When I arrived at the racetrack, the Gearhead’s car was marooned on the tarmac, a red, black and yellow beacon signaling—unmistakable—abandonment. In the moment it took to register the empty car I knew the countless hours of assembly, disassembly, assessment, reassessment, fits of despair, cries of triumph, assembly, disassembly [wife edits: you get the picture] had not produced a car that would run. Or run for any sustainable time without issue. In fact, the Gearhead had had one turn round the circuit before deciding the clutch plate was slipping.
The Gearhead communicates in a different language. It’s a language full of steel and oil and gas and grit, of torque and tension, of leverage and weight. He uses words like flywheel, slave cylinder and throwout bearing.
A cook communicates through food: a sensual, communal, joyful discourse, tying flavour, aroma, texture, colour and temperature together.
The Gearhead and I, each held fast by the gravitational pull of our very different worlds, orbit round the centre of…what? I’m still trying to figure this out.
This was Thurday evening, a practice run to see whether the formula 1600 worked after the engine blew a few weeks ago; a different race, a different circuit. The Gearhead sweet-talked some unsuspecting Torontonians into letting him poach their rented track time. The small group of guys barbequed sausages on a habatchi balanced on the cement barrier and took turns running their cars, normal street cars, round the circuit. My favourite was the SUV with the baby on board sticker displayed in the rear window.
The Gearhead ran toward me, lifted the keys from my hand, sat in the driver’s seat of the new-to-me BMW, handed me anything stray or rattling around: Kleenex box, spare change, sunglasses, CD case, asked if I wanted to ride in the passenger seat [wife edits: No!] and then wheeled out of the “pit” onto the circuit, the whine of tires following the curved lines of the track. I hadn’t realized until that moment how partial I was toward [my] BMW. I watched, helplessly, as it rounded the curves on two tires, the other two held by the hand of God or physics [wife edits: same thing]. [Gearhead edits: you are totally exaggerating!!]
I can’t pretend that these posts can unite food and mechanics anyway beyond mystery. Better to hit you, dear reader, over the head with a blunt change. This recipe for a chilled beet and cucumber soup produces a glorious pink coloured concoction that is at once shocking and refreshing. Perhaps I could work a tie in here…
Anyway, chlodnik is Polish in origin, pronounced hu-whad-neek. When made with fresh beets plucked from the garden, the soup retains a glorious freshness that is soothing and cool on a hot summer day. This recipe comes from a gardener friend who is also Polish.
4 medium sized red beets, peeled and diced into small cubes
beet greens from 4 beets, washed and finely chopped
1 bunch fresh radishes, diced into small cubes (or leave as thin slices)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup/250 g plain yogurt
1 cup/250 g sour cream
salt to taste
Place the chopped beets and greens in a large pot. Add enough water just to cover the beets and greens. Set the pot over medium-high heat, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until the beets are soft. Remove from the heat and let the contents cool completely. When cool, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, stirring until combined. Chill the soup for at least four hours. Serve in chilled bowls with chopped boiled egg as a garnish.