The first part of that equation could be anything that takes your fancy. These are the things you treat yourself to: some beautiful eggs, maybe, or a piece of fresh fish, a couple of frameworthy heirloom tomatoes or an artichoke that looks so much like a flower you would happily put it in a vase. If we are melding our formula and story analogies, this is protagonist on the journey.
These fresh-faced characters come home and meet the stalwarts, also known as the pantry flavor bombs. They can be intense, so a little goes a long way: a teaspoon of fish sauce or capers, a tablespoon or two of tamarind paste, a clove of black garlic, a drop of hot sauce, a pinch or more of the various spices on the shelf.
The third part of the formula is whatever is already in the fridge or kitchen that needs using up. These ingredients might be incidental to the main recipe — or story — but are no less important. They are the half-eaten bag of spinach in which the leaves are wilting slightly, the shallot that could do with using up, the lime in the fruit bowl, the two-day-old bread that needs toasting. In their supporting role, they can be switched around and substituted without too much fuss: Use any leafy green instead of the spinach, for example, a red onion instead of the shallot, a lemon instead of lime, a potato wedge instead of the toast.
And that’s this month’s recipe, this month’s story, this month’s formula. Something farm-fresh (the eggs) + a couple of flavor bombs (the fish sauce and tamarind paste) + the ingredients that needed eating up (the spinach, the shallots, the lime) = breakfast, lunch or supper.
My equation may not be pithy or genius — I did need a paragraph to explain each of its parts — but, as a way to eat for our times, I can thoroughly recommend it.