HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » betsuni » Journal
Page: 1

betsuni

Profile Information

Member since: Sat Nov 30, 2013, 05:06 AM
Number of posts: 9,794

Journal Archives

Writing about food: Anthony Bourdain, Japanese breakfast from "A Cook's Tour"

"Dinner at the ryokan may have been the greatest thing ever. Breakfast was another thing entirely. I was OK with the smoked fish, which was very good -- the sushi, the rice. What I was not ready for, and never will be, was natto. The Japanese love natto, an unbelievably foul, rank, slimy, glutenous, and stringy goop of fermented soybeans. It's the Vegemite of Japan ... . There were two kinds of natto for me that morning: the traditional soy variety, and an even scarier black bean natto. If the taste wasn't bad enough, there's the texture. There's just no way to eat the stuff. I dug in my chopsticks and dragged a small bit to my mouth. Viscous long strands of mucuslike material followed, leaving numerous ugly and unmanageable strands running from my lips to the bowl. I tried severing the strands with my chopsticks, but to no avail. ... I sat there, these horrible-looking strings extending from mouth to table like a spider's web, doing my best to choke them down while still smiling ... . All I wanted to do now was hurl myself through the paper walls and straight off the edge of the mountain. Hopefully, a big tub of boiling bleach or lye would be waiting at the bottom for me to gargle with.

"Waiting in the wings, right behind the natto, was another concoction, described as 'mountain potato.' Of this, I could handle only a single taste. To this day, I have no idea what it really was. It didn't taste like a potato -- and I can't imagine anything on a mountain tasting so evil. I didn't ask, frightened that my host might mistake my inquiry for enthusiasm and offer up another generous helping. The small, dark, chewy nugget can only be described as tasting like salt-cured, sun-dried goat rectum -- unbelievably, woefully flavorful -- garnished by small maggotlike wriggly things ... . I thought I would die. Nothing, not bugs, not iguana, not live reptile parts, not tree grubs, nothing I'd ever eaten would approach the horror of these few not unusual Japanese breakfast items. I'm not sneering. I'm sure that natto and mountain rectum are, as they say, 'acquired tastes.' And I'm sure that over time I could learn to appreciate them. If I were incarcerated and natto was the only food provided. But for right now? Given a choice between eating natto and digging up my old dog Pucci (dead thirty-five years) and making rillettes out of him? Sorry, Pucci."

Writing about food: Russell Baker, "Francs and Beans"

"As chance would have it, the very evening in 1975 Craig Claiborne ate his historic $4,000 dinner for two with thirty-one dishes and nine wines in Pairs, a Lucullan repast for one was prepared and consumed in New York by this correspondent ... . The meal opened with a 1975 Diet Pepsi served in a disposable bottle. Although its bouquet was negligible, its distinct metallic aftertaste evoked memories of tin cans one had licked experimentally in the first flush of childhood's curiosity. To create the balance of tastes so cherished by the epicurean palate, I followed with a pate de fruites de nuts of Georgia ... a half-inch layer of creamy-style peanut butter is troweled onto a graham cracker, then half a banana is crudely diced and pressed firmly into the peanut butter and cemented in place as it were by a second graham cracker. ... At this point in the meal, the stomach was ready for serious eating, and I prepared beans with bacon grease, a dish I perfected in 1937 while developing my cuisine du depression. ... Beans with bacon grease is always eaten from the pan with a tablespoon while standing over the kitchen sink. ... The correct drink with this dish is a straight shot of room-temperature gin.

"For the meat course, I had fried bologna a la Nutley, Nouveau Jersey. Six slices of A&P bologna were placed in an ungreased frying pan over maximum heat and held down by a long fork until the entire house filled with smoke. ... The cheese course was deliciously simple -- a single slice of Kraft's individually wrapped yellow sandwich cheese, which was flavored by vigorous rubbing over the bottom of the frying pan to soak up the rich bologna juices. ... It was time for the fruit. I chose a Del Monte tinned pear, which, regrettably, slipped from the spoon and fell on the floor, necessitating its being blotted with a paper towel to remove cat hairs. To compensate for the resulting loss of pear syrup, I dipped it lightly in hot dog relish which created a unique flavor. ... At last it was time for the dish the entire meal had been building toward -- dessert. With a paring knife, I ripped into a fresh package of Oreos, produced a bowl of My-T-Fine chocolate pudding which had been coagulating in the refrigerator for days and, using a potato masher, crushed a dozen Oreos into the pudding. It was immense."

Writing about food: Anton Chekhov's "Oysters"

"If I had been taken into a hospital at that minute, the doctors would have had to write over my bed Fames, a disease which is not in the manuals of medicine. ... Before us was a big house of three stories, adorned with a blue signboard with the word 'Restaurant' on it. ... 'Oysters' I made out on the placard. ... 'Papa, what does 'oysters' mean?' ... . 'It's an animal ... that lives in the sea.' I instantly thought it must be something midway between a fish and a crab. As it was from the sea they made of, of course, a very nice hot fish soup with savory pepper and laurel leaves, or broth with vinegar and fricassee of fish and cabbage, or crayfish sauce, or served it cold with horse-radish.

"'Papa, are oysters a Lenten dish?' I asked. 'They are eaten alive' said my father. 'They are in shells like tortoises, but ... in two halves.' ... I imagined to myself a creature like a frog. A frog sitting in a shell, peeping out from it with big, glittering eyes, and moving its revolting jaws. ... The children would all hide while the cook, frowning with an air of disgust, would take the creature by its claw, put it on a plate, and carry it into the dining-room. The grown-ups would take it and eat it, eat it alive with its eyes, its teeth, its legs! While it squeaked and tried to bite their lips. ... I shuddered at the thought of them, but I wanted to eat! To eat!

"'Oysters!' I cried, pulling my father by the skirts of his coat. ... Two gentlemen in top hats were standing before us, looking into my face and laughing. 'Do you really eat oysters, youngster? That's interesting!' ... I remember that a strong hand dragged me into the lighted restaurant. A minute later there was a crowd round me, watching me with curiosity and amusement. I sat at a table and ate something slimy, salt with a flavor of dampness and moldiness. I ate greedily without chewing, without looking and trying to discover what I was eating. ... All at once I began biting something hard, there was a sound of a scrunching. 'Ha, ha!' He is eating the shells,' laughed the crowd. ... After that I remember a terrible thirst. I was lying in my bed, and could not sleep for heartburn and the strong taste in my parched mouth. My father was walking up and down, gesticulating with his hands."

National New England Clam Chowder Day: Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"

"Upon making known our desires for a supper and bed, Mrs. Hussey ... ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round to us and said -- 'Clam or Cod?'
'What's that about Cods, ma'am?' said I, with much politeness.
'Clam or Cod,' she replied.
'A clam for supper? a cold clam; is THAT what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?' says I, 'but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain't it, Mrs. Hussey?' ... Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out, 'clam for two,' disappeared.
'Queenqueg,' said I, 'do you think we can make out a supper for us both on one clam?'

"However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! harken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we dispatched it with great expedition ... .

"Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam-shells. ... There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen's boats, I saw Hosen's brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod's decapitated head ... ."

National Cheese Lover's Day: John Lanchester's "The Debt to Pleasure"

"This menu is designed and intended to give a sense of warmth, sunlight, the same feeling of opening out of the year ahead that one gets when encountering one's first glimpse, in January, of the upthrusting tenacious insouciant virginal snowdrop. ... Arrange the leaves around the sides of the plates on which they are to be served. Luxuriantly nap them with your vinaigrette. Toast a number of slices of bread, one per person, and then put a tranche of goat's cheese on each slice and pop them all under the grill. Remove just as the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Place toast and cheese in the middle of the dressed plates and serve.

"Cheese is philosophically interesting as a food whose qualities depend on the action of bacteria -- it is, as James Joyce remarked, 'the corpse of milk.' Dead milk, live bacteria. A similar process of controlled spoilage is apparent in the process of hanging game, where some degree of rotting helps to make the meat tender and flavorsome -- even if one no longer entirely subscribes to the nineteenth-century dictum that a hung pheasant is only ready for eating when the first maggot drops onto the larder floor. With meat and game, the bacterial action is a desideratum rather than a necessity, which it is in the case of cheese -- a point grasped even in Old Testament times, as Job reveals in his interrogation of the Lord: 'Hast though not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?' The process of ripening in cheese is a little like the human acquisition of wisdom and maturity: both processes involve a recognition, or incorporation, of the fact that life is an incurable disease with a hundred percent mortality rate -- a slow variety of death.

"To the right of the counter ... were the cheeses. No fewer than five different versions of the chief Norman glory, Camembert, an example of the profitable ideas sometimes born during periods of historical ferment, as the cheese was invented due to cross-fertilization between the ingredients of the Norman regions and the cheese-making techniques of Meaux, as they were exported to Camembert by the young Abbe Gobert, fleeing the Terror in 1792. Also Livarot, Pont-l'Eveque, Neufchatel, a Brie which to my perhaps hypercritical eye looked a little chalky at the center, and a rich array of small local cheeses ... "

National Popcorn Day: Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Farmer Boy"

"When the work was done, Father came up the cellar stairs, bringing a big pitcher of sweet cider and a panful of apples. Royal took the corn-popper and a pannikin of popcorn. ... Royal opened its iron door, and with the poker he broke the charred logs into a shimmering bed of coals. He put three handfuls of popcorn into the big wire popper, and shook the popper over the coals. In a little while a kernel popped, then another, then three or four at once, and all at once furiously the hundreds of little pointed kernels exploded. When the big dishpan was heaping full of fluffy white popcorn, Alice poured melted butter over it, and stirred and salted it. It was hot and crackling crisp, and deliciously buttery and salty, and everyone could eat all he wanted to.

"Almanzo sat on a footstool by the stove, an apple in his hand, a bowl of popcorn by his side, and his mug of cider on the hearth by his feet. ... Popcorn is American. Nobody but the Indians ever had popcorn, till after the Pilgrim Fathers came to America. ... Almanzo looked at every kernel before he ate it. They were all different shapes. ... Then he thought that if he had some milk, he would have popcorn and milk. You can fill a glass full to the brim with milk, and fill another glass of the same size brim full of popcorn, and then you can put all the popcorn kernel by kernel into the milk, and the milk will not run over. You cannot do this with bread. Popcorn and milk are the only two things that will go into the same place. ... But Almanzo was not very hungry, and he knew Mother would not want the milkpans disturbed. If you disturb milk when the cream is rising, the cream will not be so thick. So Almanzo ate another apple and drank cider with his popcorn and did not say anything about popcorn and milk."
Go to Page: 1