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Archive for January, 2009

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I’ve wanted to make Son-of-a-Bitch Stew since forever.

It’s been so long I’ve wanted to make one that I can’t remember anymore where it was I first even heard of Son-of-a-Bitch Stew. And usually I can trot out the source of any recipe I’ve ever made or heard of because my mind is a Steel Recipe Trap.

I looked in all the cookbooks I’ve had for a long time. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Kaput. Son-of-a-Bitch Stew was not even mentioned by Waverly Root, and goodness knows he mentioned a lot of wonderfully, exceptionally odd things.

But that Son-of-a-Bitch Stew has been calling my name. I used to threaten people with the fact that I’d make it for them. Threaten or promise, that is. I was ready to do it at the drop of a hat (but only if it was a cowboy hat) and even knew butcher shops that had most of the ingredients.

That Son-of-a-Bitch (stew, that is) came awful close to hitting the stove once when a fellow from Wyoming came to lunch. Why Wyoming? (Say that fast five times . . .) Because Wyoming is a place where the Son-of-a-Bitch was known and loved. It’s not only in Texas, you know.

I was close to putting it on the menu, as close to it as a pig’s nose-ring is to the soil when they’re rooting around, but then I chickened out. Actually my mind was more running along the lines of making Son-of-a-Bitch-in-a-Sack, which would have been much more good old-fashioned fun, but darn it all. Something inside told me not to.

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I probably never would have found all the ingredients though, or at least not without saddling up my trusty steed and heading out for a long ride on the dusty trail in search of some of the more interesting tidbits. Then there’s also the fact that for sure the kitchen staff would have run for the hills themselves if I’d proposed the idea of Son-of-a-Bitch for lunch.

Son-of-a-Bitch in a Sack is sort of like Son-of-a-Bitch Stew, or it’s not. It’s not when it’s a pastry, a dessert – like the recipe Alan Simpson mentions enclosing in his letter. But the other way is like an Extreme Son-of-a-Bitch-Stew. You get real, with this thing. Here’s a recipe for Son-of-a-Bitch Stew from Clifford Wright.

What I remember most, but what I can not find written anywhere (did I imagine it, as I loped across the imaginary plains on my imaginary horse?) is that the Son-of-a-Bitch in a Sack (the one that is not a dessert) (the one you get real with) was cooked in a cow’s stomach. Therefore the name.

Though that Son-of-a-Bitch is still calling my name, the words are fainter now as time goes on by. Now, when I read the ingredients list, no low growl emits from my throat – the growl that says “I Will“.  Now, the corners of my mouth turn up a bit in delight at the unbridled sheer macho joy of the whole thing. And I say to myself “Maybe. Just maybe. Someday.

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Clifford Wright’s “Real Stew” book (source of the recipe above) is here on my bookshelves. And although I winnow constantly, it has been – and will always be – a Keeper. 🙂
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Yeeeeeeeee-haw! Rawhide!

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Anyone providing reasons for their answers wins extra karmic points in the Great Kitchen Above.

Just click on the little buttons next to your answer to vote.
To view results click on the little button at the bottom where it says that.
Easy as pie! (Easier, even . . .) 🙂

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“I’m not a banana person. No! No, I’m not a banana person!”
And thus began my trip to the grocery store. A clean well-lighted place, and one that happens to often be entertaining. Today it was particularly so.

The not-a-banana-person was young and blonde. Young-and-Blonde wandered through the produce department, really wishing her boyfriend and all the rest of the world to understand her point. Her voice rose above the hum of carts and clatter and hundreds of people wandering through the fertile aisles.

Pushing my little steel rolling cart past the pharmacy section (there is a pharmacy in every good grocery store in America you know, and really for very good reason) I noticed the six foot tall brunette with hair flailing down to her behind – the hair clipped back ever-so-touchingly with a plastic and pink rhinestone barrette (this is a hair clip, people, not a beret which is a hat – and if you wonder why I insist on mentioning this it is because I’ve often heard people use the word barrette for beret around here – along with using the word toboggan which is a sled for going down snowy hills where I come from to mean a woolly cap worn in the winter) (sorry for the side thought but can you imagine being told Put your toboggan on your head unless you want to get a chill (?). Disturbing. Very.) but anyway this six foot tall brunette is buying cupcakes.

A dozen. Six in bright neon green with multi-sprinkles, six more in a turquoise blue the color of Elmo – also with multi-sprinkles. “Thorazine!” she barks out at the pharmacy attendant. “The scrip is for thorazine!”

From gammon and spinnage to cupcakes and thorazine. Cupcakes and thorazine. Cupcakes and thorazine.

A higher level has been reached. Last month in a snowstorm I edged my car past the car badly parked in front of the pharmacy take-out window glowing brightly from the front brick wall of the grocery store. “Prozac!” the woman bellowed into the window.

At the checkout the students are buying their staples. These staples can be defined in one single word important to the economy of our town: Beer. This is a college town, a town where the college is well-regarded, a town that exists because of the college. And it would not do so without beer, and lots of it.

Cupcakes and thorazine, cupcakes and thorazine.

A memory from last week slipped into my mind. My neighbors, in celebration of a sporting event win, had held keg stands past midnight two nights in a row. A glorious and horrible thing, a keg stand.

“I’m not a banana person!”

Cupcakes and thorazine cupcakes and thorazine.

What a world of gammon and spinnage it is, though, ain’t it.

Leaving behind the cupcakes and thorazine, the bananas expounded, the beer by the multi-keg, I pushed my little steel cart – always filled to the brim though I’d only come in for a few small items – right out the automatically-opening exit door.

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Gammon and Spinach (from Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson) – The expression gammon and spinach for “nonsense, humbug” is not as familiar today as it was in Dicken’s time, when he used it in David Copperfield. [ . . .] The phrase, most likely an elaboration of the slang word gammon, which meant nonsense or ridiculous story, is probably patterned on the older phrase gammon and patter, the language of London underworld thieves. The nonsense part of it was possibly reinforced by the old nursery rhyme “A Frog He Would a Woo’ing Go” (1600) heard by millions: “With a rowley powley gammon and spinach/Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley!”
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Why not a recipe? Why not, a recipe. Here’s a good one: Spinach fiorelli with gammon and mascarpone from TimesOnline.

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Eating Poetry

    Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
    There is no happiness like mine.
    I have been eating poetry.The librarian does not believe what she sees.
    Her eyes are sad
    and she walks with her hands in her dress.

    The poems are gone.
    The light is dim.
    The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

    Their eyeballs roll,
    their blond legs bum like brush.
    The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

    She does not understand.
    When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
    she screams.

    I am a new man.
    I snarl at her and bark.
    I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

by Mark Strand

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You’ll have to see it to believe it:

Extreme History – Cooking on the Chisholm Trail

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It’s good to know what sign you are, to eat accordingly.

BBC GoodFood can help with this. I like what they advise for me.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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I’m not known as a person who is always full of sweetness and light. I’ve got a sharp tongue and know how to use it when I feel it’s necessary (how these times are determined is a highly personal thing, and to each their own in terms of hissy fits, I always say).

Factually, this has led me into many a tussle. I’d blame this on being a redhead, but nobody will believe it anymore  – though this recent story in The Guardian (Simply Red: Does Gingerism Remain the Last Acceptable Prejudice?) could lead one to believe that any redhead must stand always ready to defend themselves.

Aside from daily not-so-important tussles, it’s been a good thing. In business meetings (even those with big loud threatening hairy males of the species doing their best to come out the winner) I could always stand my own, and did. And so it was also, in the professional kitchen.

Sweetness and light as a sole and exemptive policy simply doesn’t work all that well as management tool for women who want to lead anybody into anything close to any sort of excellence.

But damn it all. Maybe I just enjoy a good brawl.

As a Mommy, I’m sweetness and light more than I should be. And of course, when I am I pay for it. Any mother will understand this comment. Any child will too, if they are being fair.

But regardless of my arrogance, crankiness and ongoing delight in pointing out how things aren’t always as cute as Hello Kitty on Crack in real life, I’ve occasionally been gifted with a few friends – both in real life and in virtual life. One of them is MakeRoux.

MakeRoux has a really interesting blog  . . . good food, interesting tales of life, and more. MakeRoux has given foodvox a blog award – you’ll see it posted below. Here is what the award says:

This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

Well . . . I am interested in prizes, and there you go! I got one! (And seriously, I don’t know anyone who if closely questioned would not love to indulge in a bit of self-aggrandizement.)

But thank you, MakeRoux. And here’s who I’ll pass the award on to – it is supposed to go to eight more bloggers:

Rachel Laudan – who I learn something from each and every day. Brilliant, fair, and bold.

Gherkins and Tomatoes – Cindy is an astonishingly prolific writer on food and food history who offers full and rich banquets of thoughts, information, resources and recipes on her blog.

French Tart – Though she does not post every day, when she does the posts are of recipes that work and that look good – with a voice that is charming and humorous. I like French Tart’s stories of life, too.

Luna Pier Cook – Luna Pier Cook is a pretty cool dude. Check out his blog for all sorts of food- things. Often something unexpected to be found.

Let’s Sharing – simply fascinating.

Toujours en Vogue – not about food but about fashion/art/more, written by a sixteen-year-old (who just happens to be my daughter). She’s on her way to the path of fashion designer or fashion writer. Her favorite food is anything with good cheese in it or on it, and she does not like frozen or pre-made foods. This is the downside of raising a foodie-kid. You can not get away with just popping something in the microwave for dinner without being made to feel like a failure for even trying to do so.

Months of Edible Celebrations – Louise has the most amazing posts on food and celebrations and food history and and and (and!)

The Old Foodie – Janet tosses out tidbits and delights of food history every day to her delighted readers. Once you click, you’ll be an addict.

Merci again, MakeRoux! 🙂

Proximity Blog Award

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In this vintage ad from the 1940’s we’ve now discovered how the Chiquita Banana Helps the Pieman – and have also had a fascinating demonstration on how to flute a banana.

But that’s only dessert. ‘Where’s the beef?’ (Clara would ask) – and here it is:

Recipes from Gourmet magazine during the 1940’s, from the archives. Note the simplicity of the instructions, and remember – the founder (in 1939*) and publisher of Gourmet was a fellow named Earle MacAusland, who loved huntin’ and fishin’  . . .  in a gentlemanly-gourmet sort of way.

Tequila Por Mi Amante

Oyster Waffles Shortcake

Creamed Woodchuck

Bachelor’s Defense

Moving right along, if you’re still prone to hunger pains, to some

Blacktail Buck Steaks

finished off with (don’t forget the banana pie too)

Imprisoned Fruit

. . . the recipe for which starts off with

Look over your tree carefully in the springtime, when the blossoms are gone and the fruit is just beginning to form. Choose a few choice specimens, each at the end of a branch, and insert the branch gently into the neck of a large bottle, until the fruit is well inside. The next job is to support the bottle so that it stays in place in the tree. This may be done with ropes, if the tree is large enough, or it may be necessary to build up wooden supports to hold the bottle.

At first, the native feel of the menu made me think of gentle old-timey innocent images in my mind. Little boys goin’ out to catch a mess of fish, oh so cute in their rumpled overalls

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But then upon musing on the menu components a bit further, it seemed to me that (more likely) the intent of all this cooking (whether done by the above-mentioned ‘bachelor’ or by his feminine equal) would be in hopes of something more along the lines of this, from Tino Rossi, 1945:

P.S. Edit added: *This date (1939) is not confirmed by source (yet). No bessame mucho here. Yet. 🙂

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Ouch. It’s January 2009, and wallets previously ready to fly open at the slightest beckoning call of the local free-range organic rabbit (head still on, bones intact, tiny tail bone looking rather pitiful now shed of its cute fluffy fur) for $7 per pound – which effectively makes the cost of the meat shorn of the bones somewhere around $15 per pound – those wallets are balking.

But it is not 1940. And we are not in London. And we are not kept busy in the ways the Women Firewatchers shown in the above photograph (from British Vogue in 1940 by Lee Miller) were kept actively busy at that time.

But getting back to the wallets of 2009. Some will still open. Many more will not.

Pain shows in the hearts and faces of men and women when facing their finances. Not only have their retirement funds been hobbled but food – right now – today! – is becoming more and more expensive. What’s a person to do?

This poverty is a different shape, here and now in 2009, than it has been in times past. For aside from the fact that the grocery stores are still filled to over-brimming with every product from almost everywhere in the world, there is the question of those wallets. Are those wallets as damaged as they have been in past times of hardship? Not being an economist, I can’t answer that.

But I do know that in past times though there may have been mortgage payments and utility bills and all the usual expenses of day-to-day life, there was no monthly cell-phone bill . . . there was no monthly cable or internet connection bill . . . there was no high health insurance payment due . . . there usually was not a second or third car payment bill due . . . and let’s not even start talking about the cost of a higher-education where funds must be saved or financed for the Masters or Ph.D rather than for the Bachelors degree – which now for the most part is about as useful to the job-seeker as a High School degree was in times past – useful, that is, as a mere nod into the door of a low-paying entry job.

In times of hardship one looks to times of past hardships for answers: what to do, how to survive. There’s also the sense of seeking reassurance that indeed, people did survive. They did live and love and eat and hate and plot and plan and dream and finally either regain their feet – or if not – simply go on living, somehow.

One of our most-revered writers on life, food, and hungers – MFK Fisher – wrote a huge body of work during the 1940’s during times of war and some hardships. Consider the Oyster (1941) was written as she and her husband Dillwyn Parrish fled a war-torn Europe to come back to the US. Dillwyn was dying – in a most painful way – in a way where his body was slowly, bit by bit, being claimed by Buerger’s disease. How to Cook A Wolf was published in 1942 – the year when the rationing (already in place in England) finally came to US shores.

Tires were the first item to be rationed in January 1942 because supplies of natural rubber were interrupted. Soon afterward, passenger automobiles, typewriters, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, footwear, fuel oil, coffee, stoves, shoes, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies and fruit butter, were rationed by November 1943.[3] (Source wiki-rationing-US)

How To Cook A Wolf is full of information about how to survive when there is little to survive on. I’ve read this book more than once, in varying circumstances. The time I most appreciated it was when I moved to Paris into a wonderful apartment whose heating system required the insertion of coins into a small box on the wall. It seemed apt to read MFKF then and there.

Much of what is in this book will not be accepted by today’s readers, looking for answers in terms of ‘what to eat’ when the pocketbook is hurting. Gently given advice to ‘Go fishing for your dinner‘, or to ‘Gather wild foods for the one daily meal’, and ‘Eat mush‘ (recipe provided) come to mind.

In 1943 MFKF published The Gastronomical Me – to my mind the greatest of her works. Here is life, punctuated by food. Food is the thing that binds, that ties, that rocks, that cradles – a river that the larger themes of existence flow upon, with the prose of MFKF as wind goddess moving it all along.

Then followed a novel, then the translation of Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste, and An Alphabet for Gourmets.

There are many ways to face being pinched by the dollar. As for myself, I won’t try cooking and eating mush – unless I really have to. And I am grateful that my days are not spent scanning the skies for warplanes and fires.

But I will read MFK Fisher. And not just only (or not even substantially) for the advice she gives (though some of it is good).

I’ll read her just for her words, alone. They’re better in some ways than even the most perfect slab of Kobe beef.

An added bonus? They are sustainable.
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Live recording of Billie Holiday from the 1940’s: Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

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Postscript: A selection from Betty MacDonald’s classic book The Egg and I was one of the featured works included in Molly O’Neills’ American Food Writing – An Anthology with Classic Recipes.

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Here is a recipe for perfection salad from a 1905 (Knox Gelatine) book titled ‘Dainty Desserts for Dainty People’.

And here, for dainty people, is the downloadable text of the entire book.

Everything that grows

Holds in perfection but a little moment.

Shakespeare: Sonnet 15, 1.1

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(This is part 3 of 3 parts – the first two parts of the story are composed of the posts of the previous two days . . . 🙂 )
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new-one-again

This is what Lenotre taught me to make that day.

And that was the day I decided to not quit that job. And it was probably the day I decided I could actually become a chef, also.

So it is the Strawberry Cake that I remember most, about all of it – when someone says ‘Lenotre‘.

You had to be there to see all the results – among which were some line cooks with slightly different attitudes.

But the best thing really was that buttercream.
Mille remerciements a Gaston Lenotre.

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(Part 2, continued from preceding post)

No reason, really – why I should have been repulsed by that little scene on the table. The Chef was married but then so was the Sous Chef. Inequalities of power happen all the time. The Chef was gorgeous in an older woman sort of way – the thought did creep into my mind momentarily of her three children but then again it was said that hers was an open marriage. The Sous Chef was much younger than her and biddable. That’s exactly why he was Sous Chef. His wife was the ugliest woman I’d ever laid eyes on in my life. Still is, if I remember right. Why, I can’t explain. It was nothing precise or explainable. She was just plain scary-looking. Ugly. But the fact remains that watching the Executive Chef lean back onto the table laughing with her mouth in a wide open grimace, her legs grasping the chunky chested Sous Chef who was also rather grinning in a frightened sort of way – was repulsive.

It had almost been the last straw. I’d almost quit the job.

The ingredients that went into this recipe of being a professional cook in a restaurant kitchen were so different than I’d expected. I’d thought “Oh! I love to cook!” “Oh! I can do that job!” “Oh! I want to work in a restaurant!” and so, I’d applied for the job and regardless of the fact that I’d never cooked professionally, won the job after a horrendous first day where I thought I’d surely die from exhaustion, where I’d gone and laid down a little kitchen towel on the floor of the dirty white-trash-looking staff bathroom, far in the corner of the worst-lit longest corridor, and I’d laid there curled up for ten minutes to gather the strength to go back and do the job. Lifting fifty pound mixing bowls over my five-foot-two shoulder to pour batter into the prepared ten cakepans in a sweltering kitchen had not been my forte at any time before that day, and it was a bit of a mouthful to bite on.

I’d almost quit, but there was a triangle in the kitchen that I’d either walk out on or break out of victorious. And I was just angry enough to want to emerge victorious.

The triangle consisted of the Chef on one side. The line cooks, Roger and Frank, on the other side. And little Colette the French waitress who somehow had ended up in this eccentric place called Connecticut who ooh’d and ahh’d over the new offerings on the pastry cart (“I am glad someone knows how to BAKE” she would announce in tight short tones. “It has been HORRIBLE“) along with the Salvadoran busboys, who detested the line cooks and who loved cakes and pastries and taking a side wherever a side was to be found. I didn’t want to walk out on Colette and the Salvadoran busboys.

Roger turned up the volume on the radio set tuned to the hard-metal station to a screeching blast that day when he saw me walk in, and started to bob his head like a sick old duck in time to the bass notes. Frank pouted. I walked to the pastry station and right there on the spot where the Chef’s behind had been sitting several days before, I threw down upon that spot my weapon, and got ready to begin the attack.

My weapon was sweet.

My weapon was brilliant.

My weapon was a book.

The name of my weapon was ‘Lenotre’s Desserts and Pastries‘.

(To be continued . . .Part Three Lenotres Cakes)

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Some people remember the past through things they ate. Memory, place, time, flavor, people . . . all become woven together into a fabric not to be unravelled.

Just as when in those moments a piece of music will insinuate through melody an entirely different time layered upon the present in a sudden spark that floods the current reality with meanings imbued from the past . . . and those meanings are every bit as real in the ‘now’ as when they first were formed . . .

Not that memory is not a questionable thing. It is. But some memories are less fractured than others – one can only hope that the retrospective glance is not looking through the prism of the past less clearly but more clearly, with the focused light of objectivity found through years passed – something not be attained by banging at it, but nonetheless sometimes to be found seredipitously.

I remember the past not so much from things I ate, but more from things I cooked.

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The kitchen was hot that day. It often was, if you happened to arrive in the afternoon for work rather than in the early morning before the ovens and stoves and grill and fryolator and steamer all were operating at a pace similar to an animated Disney movie – at times almost ridiculously fast, almost out of control.

I could go in to work at whatever time pleased me, as the Pastry Chef.

At this upscale suburban Connecticut restaurant dropped as if with a bucket of hope from the sky into the center of a large black concrete parking lot with many yellow lines painted for the many anticipated diners-to-be, the pastries were ‘important’ but not all that important. Pastries and desserts weren’t important to the Executive Chef  – as the reputation of the place was to be focused on the food – not on the pastry. Pastries and desserts weren’t important to the owner of the restaurant because the Executive Chef had been bought at a dear price, and had to be coddled. Pastries and desserts weren’t important to the waiters and waitresses because in all the time past, they had not been stand-outs as part of the meal but merely follow-ups. In other words, there was no good tip money involved with the idea of dessert since the desserts themselves here in times past had not been worth the effort of  putting on a song and dance in order to up-sell.

The guys behind the line did their usual little dismissive dance when I walked into the kitchen. Roger’s prematurely almost-bald head flicked sideways away from his saute-pans for the briefest moment, the steam on his gold wire-rimmed glasses blending with the sweat on his forehead – the forehead behind which was a brain with an investment of some tens of thousands of dollars in the form of a Master’s Degree in Philosophy which had never been used in the form of a job (and which it seemed to me was not used in daily life either, if his attitude and behavior bore witness to what was inside his mind). His soft shoulders angled forwards and backwards in an I-dare-you shimmy, ever so slight while his legs inched slightly more apart, edging his crotch forwards toward the stove as if he were going to fuck it – as if he could fuck it if he just wanted to – which of course as we all know, no girl could ever do.

Frank was more abrupt. He could be, since he was a CIA grad. Slamming the oven doors closed and slapping a towel on the line, he sneered slightly in my direction with a cross between amusement and derision, and moved even faster than he had been before, his beard and moustache and his simple huge-ness of stature giving him the air of a strong but somewhat out-of-place furry black bear. He watched, bluntly, as I walked over to the ‘pastry station’ – the stainless steel table in the center of the kitchen where he’d piled anything extra he could not easily find any other space to put so that I’d have to move it all while feeling his gaze upon me the entire time, his eyes slowly chewing me up, same as they had been each day I’d walked into that kitchen – which at the time was for all of three long weeks.

As I lifted the piles of sheetpans, shifting them onto the racks where they belonged, a vision rose of a scene I’d walked in on at closing time the previous week – the Exec Chef was sitting there right in the middle of my nice clean stainless-steel assigned pastry-making table, pulling the sous-chef towards her then wrapping her legs around his chest as he slightly-squirmed, slightly-enjoyed it. She was drunk.

Better moving piles of sheetpans than having to see that again, I thought.

You have to wonder why one would even want to continue making pastry on that table.

But then Gaston Lenotre entered the scene.

(to be continued – part two Entre Lenotre)

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Lenotre died today.

And I find myself strangely wordless.

It’s not that I have nothing to say, but rather . . . I may have too much to say – about Lenotre.

I never met him. Yet he was a pivotal person in the path of my life.

If I can place my thoughts into an orderly shape I’ll write about him tomorrow. And maybe past tomorrow.

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One of the fun parts of blogging is looking at the reports that tell which search terms have pointed people in the direction of your blog.

I am quite sure there are great insights to be found by studying this. Some of the insights are definitely useful.  I am now certain, based on the consistently large number of mahi-mahi searches that have led to foodvox – that there is a big market out there for a blog solely about mahi-mahi. Mahi-mahi in all its mahi ways.

I even tried to put a mahi-mahi blog together once – it seemed to be such a fabulous and businesslike idea – but after just two posts bored myself to death and decided that the mahi-mahi blog market share would have to be left to someone with a greater tolerance for that sort of thing than I  have.

Some of the search terms that come up for foodvox really do make me wonder what on earth I am writing about that would lead these searchers here.

Here is a list of my current favorites:

Green plucker fingers suppliers

Hot housewife

Puffballs hairstyle for men

Adult coloring pages of animals

Food love

Thick woman . . . . . . (I hope this is not hinting anything about my intellectual capabilities)

Branstone if you love me

If this is not enough jolly confusion for your taste, you can find more things to muse about on the similar topic of website names at Troynovant under the ComWeb section – scroll down to find the essay ‘Domain Name Bargains‘.

Just be sure you are not drinking that mythic cup of coffee that will spray all over the screen when you do so because (mythic or not) it will.

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I’m not sure whether I think that people who read books who also cook are very amusing people in general or whether I136552743_6feec58175 think that people who cook who also read books are very amusing people. From the festival website:

April 1st is the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book Physiologie du goût, a witty meditation on food. April fools’ day is also the perfect day to eat your words and play with them as the “books” are consumed on the day of the event. This ephemeral global banquet, in which anyone can participate, is shared by all on the internet and allows everyone to preserve and discover unique bookish nourishments

The photos of winners from previous years are wonderful (and hilarious at times also). (Click through the links to see more winners from the main page . . .)

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I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

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Thank you.

Recipe from CoffeeGeek here.

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I had an epiphany this morning.

As I sat at the red light in light traffic in my car after dropping off the kids at school, I realized I’d forgotten to throw on a coat.

And in that exact moment, as the radio blasted Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’ loud enough to be heard by anyone close enough and as I sat there with it blasting dressed in my fabulous pink bathrobe, I realized that I looked ridiculous.

Thank goodness there is a recovery plan for these sorts of epiphanic moments, the basis of which is one three-syllable word: Chocolate.

Francois Payard’s ‘Chocolate Epiphany’ is the best book to consult, and I’ll tell you why.

How many times have you looked at a cookbook to find exactly the same recipes as the last cookbook only written with different names and different recipe formats?

I find this happens more often than not.

Unless the book is one of the few designed to be at the forefront of cutting-edge (haute – sorry, these things cost money) cuisine (though it won’t be called ‘haute cuisine‘ for the term is passe) the recipes circle around each other – distinguishing themselves pretty much by a sense of style or by a hint of one or two small-yet-intelligent differences created by the author.

Cookbooks specializing in chocolate can often seem to be repetitive even more often than other cookbooks, for the genre is limited.

‘Chocolate Epiphany’ has more to say (on a variety of levels) than any other chocolate-based cookbook I’ve recently seen.

Try these on for size: Kougin Amanns – distinguished by Payard morphing the recipe into one with chocolate imbued throughout . .  . Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse – the pavlova shaped into a two-piece half-sphered ball which is then filled to break open with the touch of a fork to utter the syllables of its filling . . . a Honey and Saffron Apple Tart with Chocolate Chiboust, startling in the conceptualization of flavors . . . a Gateau de Crepes with Green Tea Ice Cream . . . and a Chocolate Paris-Brest which makes one wonder why the Paris-Brest was not made chocolate in the first place.

I’m off on the road to recovery – pink bathrobe and all. It doesn’t mind a splash or two of chocolate on it – and seriously, neither do I.

The only remaining question is what music to blast to best suit Orange Custards with Dark Chocolate Foam.

I’ll definitely get dressed up nice to eat my chocolate recovery prescription, though. Then I’ll wait for my next epiphany.

Hopefully it won’t be yet another one where I feel ridiculous.

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Christmas is not over yet. Tonight is Twelfth Night. Tomorrow is Epiphany.

Twelfth Night or Epiphany Eve is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany, and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking”.[1]

The celebration of Epiphany, the adoration of the Magi, is marked in some cultures by the exchange of gifts, and Twelfth Night, as the eve or vigil of Epiphany, takes on a similar significance to Christmas Eve.

The way to observe Twelfth Night is by ‘merrymaking’. And there’s a fellow called the Lord of Misrule who can help in doing just that.

The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the twelfth night festival a cake which contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would run the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal.

King Cakes are a tradition, as is a drink called Lamb’s Wool. One can even go wassailing. One may even want to go wassailing after drinking enough Lamb’s Wool.

In one form of wassail, called Lamb’s Wool, ale or dark beer was whipped to form a surface froth in which floated roasted crab apples. The hissing pulp bursting from them resembled wool. Shakespeare alluded to Lamb’s Wool in Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Sometimes lurk I in the gossip’s bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And down her withered dewlap pours the ale.
Likewise in Love’s Labour’s Lost:
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit,
Tu-who—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Roasted crabs and greasy Joan. What a party indeed!

But some people say that the luscious name ‘Lambs Wool’ comes not from how the drink looks but from other things.

The old Celtic name was lamh’s suil (hand and eye), so named for the labor of the hand required . . .

But then again, this night, Twelfth Night – has been the cause of  unhappiness in the past for some people.

At the beginning of January 400, Asterius, bishop of Amasea in Pontus (Amasya, Turkey) preached a sermon against the Feast of Kalends (“this foolish and harmful delight”) that tells a lot about the Lord of Misrule in Late Antiquity. It contrasted with the Christian celebration held, not by chance, on the adjoining day:

We celebrate the birth of Christ, since at this time God manifested himself in the flesh. We celebrate the Feast of Lights (Epiphany), since by the forgiveness of our sins we are led forth from the dark prison of our former life into a life of light and uprightness.

Significantly, for Asterius the Christian feast was explicitly an entry from darkness into light, and although no conscious solar nature could have been expressed, it is certainly the renewed light at midwinter, which was celebrated among Roman pagans, officially from the time of Aurelian, as the “festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun”. Meanwhile throughout the city of Amasea, although entry into the temples and holy places had been forbidden by the decree of Theodosius I (391), the festival of gift-giving when “all is noise and tumult” in “a rejoicing over the new year” with a kiss and the gift of a coin, went on all around, to the intense disgust and scorn of the bishop:

This is misnamed a feast, being full of annoyance; since going out-of-doors is burdensome, and staying within doors is not undisturbed. For the common vagrants and the jugglers of the stage, dividing themselves into squads and hordes, hang about every house. The gates of public officials they besiege with especial persistence, actually shouting and clapping their hands until he that is beleaguered within, exhausted, throws out to them whatever money he has and even what is not his own. And these mendicants going from door to door follow one after another, and, until late in the evening, there is no relief from this nuisance. For crowd succeeds crowd, and shout, shout, and loss, loss.

Though it was no use clamoring at the bishop’s gate, apparently, part of the celebration of this pre-medieval Lord of Misrule included the equivalent of the Waits who went from hall to hall:

This festival teaches even the little children, artless and simple, to be greedy, and accustoms them to go from house to house and to offer novel gifts, fruits covered with silver tinsel. For these they receive in return gifts double their value.

Hmmm. Well. A little bit of Lambs Wool won’t hurt, I don’t think, while I muse on all this.

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Katerina la Vermintz sent me here. The rodents are so large.

She said to find her an amblongus to make a pie, and to hurry – as her crumbobblious cutlets are almost ready for the table! Mr. Lear is dining with her tonight and she does want everything just right.

She is essaying his two recipes published in the Nonsense Gazette (1870). He is famous, Mr. Lear. The dinner need be perfect.

I begged Katerina to make Gosky Patties, but she said last time they did not taste so very good. I wonder if there is something – some herb, some slight hint of garlic or turmeric – missing from the recipe.

TO MAKE GOSKY PATTIES

Take a pig, three or four years of age, and tie him by the off-hind leg to a post. Place 5 pounds of currants, 5 of sugar, 2 pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a candle, and six bushels of turnips, within his reach; if he eats these, constantly provide him with more.

Then, procure some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quinces of foolscap paper, and a packet of black pins. Work the whole into a paste, and spread it out to dry on a sheet of clean brown waterproof linen.

When the paste is perfectly dry, but not before, proceed to beat the Pig violently, with the handle of a large broom. If he squeals, beat him again.

Visit the paste and beat the pig alternately for some days, and ascertain that if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties.

If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.

I must fly! Amblongis are often difficult to find and my basket is yet empty.
Do pray for Lady Luck to be by my side.

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Hi, I’m Barry Fig. It’s been a wonderful New Years and I’ve had a great time.  Even though they forced me to wear this outfit.

I just wanted to say a few words, dudes. I used to be a human being too. But somewhere along the way while I was trying to make the world’s biggest cheese doodle, something happened and here I am.  A dog. And now a dog dressed up like a flying pig.

I tried to hang around with everyone at the New Year’s party but they pretty much kept throwing me bits of chicken from their plates and making coo-coo noises at me. I wanted to talk, dudes. I needed some serious communication to happen.

Nobody realized a thing that was sort of important. I’m not just here for the food. Food is great, but it’s only a part of it all. Chicken alone, no matter how great it is, just doesn’t cut it.

I used to like to cook, when I was a real dude. One day this chick showed me a poem that really pissed me off because it was sort of anti-cooking. I couldn’t stand her after that. Even though her legs . . . well, nevermind, dudes.

Here’s the start of the poem.  It must be wearing pink that made me remember it today.

All over America women are burning dinners.

It’s lambchops in Peoria; it’s haddock

in Providence; it’s steak in Chicago;

tofu delight in Big Sur; red

rice and beans in Dallas.

All over America women are burning

food they’re supposed to bring with calico

smile on platters glittering like wax.

It really pissed me off when this chick told me this poem because, well . . . it was like a slap in the face. I like to eat. I like to be cooked for. I can’t imagine anyone not loving to cook for me. Or, I guess – I couldn’t at the time, dudes. It didn’t make sense.

But wearing this pink costume and begging for scraps, and getting the scraps which were pretty damn delicious but nevermind it simply wasn’t what I wanted I wanted to be taken seriously – this poem came to my mind, guys.

What I’m saying is, take me seriously, even though I’m cute and wearing fluffy pink stuff. Talk to me like I was real, like I was one of you.

I’m not just here for the food.
Yours,
Barry Fig
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The poem What’s that smell in the kitchen by Marge Piercy can be found in its entirety here on Google books as excerpt from Arlene Voski Akavian’s book Through the Kitchen Window.

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The Saveur 100 is a quite marvelous list of Things Foodie. If you think it impossible to try all one hundred in a year for reasons of time or money you might be right.

But more important, in choosing which ones you really should try – is your horoscope sign. The food you choose must fit you or quelle horreur! I know from my own experience that chipmunk is not made for cats of my sign. Let’s not go into details.

The fact is, if you do not listen to the stars, the same thing may happen to you! The foods you dine upon need balance your system, and the constellations tell us how to do that. Or, rather, they tell me!

It is approaching dusk now, and I do not have much time to dictate this report.

Aries: With your dominant keyword of “I Am” co-residing with the element of fire, ‘Everyday Heroes‘ by James Villas (#26 Saveur 100) will cool your flames and salve your need for a show-off dish that also warms the tummy. The recipe for Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Raclette, Herbs and Prosciutto is a masterpiece that can be quickly prepared so that you needn’t waste much of your precious time, yet you will be looked upon by others as a superhero-style cook.

Taurus: You are represented by the words “I Have”, Taurus – and the earth is your element. Mix it up a little bit with this ‘Foundations of Flavor‘ entry by Clifford Wright – a well-respected author. Harissa (#35 Saveur 100) will get you popping and sprightly, which is always an excellent thing for a Taurean to aspire to, particularly in the middle of winter when the warm quilt on the couch may be beckoning so very much.

Gemini: “I Think” is who you are, Gemini. At least we think that is who you are. Your element is air, of course. Anyone can see that. To your airy nature it will be important to add oil, from ‘Pantry Essentials’. Tourangelle Roasted Pistachio Oil (Saveur # 15) will have you sliding merrily through life as you drizzle it upon hot boiled baby potatoes (so cute!). This oil has an ‘intensely nutty flavor’. Well, so do you, dear Gemini – and a delightfully nutty flavor indeed!

Cancer: Cancer, your keyword is “I Feel”. Funny for a crab, but nonetheless there it is. As a water sign you will need an anchor to set your sights upon this year in what you eat. ‘One-Dish Feasts‘ offers this in the Soulful Supper (Saveur #84). Perloo is the name of the dish. It is a close relative to jambalaya. Please don’t worry about the shrimp in the recipe. They did not feel a thing. Neither did the kielbasas or the little grains of rice. A sturdy dish for a superficially sturdy zodiac sign who nonetheless prefers even a bit more sturdiness, often.

Leo: Lionhearted Leo, my cousin. Purrrrrr. Fire is your element. Your keyword is “I Will”. Your sensual nature will be well-fed by ‘Poet of the Everyday‘ John Thorne (Saveur 100 #24). After checking your mane hair one last time in the mirror, do run out and buy a copy of any of his books. Your lion-heart will be filled with just the sort of things you like: ideas, words, and to-do lists from the ideas you find.

Virgo:I Analyze”. Yes indeedy you do, Virgo. Mew mew. Yet as an earth sign you also are quite serious about proceeding with giving form to what you analyze and decide upon. Would you like to make your own ketchup, dear Virgo? It could be the most perfect of ketchups. You could make it exactly and precisely the way you, and only you, expect ketchup to be. ‘Do It Yourself’ Homemade Ketchup (Saveur 100 #37) is a good place to start. Undoubtedly it will not be quite right, the recipe. But after all, that is what you are here for – to correct it! Purrrrrrr.

Libra: Air sign Libra, your words are “I Balance”. Goddess knows you try to. It’s quite possible that you may need to go shopping in order to do so. ‘American Bounty’ (along with me, bien sur meow meow) will tell you exactly where to go: ‘Pomegranate’ (Saveur 100 #79) in Brooklyn. They have every. single. thing. you would ever. want to eat. And besides, it’s in Brooklyn and we all know that all Librans simply adore Brooklyn.

Scorpio: Water sign Scorpio who says “I Desire”.  There is something within the Scorpio spirit that calls for Sofrito (Saveur 100 #62) by Oswald Rivera. A ‘Foundation of Flavor’, it is serious enough for you to take it seriously yet it will lighten your sometimes world-weary sense that nothing is as it really should be.

Capricorn: “I Use” is Capricorn. Bound to the earth, there must be something found to serve the purpose and serve it in the correct manner. Yet the wind calls the Capricorn out to the wild. ‘Great Home Cooks’ may answer the call with ‘Swedish Venison Burgers’ (Saveur 100 #28). It is worth gnawing upon.

Aquarius: As an air sign whose keyword is “I Know”, there is not much that gets by you, dear Aquarius! You will gather friends and enemies alike around the table while making complete and full annotation of any juicy bits of gossip that feed your curiosity. To do this in an exemplary manner, you will need a ‘One-Dish Feasts’ entry. ‘Lasagne’ – Golden Standard Vegetarian Lasagne even! fits your needs to a T. (Saveur 100 # 36). It will make everyone, including you, very happy.

Pisces: “I Believe” is your keyword, water your element. One might think that sweet as you already are, Pisces, more sugar would not be needed. But I assure you, the stars are calling your name with this sugar. ‘Pantry Essentials’ has an ‘India Tree Sparkling Sugar’ (Saveur 100 #4). It comes in different colors (the one shown is turquoise!) and it is even crackly. Which you should like a whole lot. Purrrrrrr. Rrrrp?

Twilight is here. I must go. Remember, let the stars lead you to your destiny. Whatever it is. Whatever it may ask you to put in your mouth.

I am a cat. I know these things.

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I am Moira’s mother. Prrrrrp. She is right. You must listen to the stars.

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Image Source: foto_decadent/Tim Walker/UK Vogue December 2008/Tales of the Unexpected/The Marvellous Mischievious Magical World of Roald Dahl

It’s not like Boris and I don’t have our challenges. Most of you think the life of a girl detective is an easy one. But my job gets tougher and tougher each day.

The last time I’d had a really good mystery to solve was back in May when I solved The Case of the Missing Snack.

There’s not much call for those with my specialised degree –  the C.K.L.E. (Certified Kitchen Lounge-About Eater) is a path one follows because one must. The gathering together of dross is not a part of the thinking process at all.

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately burning bangers and mashing mashers as a matter of fact. But always, always! in the finest fashions, you should know. Stiff upper lip and all.

But Boris has become moody. Around the holidays he longs for the cooking of his childhood. Or what he thinks was the cooking of his childhood, anyway. He actually grew up in Flushing, Queens – which you get to by taking a pot-holed highway to after going over some midtown bridge in Manhattan – but he believes he grew up eating Russian food.

And he hungers for it in an awful way.

So, for the New Year’s, I am making a picnic! A Georgian picnic.

We are having a pickled cabbage rose set just so in the center of the quilt we’ll recline upon. Then we will dive into chicken with walnuts. Because no picnic is complete without a bit of cooking done en plein air we’ll start a little woodfire off to the side to prepare some skewered eggs along with some grilled cheese.  Maybe a bit of steamed purslane would be nice as a salad (as it seems to be growing among a rockpile nearby it would not be dear at all, either!) For dessert we’ll just stay traditional and have the New Year’s Day treat of Gozinake. (When you are Georgian, there is no such thing as too many walnuts.)

It looks to be a fine day, though a bit chilly.

Cheers to all of you on the first day of the new year. And do give me a call if you need a good mystery solved.

I’m always hungry.

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Darra Goldstein’s The Georgian Feast is a must-read, for anyone interested in the foods of Georgia.

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