When Atkins attack

I love Slate’s shopathon/critique articles, and today’s Meaty Issues – Are the new low- and no-carb breads, beers, and sweets any good? is no exception. It confirms my belief that I will not be going on the Atkins diet again any time soon.

I do, however, like the way writer Kelly Alexander ends the article: “As for me, if I wanted to Atkins-ize myself permanently (highly unlikely), I would simply eat pork-chop-wrapped duck breasts for every meal.” Hear, hear.

Finally! A source for potted possum sauce!

Actually, if there had been a “spit, don’t swallow” category, it would be a lot more appropriate to some of the exhibits in the Potted Meat Museum than “yum” but I work within the constraints I am given. At least it’s not nearly as frightening as Pete’s hats of meat last week.

Now admittedly, there is a place for potted meat (and saying “potted meat” gives me a weird little pleasure–perhaps something akin to how Perry feels about “toast points”). I mean, we would have no tuna sandwiches without potted meat, and, hmmm…ok, well, maybe that’s the only one I can think of that doesn’t really spook me. Because, yeah, I’m kinda spooked by beef and iron wine and pork brains with milk gravy. Actually, I’m more than a little spooked by those. Spooked we’ll leave to the realm of canned steak and kidney pie, which seems something iffy enough in its fresh form that it really oughtn’t to be consumed from a can. I’d say the same goes for turtle soup.

And I’m assuming (or is hoping a more appropriate word here) that the armadillo meat–sundried and road tenderized–is a joke, which is why it’s listed under “exotic and other.” Now there’s a category for you! Jay, can we add that one to nonfamous, for newsbits that just don’t work in any of the other established genres?

nonedible nonfood

Not since the heady days of my mother’s infamous creation “hot dog soup” have I been so frightened by the appearance of something purporting to be dinner. Well, there was also Doctor Zabdiel Boylston’s Honeycomb Pudding, which had too long a name not involving food products that I should have been suspicious well before making it, but I was young, my dad was the head chef that day, and all I know is that the name was only descriptive if either the good doctor or a honeycomb generally resemble the title creature from the Blob. And can move by it’s own willpower. Yeah, it really did that. Right off the cutting board and across the counter. I still get nightmares about it.

But I digress, which I do a lot, because, well, probably because I’ve got a serious and undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. Or because I’ve killed enough brain cells with alcohol, stress, and other such nonhealthy nonsmartening pursuits, that I’m incapable of staying on point for more than the first four or five words of a given sentence. See?

So where was I? Oh yes, I was being disturbed by food. Which is hard. I’m the kind of gal who actually seeks out such generally frightening dishes as sweetbreads, tripe, salt cod, and pickled fish. Hell, I ate a wide array of unidentifiable floral and faunal squiggly items in Japan without flinching. I ate fish face, eyeballs and all. So, you know, I’m hard to freak out when it comes to food. Unless, of course, the food in question is hot dog soup which is just sick and wrong, or something called Fluffy Mackeral Pudding which is even sicker and wronger. Yeah, the name is scary ok, but not half so scary as the image of “onion sauce” which really looks more like A Fish Named Carrie if you ask me.

What the hell? That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? Well, I mean, unless you’ve already seen this site and know what the deal is. But basically, some guy posted all these recipe cards that Weight Watchers put out back in the ’70s with amusing commentary, which couldn’t have been that hard to come up with because, well, the cards are pretty fucking disturbing on their own. I mean, do you really need someone to tell you that anything called inspiration soup would be anything but to the tastebuds, or that rosy perfection salad must have been created by someone who understood the meaning of the word irony much better than Alanis Morissette?

Now, I’m a fan of Weight Watchers. I recommend them like crazy because, well, you know, they kind of saved me and all, got me back on the straight and narrow, or at least, thinner, and I never really thought of them as some weirdass “Here drink this…uhm…Kool-aid” kind of an organization that pulls you in and exerts weird mind control over you, but these cards are kind of making me wonder if Jim Jones didn’t go on to take over their culinary design division after making such a mess in Guyana.

Wine me, dine me, put me on the Web!

Nothing like a trip to the Continent to wake up one’s inner wine snob (which, truth be told, wasn’t sleeping too heavily)… Some web searching today led me to a great site onWA, Seattle Wine Dinners, Tastings, Classes And Education. What I was– and still am– really looking for is a decent wine club, but this works. The weekend of my birthday there is a fabulous Washington Wine Event at the Stadium Ex, but $85 a person sounds kind of high. Still, a great list of participating wineries and restaurants, and it sounds like something The Judy would love.

Next it will have to be the Paulette\Paul (Prudhomme) project I suppose

Thanks to my dear friends at Chowhound I’ve recently discovered a new favorite blog (sorry, Jay, but this one is too up my alley). The Julie/Julia Project is the daily adventures of a woman who is trying to work her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cookery and have a life at the same time. I felt a particular kinship with her while reading of her unfortunately textured orange mousse; her liquid mess seemed like the perfect complement to the solid mass of cornmeal and buttermilk that took two extra cooks and all of the remaining milk and eggs in the house to turn into cornbread last Sunday.
Continue reading “Next it will have to be the Paulette\Paul (Prudhomme) project I suppose”

The High Maintenance Bird

There has been an interesting confluence of themes in my life lately, especially in regards to my heritage turkey, the history of cocktails, and that rather unnerving southern species of bird known as the turducken, which Jay discoursed on so eloquently here a few days ago.

This morning I awoke to a story on NPR about the farm that raised my Thanksgiving centerpiece, Wish Farms in Prairie City, OR. Then they did a piece about a particular kind of heritage martini, as it were, using Plymouth Gin, which was of course thematically linked to the book I’m reading, Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, which had this nice little excerpt on the page that I started with this morning:

Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of Angosturo bitters. Shake.
The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald

which seemed really funny on a bus at 8 am this morning after a hard night of primary research on historically important cocktails. But not half so amusing as the read I had upon opening the information packet that accompanied my heritage turkey. First of all, the fact that a turkey should require documentation beyond that which is specified by the Department of Agriculture, is in itself quite amusing. But that it should come with instructions for care and cooking that rival in anal retentiveness the pages of Cook’s Illustrated or the above and below mentioned turducken is really quite a hoot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to be participating in the Slow Food movement, and to do my part to help keep a family farm in operation. Being the daughter of a gentleman farmer, I do value the small time agricultural operation and all, but so far as I know, the most instruction my father would provide to a would-be cook about to tackle one of his birds would be along the lines of “well, it’s dead, which I know because I did the backbreaking work of putting the thing out it’s misery. And you should probably cook it before you eat it.”

So the main information sheet is titled “A few words on your Thanksgiving turkey” and assures me that, in fact, Sunday, November 24, 2002 was the correct date of death for my little hen, an 11.5 pound specimen of poultry pulchritude. It reminds me (which is probably not a bad thing to do) that the nasties are in the cavity of the bird and should be removed prior to cooking and then used “in preparing a flavorful stock and/or stuffing.” It also advises me to rinse the bugger inside and out, and just in case I hadn’t thought of it, suggests that “the spray attachment on your kitchen sink is an ideal tool for this job.”

It also reminds me that my American Bronze bird is superior to those that millions of Americans are thawing right now after picking up at their local grocery stores (well, I should hope so, considering that I just paid $40 for an 11 pound turkey!), and as such requires no brining or marinating since they are but “techniques introduced to cope with the blandness of the Standard White supermarket turkey” (which comes as something of a relief, as I was a bit concerned that my first experience not using a pre-brined kosher turkey might result in me making a salty mess of this rare bird). It also gently suggests that extreme methods of cooking, such as smoking and frying, would overwhelm the subtle flavor of my new poultry prize, and implies that I would be insulting the little critter to treat it in such a shocking manner. My bird will also likely take as much as an hour less to cook than its supermarket cousins, owing to its gentle nature. No, this is a delicate creature, and should be treated with the utmost roasting respect, which according to the Slow Food people does have its many variations, and might well entail “high-temp, low-tem or a combination, breast-up, breast-down or a combination, stuffed/unstuffed, basted/unbasted” oven treatment. And here I thought turkey roasting was uncreative!

So this information sheet goes on to advise me that I should remove the bird from the oven the moment the internal temperature reaches 165 so as to avoid drying it out. It also offers the helpful hint that should I be concerned about undercooking the stuffing, I could wrap it cheesecloth, microwave it first and then fill up the bird with it already hot. I wonder, does Heloise know about that one?

And here I thought I was just buying a turkey, not a whole new philosophy on the treatment of poultry products. I hope the organic potatoes I plan to purchase at the Pike Place Market today won’t inform me that they would feel slighted to be mashed with some garden-variety garlic and milk. At least I can assure them that I will be using some very good Irish butter in the mix.

hey there pilgrim

Perry is astounded (and almost offended, I think) by Paulette’s and my participation in the “Slow Food” movement, but he’s going to be eating a “Slow Turkey” with us on Thursday. Apparently a fair number of New Yorkers will be doing the same: Turkeys Similar to What Pilgrims Ate

I’m a little freaked out by the Times’ angle though: I have a hard enough time with my “extinction day” festivities without highlighting my cultural connections to the Pilgrims. I’ll just take my heirloom turkey with an extra helping of white guilt.