Posts tagged ‘Food’

January 1, 2014

The Ham — Edouard Manet

by Biblioklept

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November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving (Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes) — Norman Rockwell

by Biblioklept

March 26, 2013

“On Eating and Drinking” — Jerome K. Jerome

by Biblioklept

I always was fond of eating and drinking, even as a child—especially eating, in those early days. I had an appetite then, also a digestion. I remember a dull-eyed, livid-complexioned gentleman coming to dine at our house once. He watched me eating for about five minutes, quite fascinated seemingly, and then he turned to my father with—

“Does your boy ever suffer from dyspepsia?”

“I never heard him complain of anything of that kind,” replied my father. “Do you ever suffer from dyspepsia, Colly wobbles?” (They called me Colly wobbles, but it was not my real name.)

“No, pa,” I answered. After which I added:

“What is dyspepsia, pa?”

My livid-complexioned friend regarded me with a look of mingled amazement and envy. Then in a tone of infinite pity he slowly said:

“You will know—some day.”

My poor, dear mother used to say she liked to see me eat, and it has always been a pleasant reflection to me since that I must have given her much gratification in that direction. A growing, healthy lad, taking plenty of exercise and careful to restrain himself from indulging in too much study, can generally satisfy the most exacting expectations as regards his feeding powers.

It is amusing to see boys eat when you have not got to pay for it. Their idea of a square meal is a pound and a half of roast beef with five or six good-sized potatoes (soapy ones preferred as being more substantial), plenty of greens, and four thick slices of Yorkshire pudding, followed by a couple of currant dumplings, a few green apples, a pen’orth of nuts, half a dozen jumbles, and a bottle of ginger-beer. After that they play at horses.

How they must despise us men, who require to sit quiet for a couple of hours after dining off a spoonful of clear soup and the wing of a chicken!

But the boys have not all the advantages on their side. A boy never enjoys the luxury of being satisfied. A boy never feels full. He can never stretch out his legs, put his hands behind his head, and, closing his eyes, sink into the ethereal blissfulness that encompasses the well-dined man. A dinner makes no difference whatever to a boy. To a man it is as a good fairy’s potion, and after it the world appears a brighter and a better place. A man who has dined satisfactorily experiences a yearning love toward all his fellow-creatures. He strokes the cat quite gently and calls it “poor pussy,” in tones full of the tenderest emotion. He sympathizes with the members of the German band outside and wonders if they are cold; and for the moment he does not even hate his wife’s relations.

A good dinner brings out all the softer side of a man. Under its genial influence the gloomy and morose become jovial and chatty. Sour, starchy individuals, who all the rest of the day go about looking as if they lived on vinegar and Epsom salts, break out into wreathed smiles after dinner, and exhibit a tendency to pat small children on the head and to talk to them—vaguely—about sixpences. Serious men thaw and become mildly cheerful, and snobbish young men of the heavy-mustache type forget to make themselves objectionable.

I always feel sentimental myself after dinner. It is the only time when I can properly appreciate love-stories. Then, when the hero clasps “her” to his heart in one last wild embrace and stifles a sob, I feel as sad as though I had dealt at whist and turned up only a deuce; and when the heroine dies in the end I weep. If I read the same tale early in the morning I should sneer at it. Digestion, or rather indigestion, has a marvelous effect upon the heart. If I want to write any thing very pathetic—I mean, if I want to try to write anything very pathetic—I eat a large plateful of hot buttered muffins about an hour beforehand, and then by the time I sit down to my work a feeling of unutterable melancholy has come over me. I picture heartbroken lovers parting forever at lonely wayside stiles, while the sad twilight deepens around them, and only the tinkling of a distant sheep-bell breaks the sorrow-laden silence. Old men sit and gaze at withered flowers till their sight is dimmed by the mist of tears. Little dainty maidens wait and watch at open casements; but “he cometh not,” and the heavy years roll by and the sunny gold tresses wear white and thin. The babies that they dandled have become grown men and women with podgy torments of their own, and the playmates that they laughed with are lying very silent under the waving grass. But still they wait and watch, till the dark shadows of the unknown night steal up and gather round them and the world with its childish troubles fades from their aching eyes.

I see pale corpses tossed on white-foamed waves, and death-beds stained with bitter tears, and graves in trackless deserts. I hear the wild wailing of women, the low moaning of little children, the dry sobbing of strong men. It’s all the muffins. I could not conjure up one melancholy fancy upon a mutton chop and a glass of champagne.

A full stomach is a great aid to poetry, and indeed no sentiment of any kind can stand upon an empty one. We have not time or inclination to indulge in fanciful troubles until we have got rid of our real misfortunes. We do not sigh over dead dicky-birds with the bailiff in the house, and when we do not know where on earth to get our next shilling from, we do not worry as to whether our mistress’ smiles are cold, or hot, or lukewarm, or anything else about them.

Foolish people—when I say “foolish people” in this contemptuous way I mean people who entertain different opinions to mine. If there is one person I do despise more than another, it is the man who does not think exactly the same on all topics as I do—foolish people, I say, then, who have never experienced much of either, will tell you that mental distress is far more agonizing than bodily. Romantic and touching theory! so comforting to the love-sick young sprig who looks down patronizingly at some poor devil with a white starved face and thinks to himself, “Ah, how happy you are compared with me!”—so soothing to fat old gentlemen who cackle about the superiority of poverty over riches. But it is all nonsense—all cant. An aching head soon makes one forget an aching heart. A broken finger will drive away all recollections of an empty chair. And when a man feels really hungry he does not feel anything else.

We sleek, well-fed folk can hardly realize what feeling hungry is like. We know what it is to have no appetite and not to care for the dainty victuals placed before us, but we do not understand what it means to sicken for food—to die for bread while others waste it—to gaze with famished eyes upon coarse fare steaming behind dingy windows, longing for a pen’orth of pea pudding and not having the penny to buy it—to feel that a crust would be delicious and that a bone would be a banquet.

Hunger is a luxury to us, a piquant, flavor-giving sauce. It is well worth while to get hungry and thirsty merely to discover how much gratification can be obtained from eating and drinking. If you wish to thoroughly enjoy your dinner, take a thirty-mile country walk after breakfast and don’t touch anything till you get back. How your eyes will glisten at sight of the white table-cloth and steaming dishes then! With what a sigh of content you will put down the empty beer tankard and take up your knife and fork! And how comfortable you feel afterward as you push back your chair, light a cigar, and beam round upon everybody.

Make sure, however, when adopting this plan, that the good dinner is really to be had at the end, or the disappointment is trying. I remember once a friend and I—dear old Joe, it was. Ah! how we lose one another in life’s mist. It must be eight years since I last saw Joseph Taboys. How pleasant it would be to meet his jovial face again, to clasp his strong hand, and to hear his cheery laugh once more! He owes me 14 shillings, too. Well, we were on a holiday together, and one morning we had breakfast early and started for a tremendous long walk. We had ordered a duck for dinner over night. We said, “Get a big one, because we shall come home awfully hungry;” and as we were going out our landlady came up in great spirits. She said, “I have got you gentlemen a duck, if you like. If you get through that you’ll do well;” and she held up a bird about the size of a door-mat. We chuckled at the sight and said we would try. We said it with self-conscious pride, like men who know their own power. Then we started.

We lost our way, of course. I always do in the country, and it does make me so wild, because it is no use asking direction of any of the people you meet. One might as well inquire of a lodging-house slavey the way to make beds as expect a country bumpkin to know the road to the next village. You have to shout the question about three times before the sound of your voice penetrates his skull. At the third time he slowly raises his head and stares blankly at you. You yell it at him then for a fourth time, and he repeats it after you. He ponders while you count a couple of hundred, after which, speaking at the rate of three words a minute, he fancies you “couldn’t do better than—” Here he catches sight of another idiot coming down the road and bawls out to him the particulars, requesting his advice. The two then argue the case for a quarter of an hour or so, and finally agree that you had better go straight down the lane, round to the right and cross by the third stile, and keep to the left by old Jimmy Milcher’s cow-shed, and across the seven-acre field, and through the gate by Squire Grubbin’s hay-stack, keeping the bridle-path for awhile till you come opposite the hill where the windmill used to be—but it’s gone now—and round to the right, leaving Stiggin’s plantation behind you; and you say “Thank you” and go away with a splitting headache, but without the faintest notion of your way, the only clear idea you have on the subject being that somewhere or other there is a stile which has to be got over; and at the next turn you come upon four stiles, all leading in different directions!

October 4, 2012

“Lobster,” a Poem by Anne Sexton

by Biblioklept

 

“Lobster” by Anne Sexton:

A shoe with legs,
a stone dropped from heaven,
he does his mournful work alone,
he is the old prospector for golf,
with secret dreams of God-heads and fish heads.
Until suddenly a cradle fastens round him
and his is trapped as the U.S.A. sleeps.
Somewhere far off a woman lights a cigarette;
somewhere far off a car goes over a bridge;
somewhere far off a bank is held up.
This is the world the lobster knows not of.
He is the old hunting dog of the sea
who in the morning will rise from it
and be undrowned
and they will take his perfect green body
and paint it red

(Thanks Jescie).

 

June 18, 2012

Despair/Food (Books Acquired 6.08.2012)

by Biblioklept

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 Dead Man Working is the latest from Carl Cederström (whose discussions with Simon Critchley became How to Stop Living and Start Worrying) and Peter Fleming. The book explores the existential despair of workers in our post-capitalist age. (It’s funnier than that description might suggest). Publisher Zer0′s blurb:

Capitalism has become strange. Ironically, while the ‘age of work’ seems to have come to an end, working has assumed a total presence – a ‘worker’s society’ in the worst sense of the term – where everyone finds themselves obsessed with it. So what does the worker tell us today? ‘I feel drained, empty – dead’; This book tells the story of the dead man working. It follows this figure through the daily tedium of the office, to the humiliating mandatory team building exercise, to awkward encounters with the funky boss who pretends to hate capitalism and tells you to be authentic. In this society, the experience of work is not of dying…but neither of living. It is one of a living death. And yet, the dead man working is nevertheless compelled to wear the exterior signs of life, to throw a pretty smile, feign enthusiasm and make a half-baked joke. When the corporation has colonized life itself, even our dreams, the question of escape becomes ever more pressing, ever more desperate.

Full review on deck.

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Yes, Chef is Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir. If that name sounds familiar, you might recognize his face:

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Publisher Random House’s blurb:

Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister—all battling tuberculosis—walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus’s new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up.

Yes, Chef chronicles Marcus Samuelsson’s remarkable journey from Helga’s humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson’s career of  “chasing flavors,” as he calls it, had only just begun—in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.

With disarming honesty and intimacy, Samuelsson also opens up about his failures—the price of ambition, in human terms—and recounts his emotional journey, as a grown man, to meet the father he never knew. Yes, Chef is a tale of personal discovery, unshakable determination, and the passionate, playful pursuit of flavors—one man’s struggle to find a place for himself in the kitchen, and in the world.

March 30, 2012

“Thought We’d Cook Up Some Snake” — A Recipe from Harry Crews

by Biblioklept

A passage from Harry Crews’s novel A Feast of Snakes:

When they got to his purple double-wide, Joe Lon skinned snakes in a frenzy. He picked up the snakes by the tails as he dipped them out of the metal drums and swung them around and around his head and then popped them like a cowwhip, which caused their heads to explode. Then he nailed them up on a board in the pen and skinned them out with a pair of wire pliers. Elfie was standing in the door of the trailer behind them with a baby on her hip. Full of beer and fascinated with what Joe Lon could feel—or thought he could—the weight of her gaze on his back while he popped and skinned the snakes. He finally turned and looked at her, pulling his lips back from his teeth in a smile that only shamed him.

He called across the yard to her. “Thought we’d cook up some snake and stuff, darlin, have ourselves a feast.”

Her face brightened in the door and she said: “Course we can, Joe Lon, honey.”

Elfie brought him a pan and Joe Lon cut the snakes into half-inch steaks. Duffy turned to Elfie and said: “My name is Duffy Deeter and this is something fine. Want to tell me how you cook up snakes?”

Elfie smiled, trying not to show her teeth. “It’s lots of ways. Way I do mostly is I soak’m in vinegar about ten minutes, drain’m off good, and sprinkle me a little Looseanner redhot on’m, roll’m in flour, and fry’m is the way I mostly do.”

December 12, 2011

“27 Sounds Manufactured in a Kitchen” — John Cage

by Biblioklept
November 23, 2011

James Joyce’s Burnt Kidney Breakfast

by Biblioklept

Another entry in our ongoing series of literary recipes to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Leopold Bloom, hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses likes kidneys for breakfast. In fact–

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

Okay, so there’s not much to this recipe. First, you’ve gotta buy the kidney–

A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. He stood by the nextdoor girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand? Chapped: washingsoda. And a pound and a half of Denny’s sausages.

Then you cook it with some butter in a frying pan (don’t forget to share with the cat, and don’t forget the pepper)–

While he unwrapped the kidney the cat mewed hungrily against him. Give her too much meat she won’t mouse. Say they won’t eat pork. Kosher. Here. He let the bloodsmeared paper fall to her and dropped the kidney amid the sizzling butter sauce. Pepper. He sprinkled it through his fingers ringwise from the chipped eggcup.

Then take your lazy adulterous wife her breakfast that you’ve lovingly prepared for her (she’ll need her strength for later). Oh, and don’t forget about the kidney that’s still cooking for you (unless you’re making some kind of subconscious symbolic burnt offering or something)–

—There’s a smell of burn, she said. Did you leave anything on the fire?

—The kidney! he cried suddenly.

He fitted the book roughly into his inner pocket and, stubbing his toes against the broken commode, hurried out towards the smell, stepping hastily down the stairs with a flurried stork’s legs. Pungent smoke shot up in an angry jet from a side of the pan. By prodding a prong of the fork under the kidney he detached it and turned it turtle on its back. Only a little burnt. He tossed it off the pan on to a plate and let the scanty brown gravy trickle over it.

Enjoy with gravy, toast, and a cup of tea–

Cup of tea now. He sat down, cut and buttered a slice of the loaf. He shore away the burnt flesh and flung it to the cat. Then he put a forkful into his mouth, chewing with discernment the toothsome pliant meat. Done to a turn. A mouthful of tea. Then he cut away dies of bread, sopped one in the gravy and put it in his mouth. What was that about some young student and a picnic? He creased out the letter at his side, reading it slowly as he chewed, sopping another die of bread in the gravy and raising it to his mouth.

He sopped other dies of bread in the gravy and ate piece after piece of kidney.

November 22, 2011

Herman Melville’s Whale Steaks

by Biblioklept

Another entry in our ongoing series of literary recipes to celebrate Thanksgiving.

In Chapter LXIV of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Stubb, second mate of the Pequod, demands whale steaks for dinner. He’s not happy with how the cook has prepared the steaks though, complaining they are too tender and overdone — his taste is closer to the sharks who are making a racket outside the ship–

“Cook,” said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his mouth, ” don’t you think this steak is rather overdone? You’ve been beating this steak too much, cook; it’s too tender. Don’t I always say that to be good, a whalesteak must be tough? There are those sharks now over the side, don’t you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to ‘em; tell ‘em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take this lantern,” snatching one from his sideboard; ” now, then, go and preach to ‘em! “

Stubb then instructs the cook on the best way to prepare whale steaks, a process involving a hot live coal. Oh, and he likes his fins pickled and his flukes soused–

“Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad, that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don’t you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private table here, the capstan, I’ll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d’ye hear? And now to-morrow, cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go.”

November 22, 2011

Zora Neale Hurston’s Mulatto Rice

by Biblioklept

[Editorial note: We originally ran a version of this post in November of 2009. We're republishing it as part of a series celebrating Thanksgiving, featuring recipes and food from some of our favorite books].

At the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie returns from the Everglades to Eatonville in ragged overalls to a gossipy and unwelcoming town. The one exception is her best friend Phoeby, who brings Janie a “heaping plate of mulatto rice.” Janie gobbles up the simple, delicious meal, even as Phoeby notes that it “ain’t so good dis time. Not enough bacon grease.” She does however concede that “it’ll kill hongry.” No doubt.

We’ve always been intrigued by mulatto rice. What could it be? Is the dish still around today, but under a new name? Although the term “mulatto” has fallen into disuse, and perhaps distaste (just ask Larry David if you don’t believe us), organizations like mulatto.org have also taken a certain ownership of it. For Hurston, mulatto rice is a positive thing. Hurston could have had Phoeby bring any number of dishes to her friend Janie, so it’s telling that she chooses “mulatto rice” as a homecoming meal. The dish represents a communion, an admixture that reflects Janie’s multiracial identity as well as her resistance to gender-typing. “Mulatto” is also probably etymologically akin to the word “mule,” and if you’ve read Eyes, you know that mules are a major motif in the story. But enough literazin’.

Down to the nitty-gritty–we made up a mess of mulatto rice tonight thanks to a recipe from The Savannah Cook Book by Harriet Ross Colquitt. Not that we found this 1933 cookbook ourselves. No, the real merit here goes to the very cool website Take One Cookbook, which explores the history and culture and sociology behind old, weird cookbooks–all while making the recipes. Colquitt’s recipe, via Wendy at Take One Cookbook (see Wendy’s versionhere):

Mulatto Rice

This is the very chic name given to rice with a touch of the tarbrush.

Fry squares of breakfast bacon and remove from the pan. Then brown some minced onion (one small one) in this grease, and add one pint can of tomatoes. When thoroughly hot, add a pint of rice to this mixture, and cook very slowly until the rice is done. Or, if you are in a hurry, cold rice may be substituted, and all warmed thoroughly together.

The rice is very easy to make and very, very tasty. We substituted green onions for a small onion, and used a hickory-smoked bacon that infused the rice with a lovely sweetness (we also included a tablespoon of brown sugar right after the tomatoes). We served the dish, pictured above, with ham steaks and fried green tomatoes with a spicy yogurt sauce. Hearty and rich and satisfying–just the sort of thing one wants to eat after a soul-searching quest (or maybe just a long day). Recommended.

November 21, 2011

Robert Crumb’s Favorite Macaroni Casserole

by Biblioklept

(Via).

October 11, 2011

Recipe Comix

by Biblioklept

Great collection of recipe comix at Saveur magazine. Marvelous stuff. A few choice panels, plucked not entirely but still somewhat at random—

Eli Valley

Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt

Emily Horne

 

 

March 24, 2011

Sam Lipsyte Makes Pork Buns, Considers Placentophagy

by Biblioklept
January 9, 2011

Pig Earth — John Berger

by noquar

People exaggerate the changes in nature so as to make nature seem lighter. Nature resists change. If something changes, nature waits to see whether the change can continue, and it it can’t, it crushes it with all its weight!  Ten thousand years ago the trout in the stream would have been exactly the same as today.

Stasis and disruption and the relation between people and their natural and urban surroundings are the themes John Berger writes about in his 1979 collection of essays, poems and short stories, Pig Earth.  Having moved from England, where he enjoyed considerable renown as an art critic and fiction writer, to the peasant villages of the French Alps, Berger settled into his role as an active participant in rural life, not only turning hay but observing and documenting the disappearance of a way of a once-pervasive mode of life.  Pig Earth was one result of his labors, the first book of a trilogy that took some fifteen-odd years to complete, a moving but not uncritical account of humanity’s struggle to conquer nature by symbiosis.

Maybe symbiosis isn’t the proper term if we agree that humanity is part of nature’s whole, but Berger juxtaposes the frailty of humanity with the earth’s uncaring and often violent strength.  Survival for the family of the subsistence farmer depends upon that family’s ability to tend to the needs of the plant and animal world (as well as more than a little bit of luck).  In the collection’s first true story, “A Calf Remembered,” a baby cow is delivered on a dark winter’s night. Here, Berger stresses the protections that nature and man have designed to ensure the survival of a young, vulnerable animal:  mucus, barn, salt, and sense.  The human spends his night in the barn protecting his property because it provides him not only with sustenance in the forms of milk and meat, but also companionship and a sense of duty.  When daily living requires acts that might mean life or death, the conscious and the instinct converge.

He sat on a milking stool in the dark.  With his head in his hands, his breathing was indistinguishable from that of the cows. The stable itself was like the inside of an animal.  Breath, water, cud were entering it:  wind, piss, shit were leaving.

Pig Earth is a book worth studying as people attempt to make sense of a world transitioning from one type of living to another and fuss over the sources of their own limited strength and vitality. Berger may not have been looking to pioneer a slow-living locavore lifestyle, but his subjects worry about their increasing isolation from the circles of power and industry.  They fret over the pointlessness of passing their knowledge to their children who need entirely different skills to survive in the rapidly encroaching urban wage economy.  In “The Value of Money” a father refuses a tractor, branded “The Liberator” by the manufacturer, that his son has purchased for him because it will render his faithful work-horse obsolete.  This same farmer kidnaps local tax officials because they want to confiscate the products of his labor without compensation for value that he exclusively created.  Unable to make them understand their wrongdoing, he sets them free because “you can only take revenge on those who are your own.”

The final story, “The Three Lives of Lucy Cabrol,” is the lengthiest and perhaps most poignant narrative in the book. It follows the life of a bright, tenacious, physically stunted woman as she grows from young girl to town outcast.  While Berger admired much of the life in the peasant village, he would fail in his duty as critic and chronicler if he ignored its darker sides. Berger often sets the title character’s pluck against the resignation and superstition endemic to village life. When life requires struggle, most people choose to hoard.  When poor choices may lead to death or family hardship, capitulation to those in power, whether those rulers be the town’s big man or Nazi collaborators, can often seem the only obvious choice.  Lucy shows us that cowardice, no matter the circumstances, only seems easy. Pig Earth is highly recommended.

December 8, 2010

Truman Capote’s Caviar-Smothered Baked Potatoes with 80-Proof Russian Vodka (and Other Literary Recipes)

by Biblioklept

Cool post over at Flavorwire on authors’ favorite foods — we like Truman Capote’s baked potato lunch the best:

Though Truman Capote’s writing was mostly occupied with social dealings, he managed to find time to write a forward to Myrna Davis’ The Potato Book, a cookbook penned to raise funds for a Long Island day school. In his brief contribution, Capote offers a recipe for what he describes as “my one and only most delicious ever potato lunch.” In a tribute to the then existing potato fields of Long Island, the recipe called for a baked potato smothered in sour cream and caviar, then paired with a chilled bottle of 80-proof Russian vodka.

Read our list of literary recipes here.

November 20, 2009

Bibliokitchen: Mulatto Rice

by Biblioklept

At the beginning of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie returns from the Everglades to Eatonville in ragged overalls to a gossipy and unwelcoming town. The one exception is her best friend Phoeby, who brings Janie a “heaping plate of mulatto rice.” Janie gobbles up the simple, delicious meal, even as Phoeby notes that it “ain’t so good dis time. Not enough bacon grease.” She does however concede that “it’ll kill hongry.” No doubt.

We’ve always been intrigued by mulatto rice. What could it be? Is the dish still around today, but under a new name? Although the term “mulatto” has fallen into disuse, and perhaps distaste (just ask Larry David if you don’t believe us), organizations like mulatto.org have also taken a certain ownership of it. For Hurston, mulatto rice is a positive thing. Hurston could have had Phoeby bring any number of dishes to her friend Janie, so it’s telling that she chooses “mulatto rice” as a homecoming meal. The dish represents a communion, an admixture that reflects Janie’s multiracial identity as well as her resistance to gender-typing. “Mulatto” is also probably etymologically akin to the word “mule,” and if you’ve read Eyes, you know that mules are a major motif in the story. But enough literazin’.

Down to the nitty-gritty–we made up a mess of mulatto rice tonight thanks to a recipe from The Savannah Cook Book by Harriet Ross Colquitt. Not that we found this 1933 cookbook ourselves. No, the real merit here goes to the very cool website Take One Cookbook, which explores the history and culture and sociology behind old, weird cookbooks–all while making the recipes. Colquitt’s recipe, via Wendy at Take One Cookbook (see Wendy’s version here):

Mulatto Rice

This is the very chic name given to rice with a touch of the tarbrush.

Fry squares of breakfast bacon and remove from the pan. Then brown some minced onion (one small one) in this grease, and add one pint can of tomatoes. When thoroughly hot, add a pint of rice to this mixture, and cook very slowly until the rice is done. Or, if you are in a hurry, cold rice may be substituted, and all warmed thoroughly together.

The rice is very easy to make and very, very tasty. We substituted green onions for a small onion, and used a hickory-smoked bacon that infused the rice with a lovely sweetness (we also included a tablespoon of brown sugar right after the tomatoes). We served the dish, pictured above, with ham steaks and fried green tomatoes with a spicy yogurt sauce. Hearty and rich and satisfying–just the sort of thing one wants to eat after a soul-searching quest (or maybe just a long day). Recommended.

May 6, 2009

The Ramen King and I — Andy Raskin

by Edwin Turner

ramenking550hshadow

In his new memoir The Ramen King and I, Andy Raskin connects sex, desire, Japanese culture, and instant noodles in an often funny, sometimes poignant, and ultimately redemptive narrative that memoir-enthusiasts (and Japanese food fans) will enjoy. Raskin’s narrative works along several tracks that eventually intertwine. The book begins with Raskin’s obsession over Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant ramen (and gifted inspirational author, to boot), backtracking in time to slowly reveal just how a kid from Long Island got to be so wound up in the writings and philosophy of an ancient Japanese businessman. Raskin balances a straightforward, chronological narrative with intensely personal letters (supposedly) written to Momofuku. These letters often read like diary entries and help to expose the core of Raskin’s dilemma: in short, he’s an emotionally detached womanizer with extreme fears of commitment (in some of the memoir’s skeevier sections, we’re treated to Raskin’s descriptions of making “dates” via Craigslist). Raskin relates his life as a tech and business writer, and his frequent trips to Japan. Eventually, after a chance encounter in a sushi bar, Raskin enters the strange world of ramen, a world that eventually leads him to Momofuku, whose zen writings in turn lead Raskin to a transcendental breakthrough.

Raskin lets his audience get to know Momofuku too, both through the narrative proper and also through short, scattered sections titled “A Very Brief History of Momofuku.” Each part delivers another pithy bit of wisdom from the ramen master (who, strangely enough, invented instant noodles in a wood shack in his back yard). It’s easy to see why Raskin admires Momofuku, especially when we’re treated to a koan like “In a line, you can see the desires of the world” (to clarify, Momofuku is referring to a queue). Raskin’s descriptions actually make readers want to pick up Mr. Ando’s books–who could resist a chapter title like “I Am a Salad Bar Man,” from Momofuku’s collection of food essays Praise the Appetite. Indeed, the best parts of The Ramen King and I center around food and Japanese culture. Raskin is particularly passionate when describing his favorite semi-secret sushi spot (in one of the book’s saddest moments, he’s banned–this only helps to facilitate that redemptive arc, though, folks); the book also shines when Raskin details the rigmarole of the ordering ritual at Ramen Jiro–a Tokyo ramen shop complete with its own shaming ceremonies. Raskin’s evocations of sushi and ramen manga also fascinates. I lived in Tokyo long enough myself to know that the Japanese have comic books about everything, but I must admit I was still surprised by the range of sushi comics Raskin describes. He also takes one of the books major thematic cues from a Japanese game show called Go Forth, where the young hosts blurt out “I wanna _____!” and fill in that blank with a random phrase; they then go attempt to fulfill their task.

On the other hand, the parts of The Ramen King and I which center on Raskin’s relationships with women often drag, or at least blur into each other. Raskin seems to understand his “ex-girl to the next-girl” mentality is detrimental to his mental health, but he’s rarely reflective about it in a meaningful way, and he certainly doesn’t attempt to plumb its roots. However, he often admits as much, pointing out that the details he remembers from relationships–even long term ones–tend to be pretty ephemeral (and, not coincidentally, attached to food). On the whole though, Raskin’s book reads at a quick, easily digestible pace without resorting to the clichés or stock phrasing that often plague memoirs. Sure, the book follows a pretty predictable pattern of fall and redemption, but it does so in a manner that enlightens without being didactic. Memoir fans, foodies, and anyone interested in contemporary Japanese culture will likely enjoy The Ramen King and I. Recommended.

The Ramen King and I is available May 7th, 2009 from Gotham/Penguin.

November 12, 2008

The Tenth Muse — Judith Jones

by Edwin Turner

tenth-muse

Judith Jones’s memoir The Tenth Muse, aptly subtitled My Life in Food, chronicles the life of one of the most influential foodies you’ve never heard of. The book moves quickly through Jones’s terse blueblooded Vermont childhood, through her time at Bennington College, and her first trip to Paris, all the while keeping Jones’s passion for food as its focus. This passion leads her to move to Paris after her college days, where she and future husband (and fellow writer) Evan Jones can eat pâté to their hearts’ content while palling around with writers, artists, and other beautiful people (even Balthus pops up in her narrative here). After some years of bohemian bliss, Jones returns to the U.S. to champion Julia Child, working hard to get her seminal cook book Mastering the Art of French Cooking to an American audience (she also manages to get The Diary of Anne Frank translated for publication as well). Shocked at the paltry selection of fresh foods in New York City, Jones and her now-husband Evan learn to make many of the fine French foods they enjoyed in their Paris days. At the same time, they continue to introduce a wider audience of Americans to cooks like James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher and Edna Lewis. Through it all, food (rich, thick, luscious French food) remains the primary focus, with the art of writing–and editing–a close second. Jones’s narrative abounds with anecdotes of chefs (Claudia Roden, Lidia Bastianich), editors, and writers (Camus, Capote, Updike), but readers who pine for psychological introspection or juicy melodrama won’t find much to chew on here.

Jones tends to gloss over information that most memoirs would milk for maximum drama. Evan was married when she first began living with him, a fact that would’ve scandalized many women in the 1950s but here goes largely unremarked. Two teenage children are adopted with little explanation or follow-up. Even the focus of Jones’s mastectomy returns to food, her pre-op meal, which Evans sneaks in to the hospital (“good pâté de campagne, some ripe cheese, a baguette, and a bottle of wine”). Also, readers who tend to pay attention to matters of class and economics might find Jones’s complete lack of self-reflection on how her wealth and background have allowed her to live and eat so richly a bit distasteful, particularly when she rails against the state of the modern American kitchen (too unused, or too full of processed, “quick and easy solutions.” Jones would have us killing and dressing beavers we catch on our vast estates, apparently. (Relax, I’m exaggerating (although she does prepare a beaver her son-in-law shoots)–but seriously, preparing a duck for dinner is not nearly as easy as she cheerily suggests)). But ultimately in The Tenth Muse, such lack of reflection simply leaves room for the food, which is really why you want to read this book anyway.

Jones caps off her book with over 80 pages of recipes, lovingly arranged in their own sort of narrative, one that parallels her life story. Jones includes favorite dishes from her early youth (“Spaghetti and Cheese”), plenty of French favorites (“Boudin Blanc,” simple “Baguettes,” “Brains with a Mustard Coating”), and recipes from her country estate (“Gooseberry Tart”). The selection of recipes at the end, “Cooking for One,” inspired by her continued love of complex cooking even after the death of her husband, is particularly poignant (Jones includes seven things to make from one duck).

The Tenth Muse may not meet the usual memoir-reader’s needs for salacious detail or analytical introspection, but those who simply want a glimpse into the life of an influential foodie–and some great recipes to boot–will not be disappointed. Recommended.

The Tenth Muse is now available in paperback from Anchor Books.

September 3, 2008

Caged Bedouins, Uruguayan Cannibals, Mr. Max Tundra, Absent Adventurer Anniversary, and a Few Morsels of Hurricane Lit

by Biblioklept

Attention:

1. Friends of the ‘klept have embarked on a new culinary adventure. Read all about it at brand new blog Confined Nomad. Their mission:

The goal of this journey is to find cuisines from every United Nations member state, within New York City limits, in alphabetical order. We realize that there are a few flaws to this logic, and will make every attempt to handle these wisely when we reach a questionable issue. For instance, cuisines are not defined by the UN. There are regional specialties, there are countries not internationally recognized, there are border disputes, and new countries are being formed all the time . . . This blog will serve as documentation of the adventure, in which we will do our best to describe not only the food we eat, but also things we learn about its nation of origin, culture, and the immigrant communities here in New York City. We hope this will be much more than a food blog.

The virgin entries on Afghanistan and Albania are tasty fare (sorry!) and we’re looking forward to plenty more delectable treats (yikes! sorry again!).

2. We finally saw Frank Marshall’s 1993 film Alive this weekend. Alive, based on Piers Paul Read’s book of the same name, tells the true story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash of October 13, 1972, in which a Uruguayan rugby team’s chartered flight crashes in the Andes. The survivors eventually resort to cannibalizing the dead to survive (let’s see what happens when Confined Nomad gets to ‘U’ on their list). Despite plenty of strange flaws, including egregious over-acting, the film is oddly great. An intense, chest-tightening narrative that offers few moments of relief, Alive is a real-life horror movie masquerading as an adventure tale. Recommended.

3. With distinguished Englishman Max Tundra’s new album Parallax Error Beheads You ready to drop any day now (glowing review forthcoming), we thought we’d bring up the greatness of his last CD, Mastered by Guy at the Exchange. Max’s MBGATE was easily one of our favorite albums of the early aughties. Weird and tuneful and splendid and frenetic, MBGATE is a neglected classic, perhaps due to its unclassifiable sound. Max programs old Amigas, plays dozens of instruments, and sings along with his sister on a strange group of songs about Michel Gondry, delivery jobs, amino acids, the break up of Don Caballero (with Storm & Stress as consolation prize), and, uh, girls. We love it and so should you. His website is awesome, by the way.

4. Today marks the one-year anniversary of gazillionaire adventurer Steve Fossett disappearing along with his single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon airplane. We don’t think Fossett is dead, and neither, apparently, does Chris Irvine, who speculated in the Telegraph that Fossett faked his own death. We now invite our readers, again, to speculate on the whereabouts of Mr. Fossett. Check out our Steve Fossett Fan Fiction Contest blog for all the details!

5. Down here in The Florida, we continue to have hurricane concerns. And, because this blog likes to masquerade as a a literary affair, we offer a few lines from books on the subject:

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act 3 scene 2, we find one of the earliest usages of the word hurricane in the English language:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

Bit of a drama queen, Lear, what with all these apocalyptic fantasies. Speaking of drama queens, how about the opening lines of Walt Whitman’s “With Husky-haughty Lips, O Sea!”:

With husky-haughty lips, O sea!
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Thy ample, smiling face, dash’d with the sparkling dimples of the sun,
Thy brooding scowl and murk–thy unloos’d hurricanes,
Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness

Fanciful stuff. For a less romanticized description, might we suggest the end of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, where a massive hurricane turns Lake Okeechobee into a “monstropolous beast,” a monster that floods the streets and destroys homes. Stay away, Hannah.

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