Eat | Read with James Delafield
Unofficially, it’s Whipped Cream Week here on Real Pants. Earlier this week, Molly Brodak gave us her excellent Whipped Cream Treatise, along with a very compelling recipe, and today, my friend James Delafield offers another approach to whipped cream, and a kind of paean to vanilla, which is his area of expertise. About a year ago, I attempted to make my own vanilla, using various recipes from the web, and the result was just short of disastrous. There and then, I vowed never to DIY-V again, and with James and his company in the world, I’ll hopefully never have to. Read below to find out what James has been eating and reading, and watch the Kickstarter video to learn more about Lafaza and how to support its mission to produce gourmet and ethically sourced vanilla.
What have I been eating? The short answer is vanilla. I only really know about vanilla because of my relationship to Madagascar. Ten years ago I got a call from my brother and his wife. They were in the Peace Corps and had been placed in a vanilla-growing community, and they wanted to know if I would be interested in receiving some samples of the town product. This question was tied to the idea of forming a company that could be depended upon to return, year after year, to trade directly and fairly with this group of rural agro-foresters. My answer to the proposition of becoming an international spice trader, something I knew virtually nothing about? Definitely yes! Since then I have been around the world several times, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is vanilla.
Vanilla is an amazing spice in that it goes with just about everything. This morning for breakfast my wife made oatmeal. We change the recipe for this breakfast standard nearly every time we make it. Sometimes it has raisins and walnuts, sometimes it gets almonds and pears. When I make it, it gets the cinnamon that Chloë skips, but we both always put in pure ground vanilla. After lunch I make sure to add a piece of vanilla husk (saved from a previous vanilla bean recipe and thoroughly dried) to my coffee beans as I grind them. At this time of year we add a touch of vanilla to coconut curries and quiches. And we are about to hit that fresh fruit season where vanilla-laced whipped cream tops the naturally sweet berries enjoyed after dinner. Vanilla whipped cream is as simple as it gets, and it is completely delicious.
Serve 4 with:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Though I have been a little slow to pick up parenting books (Chloë and I are expecting our first child in September), I was in a bookstore recently and decided that I liked the tone of Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman.
While the book may make the French systems for raising a well-behaved, full-night-sleeping child seem infuriatingly easy, parts of it have really resonated with me. There is a great section on how to promote an adventurous palate in children. The suggestion to continue offering vegetables time and time again (even if they are rejected at first) until the taste becomes familiar and preferred was just fun to read and think about. Consider: “French parents treat their legumes with a whole different level of intention and commitment. They describe the taste of each vegetable and talk about their child’s first encounter with celery or leeks as the start of a lifelong relationship.” Sure, it might be more than we have time for on a daily basis, but I can’t help believing that the love of food and flavors can be nurtured in the same way that a love of art, music, and learning can be. The rewards may last a lifetime.
James Delafield is one of the co-founders of LAFAZA Foods, a company that builds direct relationships with farmers to bring the world’s best sustainably grown vanilla from Madagascar to the rest of the world. He has worked in the food business for many years, from fine Italian to gourmet coffee, but he has truly found his passion in luscious spices that add romance to everyday life.