Last Friday, I made a tuna Niçoise salad for dinner. For those unfamiliar with this concoction, it contains green beans, boiled potatoes, black olives, tomatoes, marinated tuna, anchovies, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and a vinaigrette-type dressing. It sounds utterly bizarre, and it is, but it’s also very tasty.
It must be said, I merely enjoy this salad. My DH loves it almost more than he loves me, to the point of writing love letters to it and holding forth on its merits in wonderfully eloquent style every time it appears on the table. As he waxed rhapsodical over the dish, I started thinking about the recipe, and why it works.
Tuna Niçoise salad, as described above, is comprised of rather odd ingredients, few of which belong together. It’s also a dish that was either invented after the advent of rapid long-distance transport, or comes from a region with multiple growing seasons. Probably the latter; Nice is quite temperate. So it’s reasonable to assume that this salad is legitimate ‘peasant food’ in the Mediterranean, and the ingredients are sourced locally.
I’m not a connoisseur of food by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve cooked enough to know that certain things play well together. I didn’t expect boiled green beans and potatoes to combine well with fresh tomatoes, or with tuna. It’s simply not something I’d ever thought of. But it works surprisingly well.
The other merit of this dish is that it has so many disparate ingredients that you can’t fit all of them on your fork at once. Well, I suppose you could, but you’d need a rather large fork and very steady hands. Most people have to get by with tasting only a few of the flavors at once. And these ingredients produce a lot of different flavor combinations, so you never get bored of it. Each bite is different, and they come together to form a cohesive whole.
They tell me I’m obliged to spin this post into something writing related. Um…
Okay, how’s this? A story needs to be a cohesive whole, so the reader can follow it from beginning to end. But it doesn’t follow that the story must be boring and predictable. Don’t be afraid to take ideas and tropes from other genres and thread them through your plot and characters to add a little sparkle to your work. You may find successful combinations that you never thought would work out.
Back to food, and it’s your turn! What weird recipes are in your cooking repertoire? What ingredients shouldn’t logically go together, but turn out wonderful despite your expectations?