Taking Tea with Gordon Lish

Ready? I take my tea bag (or you take your teaspoon), one bag or one spoon for each five ounces of water, which is cold when I start and boiling up a rumpus before I pour, which I do, into a teapot that’s already hot, which condition of temperature is crucial.

 

So I pour furiously boiling water into good and hot teapot over bags or over loose tea or over bags or over tea bomb, slam top down, wrap entire business in dish towel, which is what I saw my mother do during the blizzard of ’46 and it made a tremendous impression on me, she being my mother and all. I understand some people are willing to buy a tea cosy—but, so far as I’m concerned, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

 

Anyhow, it sits for five minutes—you know, it steeps. If the waiting makes you edgy, go fold some paper bags. The next step is the last step, which is to hurry up and divide the product from its makings. Well, truth to tell, there is one more step—but that’s drinking it, drinking tea—which is a step I’m going to get around to, all in good time. When coffee scoots up over a sawbuck a can.

From Gordon Lish’s 1977 piece in The New York Times, “A Teaser on Tea, with a Footnote on Bags.” By way of context for that last line: the price of coffee soared in 1977 after a harsh freeze killed Brazilian crops. High coffee prices led to a coffee boycott. And tea drinking.

Thanksgiving Day Menu and Recipes from The Whitehouse Cookbook, 1887

THANKSGIVING DAY.

BREAKFAST.

Grapes.

Oat Flakes 275.

Broiled Porterhouse Steak 110.

Codfish Balls 63.

Browned Potatoes 192.

Buckwheat Cakes 266, Maple Syrup.

Wheat Bread 240.

Coffee 458.

SUPPER.

Cold Roast Turkey 82.

Scalloped Oysters 76.

Potato Salad 175.

Cream Short-cake 269.

Eclairs 308.

Preserved Egg Plums 425.

Tea 460.

DINNER.

Oysters on Half Shell.

Cream of Chicken Soup 34.

Fried Smelts 58, Sauce Tartare 156

Roast Turkey 82, Cranberry Sauce 163

Mashed Potatoes 192.

Baked Squash 212.

Boiled Onions 198.

Parsnip Fritters 203.

Olives.

Chicken Salad 171.

Venison Pastry 105.

Pumpkin Pie 336.

Mince Pie 338.

Charlotte Russe 361.

Almond Ice-cream 380.

Lemon Jelly 373.

Hickory Nut Cake 305.

Cheese.

Fruits.

Coffee 458.

A Bunch of Literary Recipes

Enjoy Thanksgiving with this menu of literary recipes:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Turkey Twelve Ways

Gordon Lish’s Chicken Soup

Zora Neale Hurston’s Mulatto Rice

Ian McEwan’s Fish Stew

James Joyce’s Burnt Kidney Breakfast

Herman Melville’s Whale Steaks

Ernest Hemingway’s Absinthe Cocktail, Death in the Afternoon

Vladimir Nabokov’s Eggs à la Nabocoque

Thomas Pynchon’s Banana Breakfast

Cormac McCarthy’s Turtle Soup

Robert Crumb’s Macaroni Casserole

Truman Capote’s Caviar-Smothered Baked Potatoes with 80-Proof Russian Vodka

Emily Dickinson’s Cocoanut Cake

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

Charles Dickens’s Own Punch

Ben Jonson’s Egg Wine

Willam Faulkner’s Hot Toddy

Christmas Bonus:  George Orwell’s Recipes for Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding

Recipe for Florida Orange Wine from The White House Cookbook (1887)

FLORIDA ORANGE WINE.

Wipe the oranges with a wet cloth, peel off the yellow rind very thin, squeeze the oranges, and strain the juice through a hair-sieve; measure the juice after it is strained and for each gallon allow three pounds of granulated sugar, the white and shell of one egg and one-third of a gallon of cold water; put the sugar, the white and shell of the egg (crushed small) and the water over the fire and stir them every two minutes until the eggs begin to harden; then boil the syrup until it looks clear under the froth, of egg which will form on the surface; strain the syrup, pour it upon the orange rind and let it stand over night; then next add the orange juice and again let it stand overnight; strain it the second day, and put it into a tight cask with a small cake of compressed yeast to about ten gallons of wine, and leave the bung out of the cask until the wine ceases to ferment; the hissing noise continues so long as fermentation is in progress; when fermentation ceases, close the cask by driving in the bung, and let the wine stand about nine months before bottling it; three months after it is bottled, it can be used. A glass of brandy added to each gallon of wine after fermentation ceases is generally considered an improvement.

There are seasons of the year when Florida oranges by the box are very cheap, and this fine wine can be made at a small expense.

More drink recipes from The White House Cookbook.

“Go read Jacques Derrida or the like, something to break your brain on” | Gordon Lish’s Chicken Soup Recipe

Get lost for two hours. Go read Jacques Derrida or the like, something to break your brain on and convince you that mind is nothing in the comfort department compared to the things of the spirit, which is what is going on in back in the kitchen. And down’t worry about setting a timer. The fevers sailing the ethers will call you back the instant you’re wanted.

From “Not Just Any Soup,” Gordon Lish’s recipe for chicken noodle soup, published in The New York Times in 1977.

Before you can get lost in Derrida (or the like) for a few hours, you’ve got to fill an 11″ by 5″ pot with three inches of water and inch of beer. Set the heat to low and add “scrubbed carrots…chopped chive, slivered celery, sliced onion, minced garlic, ground dill, paprika, Dijon mustard, pepper, salt, a dash of cinnamon.”

How much of each? Lish is unwilling to list amounts: “Amounts is for the insurance business…The heart with good posture doesn’t stoop to check amounts.”

Add the chicken (sans fat and skin), cover, lower to a simmer, and get lost for two hours.

After you’ve read Derrida (or the like) for two hours, add the noodles — “the slenderest money can buy” — and take another hour off. To kill the time, Lish prescribes Jack Gilberts’ Views of Jeopardy — “the last poems the English language needed”).

Once that hour’s passed, stir the mixture again, thoroughly: “Lid off, the eucharist rolled over in his languid waters so that the bottom shall be the top.” Put the lid back on and wait for eight hours. Lish advises using the time to think.

Huge thanks to David Winters for sharing the recipe with me; David found the piece as part of a great big important research thing he’s doing on Lish (he also interviewed Lish for the project, so we’ll have that to look forward to—but it’s not going to be in his new book, Infinite Fictions, new from Zero this January).

Eggs à la Nabocoque

Vladimir Nabokov’s recipe for eggs (à la Nabocoque, natch)–

Boil water in a saucepan (bubbles mean it is boiling!). Take two eggs (for one person) out of the refrigerator. Hold them under the hot tap water to make them ready for what awaits them.

Place each in a pan, one after the other, and let them slip soundlessly into the (boiling) water. Consult your wristwatch. Stand over them with a spoon preventing them (they are apt to roll) from knocking against the damned side of the pan.

If, however, an egg cracks in the water (now bubbling like mad) and starts to disgorge a cloud of white stuff like a medium in an oldfashioned seance, fish it out and throw it away. Take another and be more careful.

After 200 seconds have passed, or, say, 240 (taking interruptions into account), start scooping the eggs out. Place them, round end up, in two egg cups. With a small spoon tap-tap in a circle and hen pry open the lid of the shell. Have some salt and buttered bread (white) ready. Eat.

V.N.
November 18, 1972

Croque Monsieur — Jesse Jacobs

Granddad’s Eggnog

Hopefully everyone is happy and with loved ones and friends during these holidays–and what better way to show love and fellowship than sharing a draught of delicious eggnog (alternately, the sad and solitary can drown their lonely sorrows in this high-alcohol, high-calorie treat). This is an old recipe; I remember my cousin and I stealing sips of this nog during my grandparents’ Christmas parties.

You will need:

A bottle of fine bourbon

A bottle of fine rum

A liqueur of your choice (this is optional; coffee, cream, or amaretto all add a nice touch)

A gallon of vanilla ice cream (substitute frozen yoghurt if you’re concerned about calories)

A carton of store-bought eggnog (alternately, you can make your own eggnog from eggs, milk, and sugar, although it’s a genuine pain in the ass and no one will ever know the difference, unless you go around pointing it out to them, which will make you look like an asshole, and you don’t want to look like an asshole, do you?)

Nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, clove (Use whole spices! Any of your favorite holiday spices will do, but I consider these four essential)

To make a one gallon pitcher of eggnog:

Put about 6 cups of ice cream in the pitcher.

Add some cinnamon sticks and cloves; grate some nutmeg and mace into the pitcher.

Add 4 cups of the store-bought eggnog; stir mixture.

Add about 3 and 1/2 cups of bourbon, 1 1/2 cups of rum, and liqueur (about 1/2 a cup will do) to taste; add more spices.

Stir vigorously; cover and allow to set in the freezer for at least 12 hours before serving. Stir vigorously before serving.

To make your guests happy, I suggest serving the nog with both liquor and ice cream at hand; this way those inclined may add either as their taste dictates. (Note for heavy drinkers: if your intention is to get smashed, stop drinking the eggnog after two cups and begin drinking the bourbon straight! The high levels of cream and sugar in this nog will guarantee a hangover–don’t overdo it!).

Norman Rockwell’s Oatmeal Cookies (Recipe)

norman

Literary Recipes

Fat Kitchen, Jan Steen

***

Enjoy Thanksgiving with our menu of literary recipes:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Turkey Twelve Ways

Zora Neale Hurston’s Mulatto Rice

Ian McEwan’s Fish Stew

James Joyce’s Burnt Kidney Breakfast

Herman Melville’s Whale Steaks

Ernest Hemingway’s Absinthe Cocktail, Death in the Afternoon

Vladimir Nabokov’s Eggs à la Nabocoque

Thomas Pynchon’s Banana Breakfast

Cormac McCarthy’s Turtle Soup

Robert Crumb’s Macaroni Casserole

Truman Capote’s Caviar-Smothered Baked Potatoes with 80-Proof Russian Vodka

Emily Dickinson’s Cocoanut Cake

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

Charles Dickens’s Own Punch

Ben Jonson’s Egg Wine

Willam Faulkner’s Hot Toddy

Christmas Bonus:  George Orwell’s Recipes for Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding

Cooking Quinoa with David Lynch