A Literary Feast


“What if I wrote something unflattering about you?”

I laid there in the dark wondering if that was really a question. It was more like a sad grasp at an authentic self. A hope that he could conjure up something impassioned. The banal tone of the voice that spoke it annoyed me. I rolled over and looked at him. He lay flat on his back. The ashen flourescent light from the street lamp outside scattered through the blinds and rested on his still form. How could anyone write who cannot cry, who believes they hover with an observant eye watching as humanity writhes in its emotional excess. Detached. Who could write who cannot lay claim to their own feelings?

‘Go ahead, write it!’ I wanted to growl. Say something honest for fuck sake. Take your pitiful attempts at poetic allegories and let them flutter out the window with your cigarette smoke. Let them dissolve into a pile of mush on the sidewalk with the dog shit. You pick your words like a coward, as if you can gloss over the fear that your insipid attempt at writing was a piece of your soul. Say something honest.

Tonight I’m taking Henry Miller to my bed. I’m going to fall asleep in his passionate, wordy embrace. And when I’m done with him I’ll feel raw inside. And alive. Write what you want, your words have no feeling. I’ll stumble out of bed in the morning, rough and foggy. I’ll make a half-hearted attempt to tame my hair that is gnarled and matted from last night’s literary lust and make myself some breakfast. I’ll serve up my soul. Throw it on a plate and let the dogs eat the left overs. Write what you want, you cannot hurt me. I am already consumed. I am a sacrifice. I am Ariadne, Nora, Antigone, Penelope. I am the lady of the lake, the monster of the abyss. My life is flavored with the delicious, salty tears that you have not known in years.

Like Water for Chocolate  – Quail in Rose Petals

“This dish is for lovers. Abandon propriety, and eat with your hands.”

1 cup water
2 tbls hibiscus flowers
3” stick of cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 tbls cornstarch

2 tsp anise seeds (not star anise)
5 chestnuts, minced
1 pithaya, or cactus pear, peeled and sliced (optional, if available)

8 quail
1 stick butter (4 oz)

1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch sugar
Sea Salt to taste
1 tbls rose water
Edible roses and flowers

In a small saucepan, add the water, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon, and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Strain and save the liquid, discard the hibiscus, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.
In a molcajete or mortar and pestle, grind the anise seeds, chestnuts and pithaya until they are a smooth paste. Set aside.
Heat your oven to about 200° or turn on your warming drawer,  if you have one. Meanwhile, in a large 10” skillet, heat the butter until it is melted. Add the quail, and fry gently for 15-20 minutes, until the quail are golden and their juices run only faintly pink. Salt lightly and remove to an ovenproof platter, reserving the cooking butter in the skillet. Place the platter in your warmed oven or warming drawer, holding there until your sauce is ready.
Turn the stove to a low flame, and return the skillet to heat. Add the garlic, along with the chestnut anise paste and roast gently in the butter for 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and allow the butter to cool slightly about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch into the hibiscus tea, and pour into the skillet with the butter. Return the butter to the heat, and stir gently but thoroughly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Using a mesh strainer, strain the sauce, reserving the butter and discarding what is strained out. Stir in the rosewater.
Pour the sauce over the quail, and allow the platter to hold in the oven about 10 minutes, until the quail is well soaked in the sauce. Decorate the plate with rose petals and edible flowers right before serving.

From Melissa Guerra

Leopold Bloom’s Kidney Fritters

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

Make a batter with four well-beaten eggs, mixed with half a pint of new milk, and flavoured with a little pepper, salt, and pounded mace. Stir into this a teaspoonful each of finely shredded chives, parsley and mushrooms, and a table-spoonful of the remains of a cold veal kidney finely minced, and mixed with half its weight of fat. Beat together for two or three minutes, then melt an ounce of butter in the frying pan, pour in the mixture, and stir it until it is set. When it is browned on one side, turn it on a hot dish, hold a salamander or red-hot shovel over it for a minute or two to colour it on the other, and serve immediately.

From Cassell’s “Dictionary of Cookery” (1870’s) via The Old Foodie

Proust’s Madeleines

‘The true paradises are the paradises we have lost.’ 

Ingredients:

  • 1½ sticks of unsalted butter (6 ounces) plus extra for greasing pan
  • 4 large eggs
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 large lemon zested
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350. Brown the butter in a pot over medium heat. Strain the milk solids out of the browned butter using a fine mesh strainer (a paper towel works fine too). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Grease your madeleine pan using the extra butter and dust lightly with flour (I’m sure Pam or some other cooking spray would work fine for this step too).

Add the eggs and the salt to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk until thick and roughly doubled in volume. With the mixer still running add the sugar in a slow steady stream. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick, about 2 minutes (mixture should fall from a spatula in ribbons at this point). Gently fold lemon zest and vanilla into the egg mixture, being careful not to over mix. Now fold in the flour until just incorporated then gently fold in brown butter. Scoop into madeleine molds (about 2/3 full) and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned. Invert onto a serving plate and allow to cool before dusting with powdered sugar.

From Yummybooks Blog

The Year of Magical Thinking Ginger Scallion Soup

“She wrote in a world in which mourning was still recognized, allowed, not hidden from view…In the end Emily Post’s 1922 etiquette book turned out to be as acute in its apprehension of this other way of death, and as prescriptive in its treatment of grief, as anything else I read. I will not forget the instinctive wisdom of a friend who, every day for those first few weeks, brought me a quart container of scallion-and-ginger congee from Chinatown. Congee I could eat. Congee was all I could eat.”

Ingredients:

  • 4.5 quarts water
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 chicken breasts—bone-in no skin
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 14 chopped scallions-white bulb removed, reserve two to chop for garnish
  • 4 inch piece of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon (slice and add both juices and rind to pot)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 8 tsp white vinegar
  • 8 tsp soy sauce
  • 6 beaten eggs
  • Noodles or rice for serving

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients besides the eggs together in a stock pot. Let them boil for 30-40 minutes (longer if you can bear it). Strain broth into a bowl and removed chicken from strainer. Pick chicken off of the bones and break into small pieces, then add back to the stock pot. Put burner on medium and take your bowl of beaten eggs. Stir constantly and add eggs in a slow stream, they will start to cook and rise up to the top. Garnish with remaining scallions and pour over rice or noodles to serve.

From Yummybooks Blog

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