21. Inventing Reduction

In my senior year, after Matisse left for Vermont, I rented a room in a house with some friends from the potshop. It was not a good time especially or a good situation, but Anna Lee, one of my housemates kept getting stuff from her parents’ farm. She didn’t mind if I used it so I started cooking with canned tomatoes and sometimes, if she had visited her mother, she’d come back with a mayonaise jar of cream.

I was cooking some pork chops one day when Matisse called. I turned down the heat before I answered it, but I was using a cast iron pan on an electric stove and it was a while before I got back. When I looked in the pan, the stewed tomatoes were dry, dark clumps of solid tomato. I hadn’t seasoned them much–just some garlic and black pepper–but they were almost smoky and better than any ketchup I’d ever tried.

I found out later it was called reduction.In pottery, you starve a kiln of oxygen. Iron turns jade green, copper dark red.  Driving the moisture out of the food, letting it carmelize. Changing it into something else.

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