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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Well rounded bagel with

Cream cheese and sable

Green capers and onions (red)

No fish tale nor withered nasturtium bud

Considers this swallow their bed.

Hanatsubomi, hanayu? Yuzu you are, till eaten.

As farro! O farro!

Creeps into lasagna

(Ancient as Zeus’ old bolt)

Kakigori clouds delicately

Fall freezing

And the soft bun’d hot dogs onion-ly emote.

There was a river!

It was the Hudson

But I saw my friend’s face before it

Biting bright Bowery pickles

Always quite crunchy and

The fat strudel of poppyseed  can hardly be

Grumpy.

Let not my food love be called idolatry!

Since all edible, these bites and baubles be.

Three themes in one

My love is

I bid you

Each

A bite,

A swallow,

A ruminative

Chew.

………………………………………………………………….

There you are, Sonia, per your request – my love letter to the happy New York foods! 🙂

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A sable special at Murray’s bagels

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A box of wagashi, including one like the one above

Cover image of La Cucina Italiana for June, 2009

Farro lasagna

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Kakigori which froze my tongue so much that when I talked near the end of it I sounded drunk

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Hot dogs with lots of ‘Greek-style’ onions and papaya drinks

Waterfront dining above at SouthWest

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Katz’s and the ever-so-gently pickled pickles are so good

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Hungarian Pastry Shop

And last but not least, a link to the menu at Henry’s End.

How many days was I in NYC?

(Not enough!) 🙂

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I am back from New York. The City. I left there about seventeen years ago, and have only returned three times since – once for a wedding, once for a funeral, and once after a divorce. New York was my home from the time I was fourteen years old till the time I left, basically – except for a few travels here and there – but I always returned.

I left New York to be married. To have children. To grow a family. And I have done so – though not exactly in the way I supposed I would, with a husband by my side, but rather without a husband by my side. That’s another story, for another time perhaps.

I returned to New York this time with my daughter. My daughter headed herself towards the city without any urging from me. It is where her heart has led her at the age of sixteen, to study art at one of the best schools that exists for studying art – and in one of the most challenging programs.

There is pathos in this picture, for the similarities between the way my daughter entered the city to begin her life there (if only for this month of summer school) and the way I entered the city to begin my life there are just about as different as day and night. But this is not about that, this is about the food.

It’s hard to get a grasp on the picture of a person through food, really. It can be drawn, a picture, of anyone – with food. The hidden meanings of the food can be brought forth, the adjectives and verbs tossed into the picture as if with a charcoal pencil, to ink out a personality. Quite useful, very entertaining. Often false. The delicate vegetarian can hold a heart full of driven hate and the meat-gnawing potato chip chomping pagan just might turn out to be a gentle soul cautious of ever saying the least offensive thing to anyone at all who may cross his path.

So I’m not going to try to do that – to draw a picture with food. Nor am I going to draw a picture of food. Instead I’ll just tell of a walk down a street in Brooklyn Heights that has something to do with food.

My daughter and I walked down the street in Brooklyn Heights. I showed her the apartment I lived in, before there was a person called my daughter, who now walked beside me. I pointed to the building where I’d knocked on my father’s door (the address of which I’d found to my great surprise in the phone book)(and to my even greater surprise found that he lived in the same neighborhood I had landed in) for the very first time ever to introduce myself to him without warning, at the age of fourteen. There were several restaurants whose doors had remained open all these years in the neighborhood that I’d lived in (a rare thing in the city) but we passed them by.

We walked way down to the end of Henry Street, and entered a narrow-fronted brick building. After all these years, during the time I’d grown a daughter, this restaurant had remained open. This was the first restaurant I’d ever eaten in, when I was around my daughter’s age – that made food something which held a sense of artistry within it, and a depth that went beyond my perception of what food was – or what it could be.

We sat at a table, and I looked up and saw the same guy cooking as had been cooking at the line all those years ago. It did not seem real, but it was. The menu had changed somewhat, but still had the fine touches but not glaring spotlights that spell a deft touch without a vaudevillian edge.

The food was good. It always was.

But I must say that any food pales in my mind and heart in comparison with that simple walk down the street to get there, with my daughter. One fourteen year old runaway had come back to the city she’d entered with a duffle bag full of clothes and forty dollars. That’s me. And she’d brought her daughter to go to art school, and to eat at the restaurant that had first inspired her to think of food in such a way that led to becoming a professional chef – Henry’s End.

Is this about food? I’m not sure. But if you ask me about food and my trip to New York, this is what comes to my mind.

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‘In a pig’s eye’ is an American colloquialism meaning ‘not a chance in hell’. I’ve never heard anyone actually use it, but it does pop into my mind once in a while.

Rote memorization of facts someone else thinks go together because they were told at one time to memorize them sometimes strikes me as worthy of the phrase. “Here’s what you need to memorize,” they may say to me, and I may say back to them, “Why?,” and they may say “Because it’s always been that way,” and I may think to myself in response “I’ll do it your way in a pig’s eye!”

But a long time ago when magic and memory were topics happily married in the same sentence, there was a book which helped people do magic or memorize things they wanted to memorize, or some combination of the two.

The book was written by a man named Giordano Bruno. His ideas didn’t fit the general thinking of the thinkers of the times, so naturally they killed him off and he is now defined as a ‘martyr of science’. The name of the book with the cute picture of the hairy pig posted above is ‘Cantus Circaeus’.

Cantus Circaeus (“Incantation of Circe”) is an early work by Bruno on the art of memory with strong magical elements. It is written in the form of a dialogue between the great sorceress Circe and her assistant or apprentice Moeris. It opens with Circe’s incantations to the planets which appear to be based on Agrippa, De Occult. Phil. II, lix. These incantations are described as “barbara & arcana”. These are accompanied by various magical operations including the use of an altar, fumigations, and notae. This is followed by an Art of Memory.

According to I.P. Couliano, “Giordano Bruno’s magic is based not only upon the Ficinian tradition but also on techniques relating to the art of memory. This art consisted of a manipulation of phantasms or inner images, whose purpose varied from the mere learning by heart of a text to mystical contemplation.” (‘Magic in Medieval and Renaissance Europe’ in Hidden Truths: Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult: 1987).

About right now I bet you’re thinking “What does this have to do with food?”, and “When can I get something to eat around here?”. Patience. And besides, if you are sitting here on the computer it’s likely you eat three hearty meals a day plus all the snacks you want, anyway. What’s the rush?

Today we don’t worry about Circe and magic too much. But we do think about pork a lot. So I’ve decided that knowing your pork and knowing it well (and being able to memorize what you know!) just may be important.

Above you see pig. Nice hairy pig. There is an alphabet surrounding the pig. For each letter there should be some piggy-thing which connects to eating the pig. Or cooking the pig. Or growing the pig.

Do you know what they are?

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Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove

That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

The book remaining longest on my shelves, therefore deserving of Christopher Marlowe’s pastoral, is Waverly Root’s ‘Food’. Why should this be so? The poor old thing is broken-backed, it looks as if someone hit the edge of the bottom pages with red spray-paint lightly at some time, and the cover is the most repulsive olive-green to ever exist in the world.

In this case you can’t tell a book by its cover. Well, maybe you can. Depends on who you talk to.

Many people think Waverly Root was not quite de rigeur. Or rather, he may have been de rigeur but he was not right about a lot of things he wrote. This could be so. But above all, Waverly was entertaining, even in his sickening pea-green overcoat.

Let me show you Waverly. I’m going to flip open the book and see where it lands.

Broccoli. And E.B. White on broccoli. Chives. And He who bears chives on his breath Is safe from being kissed to death and then on to Martial on chives. FO, stands for fogas, a Hungarian fish. Yes, I know the fellow! LY stands for the lycopodium, whose root is no longer eaten as an aphrodisiac.

Parsley warrants a couple of pages, with a final mention of Platus then on to Chaucer in critical mode about a cook named Hogge of Ware who had some problems with parsley and a goose whose freshness might have been questionable

Of many a pilgrim hastow Cristes curs,

For of they persly yet they fare the wors,

That they han eaten with thy stubbelgoos;

For in thy shoppe is many a fly loos.

In the entry on rye we learn of witchcraft and ergotism.  SO stands for soump oil, a fat universallly used in the Ivory Coast, Chad, and East Africa, made from the intensely bitter fruit of the zachun-oil tree, which fails to explain why it is also called heglik oil

And Venus, of course, stands for a family of clams, notably the quahog, eaten with gusto in New England and when we get close to the end of the book, Waverly tells us that yellowtail (which in some places is called snapper or flounder) is called a I-don’t-know-what in Japan.

I don’t know what, either. But I do enjoy trying to figure it all out with Waverly.

And we will sit upon the rocks,

Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks

By shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.

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It has come to my attention that we have not talked about eating the rhinoceros lately. This lack will be corrected in the following series.

The Oxford Companion to Food advises that rhinos are not to be considered as food due to their rarity. Larousse Gastronomique tells us that the meat of the rhinoceros is to be preferred to the meat of the elephant but that hippopotamus meat tops them both.

There are several recipes we will learn. The first is the easiest, and offers a bit of dietary advice along with cookery instructions:

It has recently been discovered that rhinos, caught and cooked fresh, are extremely delicious, almost as much so as pie, but also have up to 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Scientists are still researching why. One of the possible causes could be the stupidity of the scientists.

Recipe for Poached Rhino

Combine all ingredients into a large saucepan, place in microwave oven, and set on “poach” for 2 minutes. Serves 500 very small people.

The same reference is worthwhile in terms of discovering how to shop for a rhino – after all we do not do this every day!


According to our primary source, this is most definitely not a rhinoceros.

We will continue this series with more information on dining upon the rhinoceros till we are done talking about it as much as we possibly can. For additional information, if you can not bear to wait until the next post to learn more, please read the entry quoted from above at uncyclopedia.

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Ugh. Or at least that’s what I thought at first. Violet-Sweet Potato Latte sounds like something in a Tim Burton film. There’s something frightening about it that makes its name transpose silently into ‘Violent-Evil Potato Latte’. What would happen if you drank it? Perhaps a crack would start to form on the plaster of the wall, slowly opening to reveal another world filled with multi-color polka-dotted baby lambs gamboling on anodized-steel hills and hummocks.

But I digress, and of course the picture I paint is merely modern agriculture as viewed by many people.

The more I considered the Violet Sweet-Potato Latte the more I liked it, though. Tasting the flavors in the  mind brings the conclusion that they could work. Who knows! The flavors could possibly work as well as the Starbucks Pumpkin and Spice Latte – which I have about once a year.

Is there any other thing made from sweet potatoes and violets? I decided to search. A quick search turned up nothing, nada, rien. But this Sweet-Potato Mochi recipe might be revised to add a touch of delicate violet syrup along with the coconut milk to good results.

Shades of Tim Burton again. What is that thing in the middle of the plate of mochi do tell?

Nevertheless though I be scared I be brave and the recipe does look quite good. The original source of this interesting mochi recipe is the Hawaiian Electric Company website, which maintains quite a collection of recipes not often found elsewhere. Mind-boggling, really. I can not imagine Con Edison doing this.

I’ve been musing on recipes strange because of a wonderful place I fell across the other day: Delicious Corpse. It’s now on my list of places to visit every day, simply because of the joy it brings.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Postscript: After writing this I got a note from a friend with the thought that the Violet-Sweet Potato Latte was not made from violet and sweet potatoes but instead from violet sweet potatoes. Hah! Apparently I’ve been viewing the world through violet-colored glasses in this search for things made with violets. I’m seeing little violet flowers everywhere, even when they are not there!

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Watch the dancing pickles then listen to the song!

I’ve heard this song before, often – but never did I know it was called The Dill Pickle Rag!

(Do you think the pickles were deep-fried?)

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Greetings to all! It has come to my attention that my esteemed colleagues, Catty Moira and Barry the Dog, believe they are the meow and woof of cookery philosophers, and that is why I am appearing here today. I am busy, busy, busy! and it has been most difficult since I am still stuck permanently in this yogic position but the truth of things should be known so I have found a scanty bit of moment to spare to allow for the dissemination of philosophic correctness.

First, my particulars. I have lived forever. And a day. There is more knowledge about the manners of the table in any one speck of my soul than in any of Brillat-Savarin’s (I call him Brillie) interminable sentences.

I have dined with the best of the ages. And a Philosophy has been formed. It is this: Beware of cookery. It can be dangerous. Fraught with difficulties no lady should ever have to face. Particularly if they are stuck in a yogic position. If the lady is stuck in a yogic position the best thing to do is to eat raw foods and allow your live-in boyfriend and children to fend for themselves.

You will not initially want to believe this, I do know that, ma petite. Talley-Ho (Talleyrand, to you) often told me that a picture is worth a thousand words when he wanted to show me his etchings, and after having seen his etchings, I’ve become quite taken with the idea! Allow me to show you a few pictures of the most easily found dangers in cookery. Then, Dear Reader – you will Decide For Yourself.

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Mais oui! Le shock electrique! You will be fried! And if you think this can only happen in the new industrial kitchens I have news for you! Regardez ici!!!!

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In summary, I will say to you: Learn these words – ‘Take-Out’. You will be doing your business community a service while saving your own skin.

A tout l’heure! Till the next time destiny twines our paths.

Katerina la Vermintz

……………………………………………

Dangerous Illustrations provided by brepettis – from Thirty Ways to Shock Yourself on flickr

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It is Spring, dear ones! And after sifting through the many questions you humans have sent me I find there is one most preponderant, and it is this we will discuss today! Prrrrrrrrrr.

The question is: Moira, why don’t you Cats like to cook?

And I must tell you, this question is about as appealing to me (and therefore to all Cats) as raw asparagus.

Eck eck eck eck. Excuse me.

A Cat’s Philosophy of Cooking is simple. It is based on the fact that we are capable of living in the wild and by our wits. We do not need cookbooks or Ph.D’s to assist us through life (no, not in any of the nine we have!) and most certainly we set the table for nobody!

Why don’t we cook?

1. We do not have to. Meow.

2. Do you really think we want to wash dishes? We do have a nice rough tongue but it is better used to groom our lovely coats.

3. Humans need to have something they can feel good about. Most of them simply can not hunt as we can! Purrrrrrrrrrr.

4. We cats are Thinkers, not Workers.

5.  We do not cook for the same reason we do not bother to get married and stick a gold ring on our paws. Once you start doing this sort of thing you can end up having someone expecting you to do it endlessly while putting up with some of the silliest behavior on earth such as saying all is well and lovely while your spouse is spraying the intern in the Oval Office while at the same time he is pretending to be President. We are not politicians, we Cats. Eck eck eck!

Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, dearies! Now just scratch behind my ear, right there. That’s right! Purrrrrrrr.

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My attentions will soon be moving away from foodvox and on to a few other things – some online, some not.

The Searching For Manna blog will be an exploration of manna. What it is, what it does, what we think it is and does, and any single other thing I can think of that touches upon the subject.

Hope you’ll visit and enjoy it!
Karen

P.S. If you’d like to come along on my new adventures, here’s a link to Searching For Manna.

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I’ve sometimes seen a purple potato

And I always hope to see one

The only remaining question is

Is it better to see or eat one?

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Here’s a very interesting recipe: Cod with Lapsang Souchong Oil and Puree of Violettes

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For recipe, click on photo.

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Click here to view J.W. Buell Slideshow of ‘Sea and Land’ by stevelewalready (It’s possible to open this tab along with the music video at the same time . . . if you are so inclined – you’ll have to open another window. I rather enjoy the mix, myself.)

Welcome to the Jungle.

Hungry? Get your Sustainable Seafood Recipes right here.

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(Part Two of  A Tale of Two Lentils )
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Velveeta and Bob were a team when they went shopping. Bob was a special sort of dog, with powers beyond the usual sorts. He’d been the runt of a litter born to a well-known television personality bitch who’d co-starred in a 1950’s family comedy show. His mother had rejected him and her owners feared the worst: loss of income. For who would buy this little dog of the famous mother if word got around about this rejection? But Bob had made his own way, and in a surprising manner.

Bob had become a truffle dog. A self-trained truffle dog, to boot. Nobody knew exactly how it all started, but by his third month of life, Bob was digging up truffles where no truffles had ever been found before. This was in California, of course – so nobody was all that surprised, simply because, well . . . this was California, and all things were possible.

But Bob loved truffles so very much that when the ground was barren he took to attacking the refrigerator in the mansion where his owners lived part-time. It was the truffled pate he wanted, the truffle oil that was spooned onto scrambled eggs, the shaved truffles carefully saved for pasta. And this, was beyond the pale. Truffle-dog he may have been, but it was much more important to his owners that the refrigerator front surface remain pristine and elegant. So they took Bob to the pound, and that is where Velveeta found him – as she visited the poor strays to delight them with a few pounds of raw chicken livers left over from her latest cooking project.

She and Bob locked eyes the moment she entered the gated area, and that was that. History was made. Their love affair started with that one, single, startlingly instantaneous and knowing glance. She took him home that very day, only to discover his truffling skills upon entering her kitchen. Bob, without a moment’s hesitation pawed open her cupboard door and chewed apart a small tin of truffle shavings in oil.

Destiny. It could have been nothing else.

(To be continued . . .)

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Fructology. Why have I never heard of it before? Related to ayurvedism and humoral type-casting, but solely within the land of fruits.

Throughout the ages, women and men have sought to divine information about their past, present and future from the natural world. Quantum physicists have learnt that all things in the universe are interconnected, thus demonstrating the truth behind the science of Astrology. All over the planet, people read with awe the predictions made in their star-sign, moon-sign and sun-sign horoscopes. These accurate charts are created by the scientific interpretation of the relative positions and movements of the various Astral bodies within and without our Solar System. It is known that the planets affect the lives of  those born under them, as the pull of gravity affects the very molecules in our brains at the moments of birth and conception.

This science is, however, limited. The stars and planets are dead bodies – balls of rock or flaming gas, and nothing more. Something is missing. That something is the life-force itself. The Elan Vital, as it were. During his life-long search for the Truth, Doctor Barnett began to formulate the science of Fructology (or Fruit Signs) and it’s related science of Fructitherapy (fruit-based healing), based on the realisation that peoples from around the world exhibit minor modifications to their Astrological personality types. The one thing in common throughout the world, a thing which exemplifies the very essence of life itself, is fruit.
As the seasons roll across the face of the world trees, flowers, shrubs and hedges burst into life, expending their life-energies in the production of fruits.

Like people, fruit comes in all imaginable shapes, sizes, colours and textures.

There are eight fruit-life types, according to the website. I am going to try to find mine. If it affects my aura by the practice of eating the advised fruit-types, I’ll report back. Oh, in a month or so. I wonder what fruit-type I’ll turn out to be. I wonder what fruit-type you’ll turn out to be, too!

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Yes, I said “that”, not “what”.

Interesting article from The Economist, titled “What’s Cooking” from The American Association for the Advancement of Science. (Please do ignore the obvious capitalized letters and what they state in the shortening of that group’s name).

YOU are what you eat, or so the saying goes. But Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, believes that this is true in a more profound sense than the one implied by the old proverb. It is not just you who are what you eat, but the entire human species. And with Homo sapiens, what makes the species unique in Dr Wrangham’s opinion is that its food is so often cooked.

Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval.

In fact, as he outlined to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Chicago, he thinks that cooking and other forms of preparing food are humanity’s “killer app”: the evolutionary change that underpins all of the other—and subsequent—changes that have made people such unusual animals.

Sounds good to me. In fact, it reminds me of a poem.

We may live without poetry, music and
art;
We may live without conscience and live
without heart;
We may live without friends; we may
live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without
cooks.
He may live without books,-what is
knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope,- what is
hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,- what is
passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live
without dining?
Owen Meredith

Honestly, I got so excited about this idea that I just held out my hand to grasp my coffeecup and down a bit of the subtle delicious brew and was so focused on the page that I grabbed my pen and pencil pot instead, and almost swallowed a handful of sharp pencils and pens.

Uncooked.
That’s the worst part.

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I would not eat an axolotl
For fear he’d get stuck in my throatl

It wouldn’t matter that I was hungry
He’d make my tummy feel too jumbeley

I’ve decided that
(For me)
Eating axolotl-y
Would be sheerly vacuous glaxoluttony.

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How do we think of food? We think of it as something to eat, of course. We think of it as pretty pictures on a page – and the growing numbers of food pornographers, both amateur and professional, testifies to the immense hunger existing for viewing food this way.

We think of it as fodder when it is something we don’t like or don’t approve of (usually in this case it is always someone else’s food – not our own, of course!) Some think of food as a thing that describes who we are in a deep essential way – so much so that the oft-used quote ‘You are what you eat’ can almost be heard as a battle-cry sounded by a gathering tribe, fingers pointed as if sharpened spears.

Some of us think of food as a way to make money. Some of us who think of food in this way pretend not to. It’s important to pretend not to, or the sparkling glamour of it all may disperse into the everyday. And goodness knows that would be unfortunate, within how we think of food.

And of course food is a craft, an art, a political tool, a necessity, an economist’s important focal point. Food is memory, memory sad or pleasant or delightful and always memory that might be just the tad bit false, as memory can be.

One of the ways I like my food is when it is a character – when it gets a life, one with movement and passion quite aside from how it passively tastes and looks – a life where it does not lay in wait submissively to be gobbled up by the diner. When it stands up and becomes something alive – with every bit as much power to wield as any real person has (and each to their own levels and forms). I’m not talking singing bananas here, nor cute little tomatoes bouncing along batting their false eyelashes. There are other ways to be real.

Food is often used in writing as allegory or through metaphor. Allegoric or metaphoric use of food to strike meaning into the hearts and minds of readers has been effectively used in the Bible and in other texts preceding it. Foods are used to hint at beauty, at hubris, at the salacious, at the appetites man (or woman) may have for these things.

Just as common is the use of food as definer, in literature. One will understand who the characters are in the stories, by what they eat. Their social status, their personality, their aspirations, their cultural background . . . all can be known by just putting a plate with food on it right in front of them and watching their reactions.

But there are times when food is not the condiment to the story but rather the yeast. A vital, integral part, a living thing that moves the narrative forward – an unacknowledged yet essential character within the plot. In these cases, the food is not merely consumed to give the story flavor. Rather, it is a secret antagonist – or sometimes a false protagonist – in the story line. Not exactly a personification is the food in these cases, yet the relationship exists. A mysterious relationship, one of smoke, mirrors and imagination – but without this relationship how flat the entire narrative might become!

Three writers come to mind when I think of food getting a real life. M.F.K. Fisher’s strength as a writer (aside from her great ability to teach about foods ‘foreign’ to some and of ways to cook) was her use of food as symbol – but her incredible ability to express every strong human emotion through those foods brought the foods close to being alive. One could believe in the power of the foods every bit as much as one could believe in the power of any human person in her narratives.

Haruki Murakami often includes food in his writing. Three of his short stories – The Year of Spaghetti; The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes; Crabs – each of these stories offers the reader a look at how food can get a life through the author’s pen.

One food I’ve seen get a life is many people’s favorite way to start the day: coffee. In Mark Helprin‘s Memoir of Antproof Case it is coffee – not as something actually imbibed, not as a commodity bought or sold – but coffee as an idea so vital in the protagonist’s mind as to be as real as any actual person – that drives the story from fantastic start to magnificent end.

If you don’t know of any foods who have gotten real lives, try reading some of the above stories.

You may find that food is not just a pretty plate.

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A Tale of Two Lentils

Velveeta was a small round woman who didn’t know what to cook. When passing Velveeta on the street you might notice the faint aroma that rose from her – it was the scent of oranges, pickles, vanilla and sealing wax.

Velveeta always wore a sorry-looking old beige trench coat outside, except on rainy weekends. Then she and her dog Bob (named after ‘Bob’s your uncle!’ which Velveeta liked to chuckle out at Bob now and then as they walked to the market together) wore matching shiny bright red slickers. Velveeta’s high round pouf of rich mushroom-brown hair matched Bob’s flapping little dachshund ears just perfectly.

Each weekend they walked downtown together to the market to seek the perfect food. Walking along, Velveeta reminisced of days past – back in the small Italian village she’d lived in as a child. The fresh eggs from the happy chickens, the floury scent of the soft golden strings of pasta blending together with the scent of home-cured prosciutto as her grandmother stirred the pot of green-flecked menastre over the wood fire at the hearth . . . but wait. No. Those were not really her memories. Velveeta shook herself, momentarily remembering her skinny long-nosed mother and her fat father whose wedding ring was imbedded, almost invisible, on the rolls of his big finger and whose pants were always too short, too tight, back in the brick ranch house in the suburbs of Philly where she’d really grown up.

But what did that matter, after all. It was the food that mattered. The perfect food. If only it could be found, it would make the world a beautiful place. A place where everyone could live in harmony, just like the John Lennon song. Velveeta hummed her favorite part of the song as she walked along, and even Bob seemed to perk right up, his tiny sharp nails hitting the pavement in time.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you will join us
And the world will be as one

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(Part Two linked here)

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Glimmer Glitter – Food Masquerades

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It’s happened more than once to me, you know.

Food, pretending to be something else.

Trying to escape my clutches.

Masquerading as whatever it can think of nearby.

It’s like alchemy. Except that it is done by mental waves sent through the air to confuse those who would eat it. Sometimes it is even done by mistake, by the food . . . thinking that it is going to be eaten, it bends reality to suit it.

The first time it happened to me was when I was seven years old. I was in the garage, playing. Why was I in the garage? Who knows. In one hand I held a big black wax crayon, a huge one. In the other hand was my banana.

You know what happened. I took a big bite of the crayon.

At the time, I thought it was my mistake. A pretty funny one, too – even though the crayon tasted disgusting and I had to spit it out all over the garage floor.

But it has happened since then at other times. Today, in particular.

This ketchup bottle thought I was going to eat some ketchup, I guess – though I wasn’t. So when I picked it up it glittered and glimmered the air around me so that I thought it was the liquid dishwashing soap. I squirted it all over the sponge and almost scrubbed the saute pan with it.

Beware of food masquerades. They can appear when you least expect it.

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‘Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ 1557 – Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Breughel the Elder is, of course, a piece of art that tells a story – a proverbial story. And how vividly it does so!

Here is no paper-tray and cellophane-wrapped water-injected boneless white chicken breast for the distanced senses of the diner. This is life full-tilt – the sea thrashes, the men struggle with knives huge and dangerous, small and pointed. The fish flail and scramble, the boats toss. I can smell it. The sea, the innards of fish, the pungent dank liverish smell. The scales fly in the air to land on an exposed cheek, the fingers are numb and cold, slippery with fish.

It reminded me, actually, aside from these musings of life – of stuffed squid. The big fish shape sort of looked like a squid, and naturally all those little spouting fishes were the filling – which had to include anchovy as a matter of course.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed squid (calamari ripiene). It looks almost exactly like the one I  make, except I chop up the anchovies rather than use paste . . . and only three squid to stuff? No. I think they must be larger than the ones I can find. Plus the stuffing/filling needs a generous handful of chopped Italian parsley added to it.

It’s very good.

Lent is coming up. I wonder if it is as common as it used to be to dine upon fish rather than meat.

Certainly the process seems no gentler,  after gazing at the image above.

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Wiki Doodle Dandy has this to say about the dear man:

Švankmajer’s trademarks include very exaggerated sounds, often creating a very strange effect in all eating scenes. He often uses very sped-up sequences when people walk and interact. His movies often involve inanimate objects coming alive and being brought to life through stop-motion. Many of his films also include clay objects in stop-motion, otherwise known as Clay Animation. Food is a favourite subject and medium. Stop-motion features in most of his work, though recently his feature films have been including much more live action sequences rather than animation.

A lot of his movies, like the short film Down to the Cellar, are made from a child’s perspective, while at the same time often having a truly disturbing and even aggressive nature. In 1972 the communist authorities banned him from making films, and many of his later films were banned. He was almost unknown in the West until the early 1980s.

Today he is one of the most celebrated animators in the world. His best known works are probably the feature films Alice (1988), Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005), a surreal comic horror based on two works of Edgar Allan Poe and the life of Marquis de Sade. The two stories by Poe, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” and “The Premature Burial”, provide Lunacy its thematic focus, whereas the life of Marquis de Sade provides the film’s blasphemy. Also famous (and much imitated) is the short Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), selected by Terry Gilliam as one of the ten best animated films of all time.[2] His films have been called “as emotionally haunting as Kafka’s stories [3]

If one meal is not enough, there is more to watch on YouTube. Just whistle. You do know how to whistle, don’t you?

Just pucker up and blooooooooowwwwwww

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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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“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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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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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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(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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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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