock that could be overcome by something as simple and tasty as a buckwheat crepe.
Buckwheat Crepes with Gruyere and Leeks
For the crepe (Adapted from "The All New Joy of Cooking" recipe)
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup milk
¾ cup water
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces slab bacon, cubed
5 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
3 tablespoons crème fraiche
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
First make the batter by combining all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer the batter to a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit in the refrigerator for one hour.
For the filling, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the bacon, leeks, and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The leeks should be soft. Add the salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere and crème fraiche.
To cook the crepes, heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet or crepe pan and wipe lightly with vegetable oil or butter. Ladle enough batter to coat the bottom. Cook for about a minute, then flip. Continue until all the batter is used. You should have a stack of 16 crepes.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter.
Place a spoonful of the mixture on each crepe and fold into quarters to make triangular cones.
Arrange the filled the crepes on the baking sheet and brush with the remaining butter. Bake until crepes are heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.