I have had this experience several times, a dream that comes complete with a dish, composed entirely by my sleeping brain.
I was once such a solid sleeper I fell asleep in the aisle of a high-school band bus returning from a football came. It could not have been quiet or comfortable, but it had the one single attribute I required in those days to attain sleep: a flat surface.
Now, at 61, I spend many sleep-starved nights in a bed that is far more agreeable, my stunningly-high thread count sheets, my comforting comforter, my dog on one side of me, on the floor, breathing peacefully, my husband on my other side, his warmth a bellweather: yes, he still lives; yes, I am still next to him. My waking and sleeping selves come and go frequently down this nightly corridor, bumping into each other, jealous halves of my night’s condition. With all the coming and going, of waking and falling back to sleep, sometimes I remember dreams that on most nights would have just passed on through my brain during a deep sleep, a celestial Roomba sucking up the day’s dirt. Most of the dreams I remember are worthless ephemera, not worth recounting when my wakeful self wins the day.
But once upon a fractured night, I dream a dish, making something in my sleep that stays taught in my memory, full of texture, scent, flavor, plated like any proper dish must be to be more than mere imagination.
Last night, sometime around 3:00 would be my guess, I found myself as sous chef in my friend Jason’s kitchen. He was frantically making sausage, a long chain of it inching toward the floor. I walked past him several times, glancing down at a big open case of pomelo, but like no pomelo the world has ever seen. Some were blood red, some streaked like a sunset over a yellow sea. A fruity aroma surrounded the box. I was intrigued.
“Jason, shall I do something with those? A salad maybe?” He grunted his agreement.
I set about with a long thin knife, removing the thick, pithy peel, and then releasing the segments from their white web, capturing the juice in a bowl. I poured the scarlet juice into a saute pan, adding a little sugar, white wine and vinegar. Jason wandered by.
“I’m making a bit of pomelo gastrique, reducing it, as a base for a vinaigrette.” He nodded his approval and went back to the sausage. A long and winding road of sausage was now pooling around his feet.
When my pomelo gastrique had reduced by half, I let it cool, then toasted some pine nuts in a pan, and put the gastrique and pine nuts in a blender, with a spoon of Dijon mustard and when it was all smooth, I drizzled some olive oil in the top.
I searched around Jason’s walk-in and found some butter lettuce and some fennel fronds. On a plate I arranged some of the pomelo segments, one on top of the next, turning each a few degrees until a flower appeared. And next to it I stacked a small mound of butter lettuce leaves judiciously tossed in the vinaigrette and dusted with minced fennel fronds. I shook a little demerara sugar on the pomelo segments, and bruleed them with a torch, just lightly. My salad was complete. My wakeful self intruded on my dreaming self and said, “We should try to remember that.”
Yes, last night I dreamed this, right down to the garnish and the brulee. If you come over, I will make it for you, if I can find blood-red pomelos, and we will see if it is still delicious in the light of day.