Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE MARTINI DRINKER CAN'T HELP IT


This just in from purveyor of quality fiction, and my amico (he lives in Italy) Matthew Licht; it’s a passage from the novel The Professional  by W.C. HeinzMatthew says he pretty much shares Ernest Hemingway's opinion, and personally I'm not sure I've ever read ANY boxing novel, so who am I to judge?  The passage in question runs thus:

"No matter how sad this character is," Dave said, "he makes a good dry murder."
"He should. He's an expert."
"He is?"
"Yes. When he was drinking he had enough of those to fill this lake out here."
"He never should have stopped."
"A doctor scared him. He used to drink them out of milk bottles."
"Who?" Dave said. "The doctor?"
"No, Girot."
"Please," Fred said. "Drinking martinis out of milk bottles. Don't spoil these."
"Are you kidding about that?"
"No. Years ago there was a dinner here one night. The Lions Club, or something in town, was having its annual Volksfest or bonspiel or whatever, and Girot made up a batch of martinis in milk bottles beforehand. He had them in the refrigerator behind the bar, and when he came down the next morning he remembered one bottle was left. So, in the course of one day, he got to sneaking that. He told me about it once, when he was still drinking, and I used to see him nip the bottle. He got to like them that way. He always had a bottle of them in there--and banged them like that, right out of it."
"Now I like them less than ever," Fred said. "What a way to treat a martini."
"I know what you mean," Dave said. "The dry martini--to be sipped from shell-thin, prefrosted glasses in the quiet dignity of the Ritz's men's bar late of a sparkling autumn afternoon."
"Precisely," I said. "It has always seemed to me that the dry martini is the épée of alcoholic weapons, to be handled as such."
"No. The épée in the armory of alcohol."


 As you may know, I’m of the belief that two small martinis always beats one big martini, but to each his own.  And of course, I have a terrible feeling that there are a great many “young people” out there who don’t realize that milk ever came in bottles.



Friday, December 5, 2014

WHERE ARE THE TURKEYS OF YESTERYEAR?



Thirty years ago I cooked a turkey.  It was the first turkey I'd ever cooked.   Of course I’d eaten turkey at home at Christmas with my parents and grandparents, but not often.  My family was not a bunch of great traditionalists and they had concluded, as many sane persons have, that turkeys are way too much trouble for insufficient reward.  They’re too big, they’re too dry, and if you cook one for Christmas you’re still eating sad leftovers at New Year.

But the first year I was married and had a home of my own, I decided I’d cook a turkey.  And as far as I remember it was pretty good, although my memories aren’t all that solid after thirty years, obviously.  I seem to recall wrapping a lot of bacon around the turkey breast.  This kind of thing, though obviously this isn’t mine:


And here’s the thing, here’s why I didn’t blog about this earlier, I know, I absolutely know, that somewhere there exists a thirty year old photograph, possibly a Polaroid, of me addressing the turkey I’ve just cooked, about to carve it.  In my mind’s eye I can even see the shirt I was wearing that day, but can I find the photograph?  Can I stuff?

And I’d really like to have it because if I did I could now do a compare and contrast.  Last month, for Thanksgiving, I cooked my second turkey, just 30 years after I cooked the first one.  It (and I) looked like this:




It was a good turkey, not too big, and not too dry, although, as we move towards the end of the first week in December we still have leftovers.  All in all we've declared it a triumph, if a small one.  The loss of the 30 year old photograph is, of course, a total disaster.  What’s the point of doing or cooking or eating ANYTHING if you don’t have a photograph to prove it?  I wonder when I’ll cook my next turkey.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

EAT Y'SELF FITTER



The Aerosmith song “Eat the Rich” came on the radio a couple of days back and it struck me as a deeply problematic song, which is perhaps to say that
eating the rich strikes me as a really poor idea.


For one thing, there’s always the problem of defining who the rich are, and therefore who you should eat.  If the rich are just the “one per cent” then obviously there’s not going to be much food to go around.  And once you’ve eaten them, do you then eat the next richest one per cent, and the next, and so on until there’s just a surviving one percent that’s eaten all the other 99 per cent?  Maybe.


On the other hand “rich” often means simply someone who’s got more money than you have.  This would mean that Jeff Bezos could consider Bill Gates “the rich” and would therefore feel entitled to eat him.  The guy in the one-bedroom slum would feel fully justified in eating the guy in the two-bedroom slum, and so on.


Another obvious problem, as we know, is that the rich tend to be thin – see Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (above) and Babe Paley (below), both associated with the remark “you can’t be too rich or two thin.”  So again, eating the rich is going to provide even less sustenance. (N.B. One of the richest men in the world is Carlos Slim).


One the other hand, we know that the poor we tend to be porky.  They’re seldom free range or organic, and certainly not a rare delicacy, so I’m guessing the rich might be reluctant to eat them. 


As always, therefore, we have to turn to the solid respectable middle class to do the heavy lifting.  Yes, they can be picky about what they eat, but they’re also faddish and easily swayed by new food trends.  I’m sure they could be persuaded that eating both the rich and the poor was a new taste sensation.  You would end up with an egalitarian, and much reduced, population.  Hard to see any downside to that.



Returning to the Aerosmith song, you might argue that at this point in history the members of the band are definitely rich, but frankly I can’t imagine that anyone would find Steve Tyler a very palatable plateful, so I think they would probably have to resort to auto-cannibalism, which would, of course, be another solution to the problem.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

MIAMI EGGS AND I


I was in Miami last weekend, and I know that Miami is a hotbed of good eatin’, but I was there for a book fair and I knew my opportunities would be limited.  There in the book fair’s hospitality lounge I ate whatever this is: 


some kind of vaguely Cubanish vegetarian sandwich on the right and devilled eggs on the left.  I’m pretty sure the gourmet powers that be have decided that the devilled egg is hip again, and that’s OK with me.


And there was a party at the Standard in Miami Beach, and Questlove was there, comb in hair just in case you didn’t recognize him (and in fact I’m not sure I would have recognized him without the comb), and the waiters came round with sliders and things on sticks, and they were fine, but it wasn’t prime psychogourmet territory.


On Sunday morning, having no eating companion, I went to the local Publix supermarket which struck me as a rather superior supermarket, and I admired the look of the canned chorizos in lard, but I didn’t honestly think I could sit on a bench and eat them from a can .


So I wandered around in the stinking heat looking for somewhere to eat, and by luck rather than judgment I ended up in a place called Bin 18. And did I ever strike lucky.  They were serving brunch – basically poached eggs with various Benedict-ish variations. 

But wait, what’s this on the menu – it says that all their eggs are cooked sous-vide.  Blimey!  If devilled eggs are now declared thoroughly hip, I couldn’t help wondering if sous vide eggs (or sous vide anything) might be a bit “last-craze.”  But they were damn good.  I had the Don Quixote – poached eggs, with two kinds of chorizo (that would be chorizo palacios and chorizo cantimpalo - and no reference to lard) caramelize onions, hollandaise, and some rosemary potatoes on the side.


A younger version of myself would never have been able to sit alone in a restaurant with a glass of wine eating alone, savoring a meal – not even brunch.  Some things do get very slightly easier as you get older.