The following story is a continuation of this piece about escargot. It was originally published on Gothic.net (who never did manage to pay me for it) :
Notes On a Modern Epicure
They say the golden age will return. Let us hope so.
– Remy de Gourmont
– Mr. Antiphilos, Satyr
Arthur Day diverted the gardener, having him plant and grow those vegetables of old, those, in an age of narrow taste, no longer available at the common grocer. There were purple hyacinth beans, once favoured by Thomas Jefferson, which matured into bleeding red pods containing cyanogenic glucosides, poison, but, if properly prepared, were delicious. Young and prehensile, the pods of devil’s claw resembled okra, but were far tastier. The garden was a veritable orchestra: the long and thin kipfelkrumpl potatoes, skirret, the ornamental yet exquisitely edible Joseph’s coat. Then winnigstädt cabbage, which twisted into a lovely pointed head and, turned into sauerkraut, went well along side a few roast squab. The blue shackamaxon bean made a black polenta, sapid, reminiscent of a creek at night; served with a shank of lamb, anointed with pinoli and claret gravy it was ideal for supping on a mellow spring night.
These early, almost aboriginal vegetables, he found tasted best along odd sorts of game – rich meats. The classical horsetooth amaranth went well with roast rabbit or civet. Evening primrose added a certain piquancy to a Brunswick stew cooked with grey squirrel. Opossum and malabar spinach. Baked crane with barely cooked crosnes and syrup of violets. Bear and Texas bird pepper. Beaver tail and cymling squash. Woodchuck with welsh onions. The combinations were numerous; but not infinite.
Perusing antique cookbooks he came upon attractive recipes and put them to practice:
Item: Three green geese in a dish, sorrell sauce
Item: Potage of sand Eeles and Lamprons
Item: Galandine for a crane or a Hearne or any other Foule that is black meat
Item: Lamb’s ears with shallots
Item: Chauldron for a Swan
He was delighted with a recipe for stewed larks:
First take them and drawe them cleane, and cut off their feete, and then take a good deale of wine in a platter, and take a good deale of marow, and put it in the Wine and set them on a Chafing dish, and let them stew there a good while, then take a quantitie of smal Raisins, and wash them clean and put them into the broth, and take a little sugar, and Sinamon, and a few crums of manchet bread, and put them into the Larkes, and let them stue altogither, than take and cut half a dosen Tostes, and lay them in a Platter, then put them in a dish with broth, and serve them out.
The recipe ‘To still a cock for a weake body that is consumed’ he found infinitely amusing:
Take a red Cock that is not too olde, and beate him to death, and when he is dead, fley him and quarter him in small peeces, and bruse the bones everye one of them. Then take roots of Fenell, persely, and succory, Violet leaves, and a good quantitye of Borage, put the Cock in an earthen pipkin and betweene everye quarter some rootes, hearbes, corance, whole mace, Anis seeds, being fine rubbed, and Licorice being scraped and sliced, and so fill your pipkin with al the quarters of the Cocke, put in a quarter of a pinte of Rosewater, a pinte of white wine, two or three Dates. If you put in a peece of golde, it will be the better, and halfe a pound of prunes, and lay a cover upon it, and stop it with dough, and set the pipkin in a pot of seething water, and so let it seethe twelve houres with a fire under the brasse pot that it standeth in, and the pot kept with licour twelve houres. When it hath sodden so many houres, then take out the pipkin, pul it open, and put the broth faire into a pot, give it unto the weak person morning and evening.
In his search for new peculiarities, ever inclined to the tender, he bent his brow toward the smaller creatures. In Australia he tried fried witchety grubs, enjoying, in a morbid sort of way, the creamy texture of the inside as it contrasted with the crisp and delicate skin. Venezuela offered the roasted tarantula, which he imbibed daily throughout his three week stay – Six to a plate; he cracked them open like crabs and, with naked fingers, advanced the bits of delicate flesh between his parted lips . . . While touring China he sampled scorpion soup, and then, with the stingers removed, the same creatures raw, crudo, a kind of hyper-exotic sushi . . . The mopane worms of Botswana he ate while sitting on an old log, under the flaring sun, the only white man for a hundred miles round . . . In Mexico ant larvae and pupae called escamole (a step above any brutish caviar), as well as fried red agave worms; the very same used in the popular drink mescal . . . Mealworms. Stinkbugs. Creatures that crept under rocks, existed in roiling bundles of multiplexed consciousness, honey-combs of living, crawling matter to be sampled in his nomadic journey through decadence. Read the rest of this entry »