Last updated on February 11th, 2015
Today, I was going to put up a post about sopa de ajo, or garlic soup from the Spanish Pyrenees. I was excited to share my own home-tested recipe for this beautiful bowl of golden soup, but I was distracted by something else. Could you call a chain of coincidences synchronicity? You know when you think of something in passing, then someone mentions it, then it’s referenced on a subway ad, and finally Tina Fey makes a crack about it on 30 Rock and you’re all, “WEIRD”? Well, for whatever reason, Dante keeps showing up for me this week.
Consider this. First, my mother returned a book to me that she swears I left at the house called Dante’s Path: A Practical Approach to Achieving Inner Wisdom. (I have no recollection of ever reading it.) Then a colleague suggested I re-read Dante to get me past a hurdle in the research I’m currently doing. While procrastinating that task, I Googled Joe Girardi, just because he’s awesome, and read that he has a son named Dante. Finally, The City Cook’s newsletter showed up in my inbox with a recipe for uova al purgatorio, eggs in purgatory. I had to make this immediately!
Eggs in purgatory are simple: two eggs poached in tomato sauce, red pepper, pancetta, oregano, and dusted with parmigiano cheese. You cook them until the whites are white and the center remains yolky for dipping into with toasted bread. I was still planning on making the garlic soup, but I know myself well enough not to cook anything blog-worthy while starving. The eggs would be my quick dinner and the soup, after a photo shoot, would be enjoyed at lunch tomorrow.
I got the sauce going, and started thinking about Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher who regularly quotes full passages of Dante’s Purgatorio while working in his shop. Bill Buford wrote about his apprenticeship with Dario in Heat. (If you haven’t already read it, you really should.)
In a separate pan, I started my pancetta and the kitchen started getting smoky. With a quick succession of movements, I opened a window, sliced some bread which I put in the toaster oven, and picked up my ringing phone. It was Lara—not quite a Dante coincidence—but we did become friends while living in Florence so that sorta counts. We got to chatting about the balloon boy and our usual topics, food and boys, when I felt my eyes burning. Even Rocco, my ever-hungry Jack Russell with a weight problem, had abandoned the kitchen.
I relayed to Lara that the pancetta seemed exceptionally and strangely smoky, but went on to describe my simmering eggs.
“Lars. I forget. How do you say hell in Italian?”
“Inferno, silly,” she said.
It was then that I realized my toast was burning. Charred. Black. Catching fire.
I ran around to open all the windows, disable the smoke alarm, and put Rocco in the well-ventilated bathroom. In the process, I overcooked my eggs and totally forgot to add the cheese. But you know what? They were still good, since peasant food usually stands up to less than ideal conditions. I’ll probably make them again for brunch this weekend.
I also promise to get back to that garlic soup.