I will be trying some of the vegetarian recipes periodically, and so cannot comment on the quality of the food in this cookbook (I’m a bit short on funds and cooking is expensive). Mostly this is just interesting, and a good read, for what people ate and how (that is, with upwards of 5 pounds of butter per dish). The variety of food is amazing, as are the descriptions and quantities. And the illustrations, of course.
Here is an excerpt from my favourite recipe, ‘Stewed Marmots (Civent de Marmottes)’:
“Having killed some marmots sunning themselves belly up in the sun with their noses in the air one sunrise in September, skin them and carefully put aside the mass of fat which is excellent for rubbing into the bellies of pregnant women, into the knees, ankles, and painful joints of sprains, and into leather shoes.
Cut up the marmot and treat it like stewed hare which has a perfume that is unique and wild.”
That’s it, that’s the whole recipe. For every fifteen normal recipes, there is one or two like this, which makes reading the whole book worthwhile even if you would not normally read (or skim) an cookbook cover to cover.
I’m trying read more and write more. I don’t have much to say about The Satyricon, except that it was entertaining for the most part, and perhaps more scandalous than the Fellini film which was a surprise to me. I greatly enjoyed the scene of Trimalchio’s feast, so here’s another food post with what they eat:
On the tray stood a donkey made of Corinthian bronze, bearing panniers containing olives, white in one and black in the other. Two platters flanked the figure, on the margins of which were engraved Trimalchio’s name and the weight of the silver in each. Dormice sprinkled with poppy-seed and honey were served on little bridges soldered fast to the platter, and hot sausages on a silver gridiron, underneath which were damson plums and pomegranate seeds.
Turning his head, Trimalchio saw what was going on. “Friends,” he remarked. “I ordered pea-hen’s eggs set under the hen, but I’m afraid they’re addled, by Hercules I am let’s try them anyhow, and see if they’re still fit to suck.” We picked up our spoons, each of which weighed not less than half a pound, and punctured the shells, which were made of flour and dough, and as a matter of fact, I very nearly threw mine away for it seemed to me that a chick had formed already, but upon hearing an old experienced guest vow, “There must be something good here,” I broke open the shell with my hand and discovered a fine fat fig-pecker, imbedded in a yolk seasoned with pepper.
There was a circular tray around which were displayed the signs of the zodiac, and upon each sign the caterer had placed the food best in keeping with it. Ram’s vetches on Aries, a piece of beef on Taurus, kidneys and lamb’s fry on Gemini, a crown on Cancer, the womb of an unfarrowed sow on Virgo, an African fig on Leo, on Libra a balance, one pan of which held a tart and the other a cake, a small seafish on Scorpio, a bull’s eye on Sagittarius, a sea lobster on Capricornus, a goose on Aquarius and two mullets on Pisces. In the middle lay a piece of cut sod upon which rested a honeycomb with the grass arranged around it. An Egyptian slave passed bread around from a silver oven and in a most discordant voice twisted out a song in the manner of the mime in the musical farce called Laserpitium.
While he was speaking, four dancers ran in to the time of the music, and removed the upper part of the tray. Beneath, on what seemed to be another tray, we caught sight of stuffed capons and sows’ bellies, and in the middle, a hare equipped with wings to resemble Pegasus. At the corners of the tray we also noted four figures of Marsyas and from their bladders spouted a highly spiced sauce upon fish which were swimming about as if in a tide-race. All of us echoed the applause which was started by the servants, and fell to upon these exquisite delicacies, with a laugh. “Carver,” cried Trimalchio, no less delighted with the artifice practised upon us, and the carver appeared immediately. Timing his strokes to the beat of the music he cut up the meat in such a fashion as to lead you to think that a gladiator was fighting from a chariot to the accompaniment of a water-organ.
At length some slaves came in who spread upon the couches some coverlets upon which were embroidered nets and hunters stalking their game with boar-spears, and all the paraphernalia of the chase. We knew not what to look for next, until a hideous uproar commenced, just outside the dining-room door, and some Spartan hounds commenced to run around the table all of a sudden. A tray followed them, upon which was served a wild boar of immense size, wearing a liberty cap upon its head, and from its tusks hung two little baskets of woven palm fibre, one of which contained Syrian dates, the other, Theban. Around it hung little suckling pigs made from pastry, signifying that this was a brood-sow with her pigs at suck. It turned out that these were souvenirs intended to be taken home.
While we were speaking, a handsome boy, crowned with vine leaves and ivy, passed grapes around, in a little basket, and impersonated Bacchus-happy, Bacchus-drunk, and Bacchus-dreaming, reciting, in the meantime, his master’s verses, in a shrill voice.
The tables were cleared off to the beat of music, and three white hogs, muzzled, and wearing bells, were brought into the dining-room. The announcer informed us that one was a two-year-old, another three, and the third just turned six. I had an idea that some rope-dancers had come in and that the hogs would perform tricks, just as they do for the crowd on the streets, but Trimalchio dispelled this illusion by asking, “Which one will you have served up immediately, for dinner? Any country cook can manage a dunghill cock, a pentheus hash, or little things like that, but my cooks are well used to serving up calves boiled whole, in their cauldrons!” […] Before he had run out of wind, a tray upon which was an enormous hog was placed upon the table, almost filling it up. We began to wonder at the dispatch with which it had been prepared and swore that no cock could have been served up in so short a time; moreover, this hog seemed to us far bigger than the boar had been. Trimalchio scrutinized it closely and “What the hell,” he suddenly bawled out, “this hog hain’t been gutted, has it? No, it hain’t, by Hercules, it hain’t! Call that cook! Call that cook in here immediately!” When the crestfallen cook stood at the table and owned up that he had forgotten to bowel him, “So you forgot, did you?” Trimalchio shouted, “You’d think he’d only left out a bit of pepper and cummin, wouldn’t you? Off with his clothes!” […] “Since your memory’s so short, you can gut him right here before our eyes!” The cook put on his tunic, snatched up a carving knife, with a trembling hand, and slashed the hog’s belly in several places. Sausages and meat- puddings, widening the apertures, by their own weight, immediately tumbled out. [this is followed by great applause, obviously]
When my glance returned to the table, I noticed that a dish containing cakes had been placed upon it, and in the middle an image of Priapus, made by the baker, and he held apples of all varieties and bunches of grapes against his breast, in the conventional manner. We applied ourselves wholeheartedly to this dessert and our joviality was suddenly revived by a fresh diversion, for, at the slightest pressure, all the cakes and fruits would squirt a saffron sauce upon us, and even spurted unpleasantly into our faces.
The dainties that followed this display of affability were of such a nature that, if any reliance is to be placed in my word, the very mention of them makes me sick at the stomach. Instead of thrushes, fattened chickens were served, one to each of us, and goose eggs with pastry caps on them, which same Trimalchio earnestly entreated us to eat, informing us that the chickens had all been boned
Thrushes made of pastry and stuffed with nuts and raisins, quinces with spines sticking out so that they looked like sea-urchins. All this would have been endurable enough had it not been for the last dish that was served; so revolting was this, that we would rather have died of starvation than to have even touched it. We thought that a fat goose, flanked with fish and all kinds of birds, had been served, until Trimalchio spoke up. “Everything you see here, my friends,” said he, “was made from the same stuff.” With my usual keen insight, I jumped to the conclusion that I knew what that stuff was and, turning to Agamemnon, I said, “I shall be greatly surprised, if all those things are not made out of excrement, or out of mud, at the very least: I saw a like artifice practiced at Rome during the Saturnalia.” [it’s actually made of pork]
I had to look up what some of these things were. Dormice are a specific type of dormouse (as in the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), also called the edible dormouse. Fig-peckers are unborn chicks. Both were delicacies in Ancient Rome. Vetches are a type of legume, but I couldn’t find anything about ‘ram’s vetches’ unless it was referring to ram feed. It does seem that vetches could be used in bread-making, which might mean something. But I’m not really doing enough research into the topic.
From the first page and a half food inserts itself into The Bell Jar: “peanut-smelling mouth,” “tail end of a sweet dream,” “noseless balloon stinking of vinegar.” Taste dominates the senses.
By the third page we get to a foreshadowing of hope: “last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with.” The novel ends with Esther out of the hospital, and begins with suggestions of a life and future beyond the novel, one which presumably encompasses a family.
Food is a form of life. You need it to survive, and while death is like sleep (she tries to kill herself with sleeping pills), life is about wakeful sensations.
In the novel we have:
an Old Fashioned (filled with bits of fruit), straight vodka, wine, and beer
avocados filled with crabmeat and mayonnaise, rare roast beef, cold chicken, black caviar — with reference to bitter black coffee, apple pie à la mode, economy joints, economy meatloaf, anchovy paste, peanut butter on bread, avocados filled with melted grape jelly and French dressing, salad eaten with one’s fingers instead of a fork, a fingerbowl drunk like soup — marzipan fruit, meringue and brandy ice cream
a broth for recovery (“Pads of butter floated on the surface and a faint chickeny aroma fumed up to my nostrils”), and mentions of hot dogs
scrambled eggs, with cheese and garlic salt
hamburgers, fancy cakes, unknown foods, and wine tasting like pine-wood
“I just drank one daiquiri after another.”
a raw egg mixed into a teacup full of raw hamburger, alphabet soup
Rice Krispies, peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches, vanilla ice cream, and Hood’s milk
peanuts for feeding pigeons, Deer Island Prison’s offering of “plenty to eat” during the winter, candy, then money for candy since she has none, hot dogs buried in the sand when no one’s looking (she’s stopped eating and sleeping)
“I raised my voice. ‘I can’t eat.’ It occurred to me I’d been eating ravenously ever since I came.”
hospital food in large, lidded tureens for thick white china plates: green string beans; cold, gelatinous, solidified macaroni and cheese; baked beans (“Now I know perfectly well you didn’t serve two kinds of beans together at a meal. Beans and carrots, or beans and peas, maybe, but never beans and beans.”); matchsticks to be pretended to be made out of candy; hot milk; spam and broiled tomatoes; the breakfast tray (coffee, cream, boiled egg, orange marmalade) — its function as threat and then reward; apple cider
out of the hospital: first: bitter coffee, beer; then: escargot at a French restaurant (“I picked up the empty snail shell and drank the herb-green juice. I had no idea if this was proper, but after months of wholesome, dull asylum diet, I was greedy for butter.”), Nuits St. Georges (“‘You do like wine,’ Irwin observed.”)
The trajectory of food goes from voracious and gourmande, to plain, raw, inedible and imaginary, back to a hunger satiated with bad food, and ending with the gourmet again. It’s predicted in the hope of future which is suggested at the end of the novel.
But because I’ve been reading Louise Glück too, I can’t help but think of Persephone’s mouth stained red with the juice of pomegranate in her death, something much more sensorally potent than Demeter’s wheat.
Horsetail and sesame salad. Smoked carp.
Butterball-flower rolls Conger eels boled in salt water
Perch on rice wrapped in bamboo leaves
Clear soup wih grated plums, star-shaped wheat gluten
chives, leaf buds
Sea bream with skin, to suggest pine bark
Large prawns boiled in salt with raw mushrooms
and peppers pickled in miso
Wakame seaweed from Naruto cooked
with new bamboo shoots and leaf buds
White miso with mushrooms and sesame bean curd
Thin slices of squid dipped in parsley
and citron vinegar
Sea trout in a broth of red clams,
sweet peppers and citron vinegar
Thrush broiled in soy, lobster, scallops,
pickled turnips, liquorice-plant shoots
Duck and bamboo shoots boiled with arrowroot paste
Two baby carps with sea bass
broiled in salt in a citron vinegar
Chestnut dumplings with fern shoots
and pickled plums
Bruno ordered the cocktails and the lunch. He ordered broiled liver for himself, because of his new diet, he said, and eggs Benedict for Guy, because he knew Guy liked them.
Why was he sitting here with Bruno, eating at the same table as him? He wanted to fight Bruno and he wanted to weep. But all at once he felt his curse dissolve in a flood of pity. Bruno did not know how to love, and that was all he needed. Bruno was too lost, too blind to love or to inspire love. It seemed all at once tragic.
“You’ve never been in love, Bruno? Guy watched a restive, unfamiliar expression come into Bruno’s eyes.
In the silence, Therese felt they both waited for the other to speak, yet the silence was not an awkward one. Their plates had arrived. They had ordered creamed spinach with an egg on top, steamy and buttery smelling
Carol pronounced her name the French way, Terez. She was used to a dozen variations, and sometimes she herself pronounced it differently. She liked the way Carol pronounced it, and she liked her lips saying it. An indefinitely longing, that she had been only vaguely conscious of at times before, became now a recognizable wish. It was so absurd, so embarrassing a desire, that Therese thrust it from her mind.
Eggs in Strangers on a Train:
Eggs and grits
Raw egg (for a prairie oyster)
Ham an eggs (“an unrecognizable dish of vermilion colour,”)
Eggs in The Price of Salt:
Creamed spinach with an egg on top
Fried eggs, boiled eggs, and an omelette
Pink foamy eggnog
Hard-boiled eggs (with dill pickles, mozzarella cheese, and caviar sandwiches)
Ham and eggs and coffee
Undisclosed preparation of eggs (“I want you with me.”/”Do you mean that?”/”Yes. Eat your eggs. Stop being silly.”)