Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Seven Year Itch

Juanita: Happy Anniversary!

Lupé: Obrigado!

Juanita: So, what are you planning — anything special?

Lupé: Well, Carlos is taking me out to dinner — something fancy, I think.

Juanita: You should wear that gorgeous black dress.

Lupé: You can count on it. I need all the help I can get these days!

Juanita: What!? Has the bloom worn off so soon?

Lupé: All he wants to do is stay up “working” until I’m asleep. And then… nothing.

Juanita: Oh!

Lupé: It’s the internet porn. Juanita, I can’t compete!

Juanita: Maybe it’s time for drastic measures.

Lupé: What do you mean?

Juanita: Down below.

Lupé: Quê?

Juanita: Some landscaping.

Lupé: Quê?

Juanita: Turn the jungle into a desert.

Lupé: Quê?

Juanita: Raspar todo…

Lupé: A área do biquíni?

Juanita: Sim!

Lupé: A coisa toda?

Juanita: Yes. Trust me. No-one wants shredded coconut between their teeth.

Woman’s Day, December 1969

Monday, January 30, 2012

Take A Deep Breath….

Chloroform has developed a bit of a bad reputation. Where once it was used as an anesthetic to replace ether (at a time when surgery was a bit like butchery), now we associate it with someone being mugged with a chloroform-soaked rag by an antique hoodlum — probably because actual hoodlums did in fact utilize the drug this way.

Those undergoing surgery were probably very thankful for it (it beat taking a big gulp of whiskey and biting down on a cloth), but unaware of the danger they were in if they inhaled a tad too much. A chloroform OD is not called “Sudden Sniffer’s Death” for nothing. It’s also officially listed by the FDA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

It’s been banned in the US since 1976, but one can still find it in cough syrups sold in the UK. What is probably not recommended is this cure for a toothache from the same era in which Queen Victoria was using chloroform to birth her last two children. If you have a hole in your tooth the size of a pea, you should go to the dentist. Even if you are reading this in 1852. 

A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1852

Sunday, January 29, 2012


At the dawn of the age of the automobile, it was generally thought (if not assumed to be one of the more assuredly obvious fact of physics), that human beings could not tolerate speeds of over 20 miles per hour. The apparatus which made such speeds possible was therefore treated with trepidation.

When paved roads and rubber tires allowed the horseless carriage to exceed this lowly speed, people discovered that survival was possible, and that whizzing around on a noisy engine was quite a lot of fun.

When humans determine that something is intensely pleasurable, they find ways to make it more so. Thus it is that the Shelby Dragonsnake Cobra hit the streets in 1963. It is an opium dream of an automobile. It goes very fast. It is hot pink.

 But what does this have to do with this lady proffering fried foods? you ask.

You have to ask?

Enjoy Good Eating Every Day The Easy Spry Way, Lever Brothers Company, 1940

Also from this book: Complimentary

Friday, January 27, 2012

At Table

My Word!

The terminology associated with eating is confusing. When one dines, it might not be at dinner. When one sups, it might not be supper. It can hardly be called breakfast if all one was doing since the last meal was sleeping. You can lunch on brunch, but you needn’t drink tea at tea. A tea might not be high tea, but it might be supper. Brunch happens before lunch, but shouldn’t be confused with elevenses. Fine dining cannot be had in a diner. Sometimes people order a takeaway that is delivered rather than taken away, and some eat it on the spot. Eating on the run doesn’t mean eating while running. When grabbing a bite, one usually doesn’t grab just a bite. There are other things on the menu at a Chippy besides chips. Pubs serve food, though it isn’t always pub food. Eggs and bacon is always breakfast, no matter what time of day it is eaten. Fast food might have taken ages to prepare, and slow food can be eaten raw. Parking at convenience stores isn’t usually convenient. Actually consuming “all-you-can-eat” in restaurants that advertise thusly is frowned upon should not be taken literally. Do not expect to get “Surf and Turf” when you order it. There is no such thing as an “endless breadstick.” Salad bars feature very little salad. You may not put this in your pipe and smoke it. A snack cake is still just a cake, and frozen desserts may or may not be novelties, though they are sold in the Frozen Novelty aisle. You cannot eat a Donut Hole. You can eat the part of the donut that formed the hole in another donut. Milkshakes are not shaken. Happy meals are often only wishful thinking. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All This and Rabbit Stew

This is a highly suspicious recipe because as we all know, rabbits don’t get creamed — their adversaries do. Bunnies are far too clever to let anyone get them in a cooking pot.

It was Avery who brought us “What’s up, Doc?”
It is a well-known fact that the genus Bugs is capable of eluding his enemies by the timely manipulation of the space-time continuum, defying all the known laws of physics. This is called cartooning.

Its principle architect and the rabbit’s chief abettor, went by the name of Tex Avery. In his hands, all things were possible. 

Alas, overcoming the perpetuation of the most grievous racial stereotypes of the day was not something he could do. 

Avery serves as an excellent example to offer when challenged to prove that the common parental admonition “you’ll put your eye out!” is an exaggeration. His own left eye was put out of commission by a paper clip during a spot of horseplay in the office.

He is buried in Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood, a place he can’t escape, unlike his characters, merely by making the grave a trick of the eye.

Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Gushing entrails bricht”

Poets generally do something else for a living. This is because poetry, as a profession, isn’t a big earner. You’d think the famous poems would at least earn a bit of coin, but they don’t — people memorize them and that’s that. It’s a rubbish profession to have, not least because if you go about saying “I’m a poet” when asked, people think you’re being a smart-arse. If you tell anyone you’re a poet, the very next thing they will ask is “will I be familiar with anything you’ve written?” and the answer will be no. You will feel so sheepish about the conversation, you will immediately launch into a pithy exchange about sports: “How about them Bengals?” which isn’t likely to last all that long either, at which point you will pretend to take a call on your phone from an important publisher, though in reality your phone has no battery, is dead as a doornail, because as a poet, you cannot afford to maintain a mobile phone account.

The Scotsman Robert Burns had none of these problems. That is because he lived from 1759 – 1796, which was a great time to be a poet. People couldn’t get enough of the stuff he wrote, and when he died they were so upset, they decided to make the anniversary of his birth a cause of celebration henceforth known as Burns Night.

On January 25th every year, Scottish people dress up in traditional garb and enact an elaborate and highly orchestrated dinner involving the recitation of poetry over a stuffed sheep’s stomach, helped along by gallons of whiskey. The humble haggis might have remained an obscure local delicacy had it not been for the enduring legacy of Robbie Burns.

Here follows Mrs. Beeton’s recipe for Haggis. A paunch is exactly what you’d expect, a stomach. The pluck refers to the sheep’s guts. The lights are its lungs. 

Before slicing open the haggis with a sword, one must recite the Selkirk Grace, as follows:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

A brave soul will also be required to recite, passionately, the indomitable ode penned by Burns himself, the "Address To A Haggis."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

Kenny's Drumsticks
Some people are walking public service announcements for the dangers of ill-advised plastic surgery. Kenny Rogers is one such person.

Consider young Kenny: a singing Grizzly Adams, cuddly and hairy, full of the promise of rural romance.

Kenny reached his zenith as a superstar in the late 1970s / early 1980s, when he delivered succulent duets and heart-rending ballads attired in his trademark white suit and trimmed white beard.

Looks like a normal dude, right? Everything’s where it’ supposed to be.

But then something terrible happened to Kenny’s face. Parts were pulled about, something weird was done around his eyes — and now he looks like a mannequin that makes children cry. The permanently shocked expression he now wears mirrors the face people wear when they see him.

Kenny might have spent some of his millions on plastic surgery, but never fear; he won’t run out of cash anytime soon. What Kenny might have lacked in sense when it came to his face, he made up for in his diverse portfolio of investments, most notably in lending his name to the “mid-casual restaurant” Kenny Rogers Roasters, which could once be found in strip malls across the US, but not any more.

Kenny Rogers Roasters (KRR) didn’t simply die when American stopped eating there. It just moved locations — to the far east, in fact. KRR is a hugely popular chain across Indonesia, where today the Chinese Year of the Dragon is celebrated with a special dish called “Dynasty Chicken.” It’s THE place to go in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite its success, Kenny hasn’t always been his own best PR machine, saying on record he doesn’t really like the chicken served there, preferring greasy burgers instead. He’s also claimed to regret his new face but feels it will settle over time.

The moral of the story here is one should not try to look like a spring chicken when you are past your prime. When you age, you should look like a chicken that’s been roasted on a spit. Slowly, with lots of marinade.

Here's a recipe for Kenny Rogers Roasters Chicken.

Recipe courtesy of http://www.easybreezyrecipes.com/kenny-rogers-roasters-restaurant-recipes.html. The author suggests you prepare it for a "hot date" with "someone you met on a romantic dating site."

Monday, January 23, 2012

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

In his book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan coins the phrase the “Agricultural Sublime” to describe the “satisfactions of the ordered earth” — which is to say, nature being reigned in to unnatural shapes by man. Wherever man has become a husband of the land he has given it geometry, sowing by rows, squares, circles. Thus do grasses become regiments of wheat, oats, barley — while root vegetables are only given their freedom out of sight, underground.

Mastery over nature is ably demonstrated by the French formal gardens at palaces, like Versailles, for example, or in extravagant topiary or bonsai pruning. But it can also be seen in the baize-like lawns surrounding the stone edifices of Oxford and Cambridge universities, a quality tourists admire but cannot hope to replicate, as the wardens are fond of reminding them. Achieving perfection is easy, they say; all it takes is 400 years of watering and rolling.

It’s notable that people presume that should extra-terrestial life ever visit our lowly planet, they would make their presence known via crop circles. They wouldn’t land their spaceships on something large and flat like a North American mall parking lot; no — they prefer to land in the middle of a wheatfield. Even aliens (well, the people imitating them) prefer to leave geometric footprints, it seems. Old-growth forests are an intricate web of haphazard vegetation that adheres only to nature’s intelligent design, but when man cuts them down and re-plants, he does so in great rows as if the trees were the living ribs of a cathedral.

But these physical examples of order are only the ones which are easy to see. Man’s manipulation of nature’s very DNA through genetic modification is hidden but perhaps more insidious. The wildness and unpredictibility of a crop can be bred out, leaving docile, well-behaved, compliant plants who do not complain about growing cheek-to-cheek with their neighbor in ways nature worked for billennia to avoid. Today’s fields produce more corn per bushel than ever not necessarily because the ears are made to produce more kernals, but because more plants can be sown per square foot. Along with proximity comes disease, so they are bred to resist the pitfalls of monoculture. The NewLeaf potato resists its own bugs, and is therefore classified as a pesticide rather than a vegetable. As such, it has transcended yet another boundary ushered along by that architect of the taxonomy of the Agricultural Subline, Linneas.

The boxes into which plants are fitted, each according to its family and species give shape to nature’s messiness, and are just as rigid as a ploughed furrow. Folks like things that fit easily into pre-conceived spaces.

The lunchbox is one such space. Could anything be as far from the complexity of flesh as a circle of luncheon meat? There are people who have never known cheese to come in anything but square tiles of uniform yellow plastic. The deli counter is an emporium of sliceables designed to fit the dimensions of the sandwich loaf. What’s celebrated isn’t so much the flavor they impart but their ability to fit in. We tend to like our edibles to be predictable, reliable, recognizable. We have learned to trust that foods which come in a geometric form are safer than those which don’t — having survived the rigor of the factory rather than the vigor of the farm.

The palatte of animal fats pressed neatly into shape we choose from to layer between two slices of bread (as seen above) might be called the Lunchbox Sublime.

The Lunch Box Cookbook, Book Production Industries, Inc., 1955

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Victory Garden

May 19, 1940
Churchill’s first address to the nation as Prime Minister

I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hour for the life of our country, of our empire, of our allies, and, above all, of the cause of Freedom. A tremendous battle is raging in France and Flanders. The Germans, by a remarkable combination of pressure cooking and heavy braising, have broken through the French defenses north of the Haricot Line, and strong columns of their mobile canteens are ravaging the open country, which for the first day or two was without defenders. They have penetrated deeply and spread alarm and confusion in their track. The Germans, armed with cabbage and asparagus, are threatening the very fabric of our common cuisine.

We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the presence of these snack carts in unexpected places behind our lines. They are behind us at every turn. Both sides are therefore in an extremely dangerous position. And if the French Army, and our own Army, are well prepared, as I believe they will be; if the French retain that genius for sautéing and puréeing for which they have so long been famous; and if the British Army shows the dogged adherence to boiling and roasting of which there have been so many examples in the past — then a sudden transformation of the scene might spring into being.

It would be foolish, however, to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage or to suppose that well-trained, well-equipped chefs numbering three or four million be overcome in the space of a few weeks, or even months, by a ladle, or onslaught of skillets, however formidable.

If the battle is to be won, we must provide our men with ever-increasing quantities of the fruits and vegetables they need. We must have, and have quickly, more carrots, more spinach, more beans, more peas. There is imperious need for this vital nutrition. These vegetables increase our strength against the powerfully armed enemy.

They replace the wastage of the cooking pot; and the knowledge that stock will speedily be replaced enables us to draw more readily upon our root reserves and throw them in now that everything counts so much. Do not allow our brave men to fight on empty stomachs! No not let them suffer the empty soup tureen!

We have differed and quarreled in the past (mostly over apple pie); but now one bond unites us all — to wage war until victory is won, and never to surrender ourselves to Sauerkraut and Pickle, whatever the cost and the agony may be.

This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. It is also beyond doubt the most sublime. Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great Dominions and by the wide empires which rest beneath their shield — side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying cuisine which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history.

Behind them — behind us — behind the Armies and Fleets of Britain and France — gather a group of shattered restaurants and bludgeoned diners: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians — upon all of whom the long night of Braunschwiger will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.

Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Haute and Cuisine: "Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in hunger than to look upon the outrage of our kitchens and our tables. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be."

Stretching Meat, General Mills., Inc. WWII

Also form this book: A Hobo Party

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gay Apparel

Hello, Sally?

Hi Susie!

I’d like to invite you to a luncheon this Saturday. My place. About noon?

That sounds swell!

Nothing fancy — tuna salad, finger sandwiches and brownies.

Can I bring a guest? I have a cousin who’s dying to meet new people. He is new to town and doesn’t get out much.

Why certainly! What’s his name?

Robert. Well, Bob. We all call him Bobby. He says Bobby is too butch, though, and that we might as well call him Bobby-Ann!

How funny! Is he cute?

He sure is. He’s very picky though — no girl is ever good enough for him.

Well maybe my luncheon will change all that! I’m asking Betty and Sunny and Jenny too.

He’ll love that! But what about us girls? Will there be any guys?

Jimmy said he might come, and Davy is going to drop by after baseball practice. And there's always my brother Howie. 

Oh, Bobby will be thrilled. He told me what he really needs to do is meet some boys. And he just got this blue sweater he’s been dying to show off.

Great! I’ll see you Saturday!


Front Cover
Back Cover
Teen-Time Cooking, Mary Blake, Carnation Company, 1964

Thursday, January 19, 2012

That's Hysterical

When confronting a hysterical woman, one may try the following courses of action to prompt her to regain her natural poise:

·      If the hysterical woman is physically able, guide her to a chaise-longue and place a hot water bottle at her feet. If available, also provide several copies of popular magazines such as People, Martha Stewart LIVING, and Soap Opera Digest and a glass of Coca-Cola with a straw.

·      Suggest, calmly but firmly, that she go treat herself to something nice, and hand her $50 and the car keys. If she deems $50 an insufficient amount with which to go shopping, hand her another. Keep doing so until she leaves. Keep $500 on hand for such emergencies, and make sure you have updated the insurance on the vehicle.

·      Draw her a bath. Say “Look — I’ve drawn you a nice bath.” If she looks reluctant to take the bath, put a rubber duck in it. Say “Look — a rubber duck!”

·      Hand the hysterical woman a vibrator and leave the room. This cure has long been known to be effective. Keep a vibrator on hand for such emergencies.

·      Compliment the hysterical woman on her appearance despite evidence to the contrary by asking if she got a haircut, note that she’s lost weight, and telling her those jeans make her ass look great. Make sure she is actually wearing jeans. If not, substitute jeans for whatever it is she is wearing. If what she is wearing can’t be determined, simply say “your ass looks great.”

·      If all else fails, shove a glass of ammonia under her nose. Be sure to do this only when someone else can be employed to stand behind to catch her when she falls down.

Some techniques have proven ineffective over the years in treating this volatile condition. They include:

·      Stating the obvious to the hysterical woman by saying “you’re hysterical. Calm down.”

·      An exaggeratedly theatrical open-handed slap to the face, first on one cheek, then the other, accompanied by the phrase “Pull yourself together, woman!” This only works in the movies.

·      Downplaying her pique by referring to her underwear thusly: “Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

·      Playing Def Leppard’s album Hysteria. She will resent your attempt at sarcasm.

·      Ignoring the underlying cause of the woman’s angst by asking what’s for dinner.

    Rumford Book on Home Management, Hannah Wing

    Also from this book: Death Becomes You

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    That's Bananas!

    Location: Pearly Gates
    Date: Today

    St. Peter: Hello. Thank you for your patience. This won’t take long. Just a few questions, things to clear up, that sort of thing.

    Chef: Sure.

    St. Peter: OK, good. I see it says here that you are responsible for this dish that appeared in a recipe pamphlet  some years ago.

    Chef: Ah, yes, that would have been me.

    St. Peter: Bananas Take A Bow

    Chef: Yep, that’s the one.

    St. Peter: You are aware, are you not, that bananas cannot bow?

    Chef: Right, right. They can’t. I was being funny. Look: on the cover — they’re dancing. Bananas can’t dance either. It was a joke. I’m sorry.

    St. Peter: That’s OK, I was just playing with you. Jerking your chain. Get you to loosen up a little. You look nervous. Dancing bananas are funny. I always found people slipping on banana skins to be hilarious. Cracks me up every time. 

    Chef: Ha ha.

    St. Peter: You can do better than that, man.

    Chef: HA HA!

    St. Peter: That’s more like it.

    Chef: If that’s all then…

    St. Peter: Ah, no, it isn’t. There’s just one more thing.

    Chef: Oh, OK.

    St. Peter: You have a recipe in here for something called a Banana Salmon Salad.

    Chef: I believe I do, yes. 

    St. Peter: Are you out of your f*cking mind?

    Chef: What?

    St. Peter: Bananas and Salmon? Are you serious? And pickles? And pineapple?

    Chef: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    St. Peter: People never cease to amaze me.

    Chef: Bananas had been rationed for so long after the war . . . . Once the markets opened up we were encouraged to put them in everything to bump sales. It was banana-this, banana-that. Yes, we have no bananas was a thing of the past. The original filling in Twinkies wasn’t vanilla crème; it was banana.

    St. Peter: Yes, I remember that. Much nicer, in my opinion.

    Chef: Right, so —

    St. Peter: Look: I hate to break it to you but this is a disqualifying act. I can’t let you in. No can do. Rule #743: Thou shalt not insult God by mixing the fruits of His labors in an unnatural manner.

    Chef: Thewhatnow?

    St. Peter: You heard me.

    Chef: But —

    St. Peter: Bananas come from hot climes. Salmon from cold. The two aren’t supposed to mix. God, in His wisdom, put them miles and miles apart so things like this wouldn’t happen.

    Chef: But people do it all the time. It’s called fusion cooking.

    St. Peter: Con-fusion, more like. We’re working on that. We sent someone down to put an end to it.

    Chef: Who?

    St. Peter: Some guy named Gordon Ramsey. He runs Hell’s Kitchen. We poached him. Gets the job done, but his methods leave a lot to be desired.

    Chef: Bloody hell!

    St. Peter: Yes, I was going to suggest you try there next. Sorry mate. Rules is rules. Next!

    Bananas Take a Bow, The Meloripe Fruit Company

    Also from this book: Is That A Banana In Your Pocket...

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Balut-y Hell

    The Emperor Penguin eggs

    Oates, Scott, Evans
    Bowers, Wilson
    100 years ago today, Captain Robert F. Scott and his four companions reached the South Pole, only to find they’d been beaten to the goal by Roald Amundsen, 33 days earlier. The photographs taken that day to memorialize the achievement for the record show five very dejected men, all of whom were to die on their return journey. The photographs were taken by Birdie Bowers, pulling the shutter with a string. Birdie Bowers is the unsung hero of Scott’s expedition — intensely loyal, with a superhuman ability to withstand the cold, he was in charge of navigation and stores — that is to say, the food. He was also the only member of the party who had to walk to the South Pole, because he didn’t have a pair of skis.

    Along with Birdie Bowers was Edward Wilson, the expedition's chief scientist and Scott’s best friend. Bowers and Wilson had previously survived The Worst Journey In The World, a five-week trek in the middle of the Antarctic winter in total darkness and temperatures of -40c to recover Emperor penguin eggs. The other member of their three-man team, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, was the one who lived to write the book. It was so cold his teeth shattered.

    Bowers, Wilson and Cherry-Garrard the night they set out
    Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard the night they returned
    Their trek to Cape Crozier, the nesting colony of the Emperor penguin, was one of the more rigorous feats of scientific pursuit ever attempted by man, and it was all in aid of what people claim was the real purpose of the expedition — to advance science (rather than claiming the Pole, though that’s what it’s remembered for). They found, to their dismay, far less penguins than expected, and some of the eggs they carried back with them broke along the way. Only three survived. It was hoped that the embryos inside would prove the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, the Emperor penguin being considered the most primitive bird at the time (due to its ability to survive such inhospitable conditions).

    When Cherry-Garrard finally delivered them in person to the Natural History Museum upon his return to civilization, he was told to wait in a corridor. No-one was interested in the eggs. He was told to just leave them at the desk. They weren’t even going to give him a receipt for this treasure that had cost him the lives of his friends, his sanity, and his teeth. As you can imagine, he blew a fuse.

    Today, the Natural History Museum feels rather differently. In order to celebrate the centenary of Scott’s death, they are presenting a grand exhibition on him, featuring hundreds of artifacts for the public to gaze upon with wonder — and at the heart of it, something the Museum considers one of its greatest treasures — the Emperor penguin eggs.

    Yuckylicious would also like to mark the occasion with a recipe made with eggs. Specifically, the national dish of the Philippines, Balut — duck embryo.

    It is worth noting that, generally speaking, any food the locals claim to be an aphrodisiac that improves a man’s “sex stamina” has developed this reputation not because it works, but as an incentive to put it in one’s mouth in the first place. 

    Monday, January 16, 2012


     In 1543, Andreas Vesalius published one of the foundational texts in all of human discourse, De humani corporis fabrica, On the fabric of the human body. It is based on his series of Paduan lectures on anatomy which were, unusually for the time, illustrated with the performance of actual dissections. His remarkably accurate and detailed illustrations show for the first time what the inside of a person looks like, and corrected many erroneous assumptions about human anatomy that had persisted since Galen.

    Anatomy classes aren't conducted like this anymore.
    For one thing, the dogs aren't allowed in to carry off scraps that fall from the table. 
    Folks are pretty common. How come we were so clueless about the plumbing for so long? Because Roman Law disallowed dissection  (Galen used monkeys instead, assuming them to be just like humans on the inside) and the Church frowned on cutting people up to take a look. Eventually, they decided that executed criminals were fair game for medical science, because they weren’t expected to make an appearance at the Pearly Gates, so could be dismantled with impunity.

     But it is not the dissections that Vesalius is known for; it’s his illustrations of them. Advances in printing meant that he could print drawings in exquisite detail that did justice to the minutiae he uncovered. In death he leant his subjects a dignity they had been denied in life, picturing them in the poses of classic art, even as they held open their peeled-back skin and muscle to reveal what lay inside. They lean against plinths in rustic settings, or hang from an invisible pulley, their bones and joints labeled the way livestock is on butcher’s charts.

     The Church did not like to think of the human as an animal, being concerned, as they were, with the soul, but we have no such reticence about drawing a tasty beast up into sirloins and flanks and ribs and chops as if their bodies were Bingo cards.

    The beautiful book of household management that sadly lacks an identifying cover that this illustration of a bullock comes from is one such playscape. Part 5 is a “mouse round.” Part 1 is, of course the cheek. Unlike Vesalius’s illustrations, carving charts generally feature living animals, the divisions superimposed or printed onto the skin. As such, they are the exact opposite of how most people buy they meat these days, as slabs of red flesh packed onto a polystyrene tray bound in plastic wrap, its origin a mystery to most. We like our protein anonymous, without the specter of a face glaring back at us — our own, perhaps, reflected in the supermarket’s fluorescent lights.

    A copy of De humani corporis fabrica housed at Brown University is bound in human skin, which seems appropriate. It might give one the heebie-jeebies to handle though. If it had been bound, as most books were, in vellum, no-one would turn a hair.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    A Hobo Party

    A question that has always been asked by hostesses eager to maintain their social calendar during times of war, when their husbands, brothers, neighbors and sons are called away to fight in unimaginable conditions of deprivation and butchery, and home-front rationing has reduced the household pantry to the bare essentials, is how can I incorporate these troubled times into an evening of fun?

    The answer, provided by the General Mills Home Service Staff, is to throw a Hobo Party. Why dress up when you can dress down? You and your friends can emulate the lifestyle of the vagrant who travels from town to town seeking work in return for a few spare coins or a hot meal. No need to set the table — just hand food to guests through your kitchen window and let them find a place to sit on the lawn. How amusing it is to pretend to carry all your worldly possessions in a bindle slung over your shoulder! How relaxing it is to imagine a life free from all the bother of home ownership and a steady job! How fortunate to avoid the draft!

    Once your party is over, however, you are ethically obligated to entertain actual Hobos should they knock at your door. If you’re lucky, they will etch a sign on your fencepost that stands for run as fast as you possibly can.

    Stretching Meat, General Mills, circa 1942-45

    Also from this book: Victory Garden

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Stuffed Up

    Head colds are the lowest depths of misery known to man.

    In order to avoid getting them, wash your hands frequently, and gargle with saltwater. Should this prove to be belated advice, you can always do what the Victorians did. They were far too busy to let a headcold stop them from building canals and shoveling coal into steam engines and polishing silver and sewing gloves and smelting iron and beating natives and whipping children to let the sniffles stand in the way of progress. They did not have the option of calling in sick. Besides, it was far better to infect your co-workers than your family by staying at home. Well, it was for your family.

    Curing a head cold was simple — all it took was a few ingredients found in any household medicine chest: camphor and smelling salts.

    Camphor’s strong odor not only repels moths, but it is also a cough suppressant. Produced from Asian coniferous trees, it also found in high concentrations in both lavender and rosemary, which is one reason why they smell so pungent.

    Sal Volatile comes from the Latin for volatile salt — in this case, ammonium carbonate, which when exposed to air releases ammonia gas. Anyone who has taken a whiff of bleach can attest that it certainly wakes you up. The gas stimulates the mucus membranes, causing you to breathe faster, hence its use as a smelling salt, used to revive people who have fainted. It used to be produced from the dry distillation of decomposed primate matter such as shaved deer horns (it was also known as Spirit of Hartshorn), and is sometimes still used as a leavening agent in place of baking soda. It can be found in Skoal tobacco.

    Combine the two — that is, impregnate the Sal Volatile with the camphor — dissolve it in water, and you have an early version of Vick’s Vapor Rub in liquid form. If it didn’t exactly cure the underlying cold, it sure would make you feel like you’d been drinking jet fuel, keeping you at your plow or press or engine for as long as it took to get the job done.

    A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1852

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    The Empire Bites Back

     When, in 1858, the British East India Company handed over rule of India to Queen Victoria, both parties got a little more than they bargained for. The people of India got the Civil Service and cricket and white people wearing pith helmets drinking gin. Her Majesty’s British subjects got bandanas, bangles and bungalows — and that’s just the Bs.

    Because English culture is basically a sponge, soaking up whatever comes its way, it assimilated what nearly 100 years of the Raj brought back to her chilly shores — mostly in the forms of a more colorful language and dinner table. It is no accident that curry is today considered the national dish of Great Britain, Indian takeaways appearing with as much ubiquity as pizza parlors do in America.

    The Victorians developed a taste for many of the native dishes of India, some of which appeared with such regularity on the menu that it seemed they were British to begin with. Some, in fact, were.

    Kedgeree, a buttery rice and daal dish common not just to India but to a wide swath of the earth’s temperate zone, is just such a thing. Some claim it was brought back to Britain from India, where it was mixed with spices and flaked haddock and egg to become a popular breakfast dish. Others claim it originated in Scotland, whereupon it was taken to India by the colonial army, and then came back.

    When they parted ways in 1947, both Empires were changed by the enduring influence of the other. And when you sit down to a breakfast of kedgeree in your pajamas on the verandah, after having shampooed your hair, you have rather a lot of India on your tongue. Even if you are Scottish.

     Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery,Ward, Lock & Co., Limited

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Stop Clowning Around

     Do clowns ever stop being weirdly decorated middle-aged men in stupid clothing who appear at birthday parties to perform sad acts of trickery for crying children, like some bad acid trip made flesh and blood, in order to demonstrate in the most visceral way possible the awful toll that years of hallucinatory drugs have on your brain cells, and start being simply terrifying?

    Why must parents encourage their offspring to enjoy the attention of adults dressed up in furry outfits (Santa, the Easter Bunny, Mascots, Chuck E. Cheese, Disney Characters, Sesame Street Puppets, Clowns)? Doesn’t it just inculcate a knee-jerk response to laugh and point at people who look “different”? Isn’t the thought of a giant talking rodent inherently revolting? Why are clown’s hats so very very small while their shoes are so very very big?

    It is with these considerations in mind that we now turn to this birthday cake featuring the troubling antics of three drunken clowns, two of which are sliding off the cake in an intoxicated stupor, while the other nurses his hangover leaning up against some blocks which spell out the word “UG.” Perhaps the clowns have fallen off the cake and are trying to climb back up. Perhaps they seek to rescue their fallen comrade before he vomits blood all over his lap. Oh, wait, he’s already done that.

    One can only hope that Ug, whoever he is, will not suffer permanent mental scars from this portrayal of the degeneracy of contemporary life in frosting with which his parents have used to celebrate his life.

    Easy Cake Decorating Cookbook, Mildred Brand, 1980

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