May 27, 2011
Two days ago, I had four wisdom teeth extracted. At least, I hope they were extracted–I was unconscious during the entire process and was not allowed to see my teeth afterward because they had become a bio-hazard. Allegedly I was a very good patient, I have a letter from the surgeon to prove it. Now I look like this and cannot eat solids.
My grandfather is very particular about applesauce. He meticulously selects a blend of Fuji’s, Pink Ladies, and Golden Delicious. He insists upon whole cinnamon sticks as well as ground Vietnamese cinnamon. And the apples must be peeled perfectly, a mere speck of red or yellow is grounds for dismissal of anyone foolish enough to volunteer in this process. His applesauce is delicious.
I am much more laissez-faire, and actually prefer to include the peels (though in this particular instance, this was a mistake). After cooking things down for an hour or so, I pureed it all in a small Cuisinart and had it with similarly pureed oatmeal.
Who to share such humble gruel?
Apollonia is the patron saint of toothaches. She earned this title by having all her teeth knocked out around in Alexandria around 250 AD. Some say her teeth were all pulled out, which sounds, if anything, more painful. She then jumped into a fire, was miraculously unscathed, and so had her head chopped off instead.
While searching for a dining companion I learned that the real heyday for mouth pain was in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century after the proliferation of refined flour, but before the adoption of nitrous oxide. In ancient Rome, the time of Apollonia, people had fairly decent teeth due to a diet containing relatively few simple carbohydrates.
As you can see, Apollonia is a bit swollen. She is also holding a very large molar in some frightening looking pincers. I gave her an ice pack and some applesauce-oatmeal mush. I told her about the miracles of modern dentures and dentistry. Soon we would both be gnawing on steak and chewing bubblegum.
May 14, 2011
I am almost one whole week late on this post and as such should be preparing humble pie, rather than much simpler and less metaphorical scones. Even worse, this post was intended to be Mother’s Day themed and my mother is my only official follower. I apologize for the inexcusable delay and promise to be much more prompt henceforth.
So! These lovely square scones are not of the British variety. They are sweetened with maple syrup, given texture with oats, and were eaten as an 11 o’clockish meal rather than at tea time. Now we all know that the best person to have for a Mother’s Day treat is of course ones own mother. Alas mine is many miles away, yet happily alive and not fictional, and consequently ineligible.
Louise Dickinson Rich was a mother of two, a step-mother of one, and for forty-seven years a single mother. She is most famous for writing We Took to the Woods, and rightly so. LDR is perhaps not as gifted with words as her famous ancestor, however her books offer a sweet and serious portrait of the rough northeast of Maine (I somehow doubt Emily would have survived as well in such a setting). She is no longer in print. Bobby and I discovered her opportunely in a show bookshelf at a wedding in which we knew no other guests.
LDR was not a very gourmet cook, but she made do. There were no restaurants near Forest Lodge in the 1940’s. Nowadays when we romanticize the simpler cooking of times past, we seem to forget that it involved a great deal of cans and jars. Here LDR serves her own family and four unexpected guests with an understocked larder:
“I fed them for three days, and ever since I have had implicit belief in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We had pea soup, which is very filling. We had baked beans. I sent Gerrish fishing. You can never catch fish when you need them, but he did. We had trout and salmon. We had corn meal mush and molasses. The butter ran out, but we had johhny-cake and the last of the jam I had made the fall before. We had dandelion greens and fiddle-heads, those strange, furry fern fronds that taste something like asparagus and something like swamp water. You boil them and serve them with butter, if you have any butter. My two cans of corned beef made two meals. There are ways of stretching meat enough for three to feed seven, other than Divine multiplication. One can I cut up in cream sauce–a lot of cream sauce–and served on toast. The other I cut up with cold potato–a lot of potato–and browned into hash. The Parsons let me have three cans of tomatoes. One made tomato soup, one went into scalloped tomatoes with bread crumbs–lots of bread crumbs–and the last I strained for Rufus to drink, in lieu of orange juice. You can make one egg take the place of two in scrambled eggs by using too much milk and thickening it with flour. It’s not very good, but it’s something to eat.”
Well, anyone who can eat like that and not complain would certainly enjoy a scone or two with raspberry jam on a late Sunday morning.
May 3, 2011
A good bagel is hard to find. Let me rephrase. West of 74 degrees longitude, a good bagel is hard to find. Oddly this does not lead to a lack of popularity for the torus, and ever less appetizing imitations are purchased and allegedly consumed.
Bagels (unlike other food icons) have no protected identity. Any bread with a hole can be called a bagel. But those who have eaten a real bagel know better. And bagels have been around for a long time. Thus, as an eighteenth century German Jew, Moses Mendelssohn would surely have appreciated the lengthy and necessary process of kneading, rising, shaping, resting, boiling, and baking that goes into a real bagel. Back in those days, bagels were a Saturday staple for those who couldn’t use the oven until after Sabbath. Their volume minimizing, surface area maximizing design makes for faster cooking times than the average loaf.
In 1763 Immanuel Kant submitted a competition essay to the Berlin Academy on the topic of mathematical proofs in metaphysics. Kant was awarded second place. Mendelssohn won first. So as you can imagine, I was quite honored to have him by for breakfast. Along with being the best philosopher of his day, Mendelssohn was also the grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (whose face I used to eat off of) and Rebecka Dirichlet (wife of Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet). Moses Mendelssohn was the man of the century in Berlin despite the anti-Semitic environment of the time and place.
As may not be obvious from his portrait, Mendelssohn suffered from curvature of the spine. The cause of his bad back was also linked to nervous fits for which his doctor proscribed “no philosophizing” as a cure. So, rather than delve into the immortality of souls or the separation between church and state, we talked about bagels.