Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hot Gazpacho à la Alice B. Toklas

I've been reading The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book which I bought a few months ago at an estate sale. I thought the title sounded familiar, but had no idea what I was actually buying.

The book is a fascinating memoir about Alice's life as friend, lover, and aide-de-camp to Gertrude Stein. Each chapter centers around a set of their adventures, transporting medical supplies during war time, wrangling persnickety vehicles named Aunt Pauline and Godiva, and traveling here and there around the Continent and elsewhere. All the stories conclude with a description of a meal they ate on these travels, along with a recipe or two.

There are many interesting things about the book. Alice always refers to her companion as "Gertrude Stein", never as merely Gertrude. Use of punctuation is spotty. Questions are often ended with periods rather than question marks. Recipes are introduced in the middle of sentences. Names like Picasso are dropped in the midst of stories about friends and acquaintances.

I'm not sure how many of the recipes I'll include in this blog. It tends not to be my style of cooking. Most of it is very French, both literally and by my own use of the term, meaning: multi-stepped and fussy. But I did want to include this passage on gazpacho. It concludes a chapter on variations of this cold soup, and was added as a sort of epilogue. She writes:
Senora Marta Brunet, a distinguished Chilean writer, is of Spanish or rather Catalan descent and she describes gazpacho as a meal of the Spanish muleteers. And meal it seems, in this version, rather than soup. These muleteers, she says, carry with them on their journeyings a flat earthenware dish--and garlic, olive, oil, tomatoes and cucumbers, also dry bread which they crumble. Between two stones by the wayside they grind the garlic with a little salt and then add the oil. This mixture is rubbed all round the inside of the earthenware vessel. Then they slice the tomatoes and cucumbers and put alternating layers of each in the dish, interspersing the layers with layers of breadcrumbs and topping off the four tiers with more breadcrubms and more oil. This done and prepared, they take a wet cloth, wrap it round the dish and leave it in a sunny place. The evaporation cooks the contents and when the cloth is dry the meal is ready. Too simple, my dear Watson.
Now I don't claim to be a scientist of any kind. Brain or otherwise. But my understanding of the evaporation process is that it cools, rather than heats. A quick googling confirmed that, and led me to an interesting link about a self-cooling Spanish clay water vessel called a Botijo.

So that leaves me wondering if the word "cooks" in the passage was a typo inflicted during the publishing process, or if Alice simply got the story wrong.

Interesting, no?

This little book is a priceless window into a particular era, social milieu, and personality. Definitely worth the read.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Food Poems for National Poetry Day

A few years ago, Saveur Magazine published a story called A Feast for Bards: 13 Favorite Food Poems, which opened by saying: "Scratch a poet, find a gourmand. Every aspect of gastronomy, from planting to harvest to cooking to eating, has inspired poets for centuries; poets are sensualists, and these are among life's most sensual experiences."

My lovely wife concurs, and she's been dying to get me to publish some of my poems, a number of which center around food.

Here's one for openers:

If you'd like to read a few more poems in this style, written under my nom de plume Chantelle Franc, you can check them out by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Subliminal Bananas for a Better Finale

"Nothing is smarter, nothing more pleasing, than a fruit finale to a meal."
Clearly he agrees.

She, however, cannot bring herself to meet his gaze:

This disquiets me, and makes me wonder if an even more pleasing finale might be needed.

Might the downturned bananas be a subliminal message for hubby?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Viva le Hot Dog!

Cookbook Love loves hot dogs!

And so does Cutco. And so does their illustrator, Frank Marcello. Just look at this fine fellow fencing, confident in his meat selection:

Why he's parried and thrust her burger nearly down to the handle!

Consider his form. And his jaunty shirt. Wish I could find curtains in that fabric.

But on to the recipe:

Check out the loooong arm of this Pisan!

I like that Frank Marcello put the leaning tower in the picture, as a play on "pizza". But he must not have read the recipe because it includes no bun, and his illustration includes no bacon.

Which is a major violation: BACON MUST BE RESPECTED.

Or maybe he was on to something. After all, putting the canino in a bun after grilling would make it more pizza-like.

I guess Frank knows franks.