Monday, November 19, 2012

The Versatile Turkey

— Oi, Fred.

— What?

— Where are you going for Thanksgiving?

— Church, I think. Let me check: yep, Church.

— But it’s Thanksgiving, not Christmas. This is America.

— Ah — no mate. I’m not going to church; I’m off to the Church’s. They’re expecting a big crowd.

— Oh! The Church’s. You should have said that to begin with.

— I did. Where are you off to?

— No idea.

— That’s too bad. You don’t have any family you could be with?

— Chance would be a fine thing.

— No need to take that attitude….

— No — I meant I wouldn’t mind going to the Chance’s. I’ve heard they put on a good spread.

— That they do.

— Do you ever dream about going to the White House? I always used to wonder if I’d get to do that. Must be nice.

— Tell me about it.

— But then there’s always wondering what to do with yourself the next day, isn’t there? Do you just sit around or what? It must be a bit lonely, I’ve always thought.

— You’ve got a good point there. Come to think of it, I’m rather glad to be with the Church’s. She’s a cookbook author, you know.

— Seriously?

— Absolutely. Next best thing isn’t it? Going to a chef’s house?

— Got to be. But what if you end up with Tomato Slush? Or Mashed Rutabagas? Or Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Radish Chips?

— Surely not? At a chef’s house? That’s a fate worse than death!

— I kid you not.

— You’re making me think twice about this whole thing.

— Too late now, mate. They’re counting on you.

— Damn.

— How much do you weigh, anyway?

— 16 lbs, give or take. It’s all that corn I’ve been eating lately.

— That’s what — 14 lbs or so, dressed, right?

— I should think so, yes.

— Well, that’s perfect. Your fate is sealed. Feeds six, they say.

— I should hope so. You aim to feed six at least.

— It’s that or the dreaded Turkey Curry.

— Please don’t go there. You’re bring me down.

— Hey! I was only —

— Get stuffed!

— Get stuffed yourself, wattle-face!

Pennywise Party Perfect Dinners, The Good Cooking School, Inc., 1975

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Spot Of (Batter) Bother

If you start trying to come up with definitions for the word “spot,” you’ll be here all day. That’s what happens when ambitious words want to be good at everything — like that obnoxious kid at school who’s on all the teams, plus the chess club, plus band, plus yearbook, and then decides in his (or her) spare time to run for student government. Spot excels at being a noun; a verb; an adjective; can be found cozied up to anything as a modifier; straddles all classes on the social ladder; and can also boast being an excellent example of onomatopoeia.

Spots even cross existential lines. They can appear as words, in speech, in actions, and as actual stains. While a book which has been spotted is usually considered ruined, like a maid whose reputation has been sullied by a feckless youth, a cookbook is usually considered improved, if not validated, by such attention. It means it has been used — like the maid — but in a good, socially responsible way. The book has served its purpose.

Such is the case with old cookbooks in particular, especially ones which have been used so often over many years that they have become — like a woman — soft, wrinkled, supple, and forgiving. If you can find a pristine first edition of Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking, that’s great, but not nearly as valuable as a well-loved, well-thumbed, stained and spattered one, its pages a palimpsest of print and dried organic matter identifiable only by the recipe upon which it rests. Those brown spots next to roasted meats are gravy. The ones adjacent to pancakes are batter.

All of them are spots of bother — trouble and love (something akin to what the maid has gotten herself into).

Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Julia Child, 1961

Also from this book: Breaking Eggs

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Demolish A Duck

If you have a handy half hour to spare, you might want to consider boning a duck. Perhaps you have already done all your housework and are bored. You might be on holiday, and have grown tired of lazing by your pool. Or you could be a young housewife who wants to impress her husband by serving him a dinner of authentic Pa-pao-ya, Eight-Jewel Duck. If so, you may be thinking that after he sees your culinary expertise, he’ll reward you with those eight jewels. You’d be wrong. He’s going to take one look at the deflated waterfowl and demand pizza.

Whatever you do, don’t use your regular household scissors to attempt to de-bone a duck. Sewing scissors are also not recommended. You’ll also need a sharp knife, a sturdy cutting board, and a first-aid kit handy for when you slice through one or many of your fingers. In this case, it is best to prepare the area with ample paper towels and a telephone for dialing 911.

The best thing about this instructional diagram is the level of detail in the illustrations. Hold the book at arm’s length and see if you can detect the thin red lines which indicate the flesh of the duck, as opposed to the thin black lines which represent the loose skin. Try not to adjust reading glasses with grease-slick hands.

The Cooking of China, Time-Life Books, 1968
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