I have a longstanding horror of the all-white meal—the epitome of domestic artistry in the late nineteenth century, when American housewives drowned meat and vegetables in white sauce and favored angel cake and whipped cream for dessert. When I find myself serving up white fish and new potatoes on the same plate, or bowls of parsnip soup with white bread on the side, I bolt, frantic, for the parsley patch. White sauce is so foreign to my food culture that I had to watch studiously as our French houseguest, Raphaël, whipped up some béchamel for mushroom crêpes the other day. I really should know how to do that, I thought. But I was relieved when all the sauce got rolled inside the crêpes, which on the outside remained brilliant yellow from the healthy yolks of homegrown chickens.
Victorian cooks played with other monotone color schemes, including pink—from strawberries, lobster, and tomatoes, for example. The idea of an all-pink meal struck me as more amusing than scary as I tossed kraut made from grated kohlrabi, pinkened with red shiso, to even out the color. For lunch, I could heat up some of the kraut with sautéed pink shallots and pieces of home-brined, home-smoked picnic ham (grass fed, from Heritage Farms). And we could somehow incorporate the heap of pink oyster mushrooms that Raphaël had brought home from the Mushroomery.
As the Mushroomery’s apprentice, Alex, had warned us, pink oysters are more a delight to the eye than to the palate. With heating, we found out, they turn out salmon orange and rather tough, so I’m glad we cooked them separately from the kohlrabi and ham. But the gently heated kraut kept its lovely pink color, which contrasted prettily with the intense pink of the smoked meat. I only regretted that we had no red-fleshed apples this year; I could only imagine the sweet, tender pink slices of fruit nestled in the tart kraut.
My kohlrabi kraut, by the way, turned out exceptionally moist and tender. And topping the fermentation jar with wilted shiso apparently worked not only to provide a comely color but to prevent the growth of yeast or mold. Next time I’ll use more shiso; I’ll put some at the bottom of the jar and more in the middle, for a stronger pink that’s even throughout. Actually, I still have plenty of shiso and kohlrabi to harvest from the bed where I need to plant garlic soon, so I think I’ll start a big pot of pink kohlrabi kraut today.