Saturday, December 31, 2016

And why am I not dining with the Princesse de Lamballe?

Browsing through my edition of Larousse Gastronomique, possibly the height of my experience in print, of the swoon, is not a diversion lightly permitted to appear in these pages. The act scales the best-defended battlements of discipline we know, only to deposit one in the embrace of the suavest seductions of the faculties since, well, Ratty and Mole punted downriver with their stupefying hamper of treats. Yet here all the ripples of the cadenced dip of the blade only enrich the flux of one’s journey, and deepen one’s immersion in what rings true as a noun, but coarse as an adjective, le volupté

The Princess was certainly bred to the part, by circumstances quite naturally beyond her control. Illegitimacy, courteously revised, bristled enthrallingly on both sides of her provenance, and the destiny of her marriage, albeit curtailed within a year by the terminal ravages of her bridegroom’s recreational distemper, left her with one of the very greatest fortunes the continent had ever known, two or three bankers beyond the Pale excepted. Whence, it appears, she committed herself utterly to the charms of two mistresses, Marie Antoinette and good food, not to draw an undue distinction.

Tred carefully, therefore, Reader, through the Larousse Gastronomique. Consult it at your peril, in planning a roasting of a New Year’s rack of lamb, lest you tumble into the mode of the Princesse de Lamballe with a brace of quail en papillote. Ignore virtuously her way with garden peas, admitting they are a marginal risk of this season. You may require all your strength to endure her genius with the very nature of the prey our own Dick Cheney blew a friend’s face apart, to dine upon with less commitment. O tempore, o Republicans!

Thereafter, the process is simplicity, itself. Prepare the stuffed quail en papillote, lining the base of each parchment paper case with a julienne of mushrooms and truffles blended with cream. Add some port to the pan juices in which the quails were cooked, blend in some crème fraîche, and pour the resulting sauce over the quails.

Ratty and Mole could have handled all this, with a simple hibachi in the stern, and still kept tempo with the dappling light of their riparian frolic. But the birds would coo to be so cosseted, and one can pack only so many of an afternoon, the lamb course still to come.

And why am I not dining with the Princesse de Lamballe? Because the mob devoured her head while we weren't looking, in 1792. Tossed out of a proceeding for declining to take an oath misrepresenting the conduct of her Queen, the alien target of the mob's revenge, her head was paraded around Paris on a pike as the demand still went forth, to swear the precise testament of the new insanity. No, although Montesquieu's Persian Letters were already in circulation, and all of Europe had adored The Abduction from the Seraglio of Mozart, the compulsory phrase was not yet Radical Islamic Terrorism. How this mania differs from the blood lust lunacy of the alt right networks and lemmings who've exalted an idiot over us, boils down to quibbling about the origin of restaurants.

Joël Robuchon
  senior editor
Larousse Gastronomique
Larousse, 2007©
Clarkson Potter, 2009©

Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows
Limited Editions Club, 1940©

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ask a simple question

  On the day following the apparent
  election of the American strongman,
  to a questioner, that she would ex-
  pect to enjoy a merry co-operation
  with the United States, but only on
  the basis of democracy, freedom and
  respect for the law and the dignity
  of man, independent of origin, skin
  color, religion, gender, sexual or-
  ientation or political views.

  Anticipating our strongman's ascent
  next month, I'm glad not to have to
  spell the word, kindergarten, again.

  As we watch the hoary domicile of the
  Executive Branch being marked down in
  gold leaf, and spritzed with whatever
  glitz its tenant snaffled in halcyon
  years at Studio 54, to invigorate the
  spasms of his 140-character conscious-
  ness - all injections aside - we un-
  derstand that speculation on his con-
  duct is essentially medical, and not
  epistemological in the slightest.

  We look, then, to the afterlife of a
  forebear of his aspects, from temper-
  ament to inclination: to a four-acre
  memorial in the middle of the German
  stances we have always understood to
  have been, foreseeable. As the arch-
  itect says, You pray for accidental
  results. But in monuments this suc-
  cessful, as in Maya Lin's gash in 
  the ground off Constitution Avenue, 

  The American strongman may posture,
  all he likes, as a swaggering Joshua
  of the West Bank, because he never
  will understand why the world, with
  this nation's indispensable blessing,
  conceded lands previously disputed to 
  a people subjected to one strong man,
  one exceptional nation too many. Now,
  we have an ostensible ally disporting
  itself in mockery of its own proven-
  ance, at the expense of any peace. But 
  humanity is its own egalitarian champi-
  on, and we must be prepared for it to 
  prevail. May we acknowledge our place 
  in that Party; may we precipitate a 


Joonas Parviainen
ii    Slovenia, 2013
iii   Berlin, 2014

Franz Schubert
An die musik, D. 547
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Julius Drake, piano
EMI, 2005©

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Idol imminent

  The American minority has elected
  a candidate for President who has
  boasted that he'd be forgiven com-
  mitting murder by gunshot in the
  middle of the road where he lives.

  How redundantly we've seen him al-
  ready, exhibiting the evidence for
  that indictment of his conspiracy.

  Idolatry finally has explained it-
  self. It truly is compulsive, reck-
  less, and not unhappy to be harmed;
  it wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

If not the United States

Before this wretched year
expires, in which the most
fulsome accommodations to
monstrosity we have ever
seen have become ordinary
assumptions of getting by
in America, my guess is
that many people are lay-
ing down in some cabinet,
to be discovered in some
future generation, their
wishes for what may have

       I would have wished for
       more refuge for people,
       not less, in some coun-
       try I'd want to be mine.

Alexander Agricola
1445 - 1506
Motet, Nobis Sancti Spiritus
San Francisco Chanticleer
Chanticleer Records, 1993©

Monday, December 26, 2016

These are the days of miracle and wonder

                   this is the long distance call
                   the way the camera follows us 
                   in slow mo
                   the way we look to us all

Paul Simon
    the Bubble
Paul Simon, 1986©

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Arms and the man

  Not so many hours ago, a
  rather loud head-of-state-
  to-be picked a quarrel in
  our language, with a mag-
  azine for its opinion of a
  with his name on it. We're
  all on notice, to beef up.

It didn't always happen, of course, that the arbiter of life and death on our minor little coil would plump for enter-prises blustering his name. We'd have said, lustering, but the neologism would have emptied the room, of anyone cognizant of the difference between a clip joint and statecraft.

  This is Christmas Eve, and
  we are circumspect where 
  the foibles of consumption
  are concerned. But it is
  as good a time as any, to
  reiterate a belief of long
  acceptance, that any child
  who hustles his weaknesses
  is incongruous as a hero.
  He's every bit as apt to
  adore our enemies, cave to
  our clients, and call for
  the middle of morning tea.
  You'd think he had lost, 
  or knew he did. 

Dance studio
  Betty Lasker, photography

Dinner at home in Washington
  Photographer unknown

Study for our masthead
  Ivan Terestchenko, designer
  Tassos Paschalis, photography

While other people do important things

 you don't always
 have to be there


  Luca Finotti

  Joost Vandebrug

  Stanley Kubrick

Friday, December 23, 2016

Suppose it were Friday cxx: Great party

  Somewhere between being
  happy, and fluent in be-
  ing amused, the face ac-
  quires a stylish guard,
  an ornament of bone or
  horlogerie to deflect a
  search as with a shield.
  It doesn't always work.

  The beguiling expedient

  shows a little wear and
  tear, this time of year,
  but who would ever tell
  the hour of its leaving?

iv  Joost Vandebrug 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Waffling well

  It is not unprecedented, in
  this week of the calendar,
  for souls even as stern as
  ours to drift out upon rev-
  eries inspired by our cul-
  tures' adaptations of the
  fruits of the field as well
  as the vine - dried, confec-
  ted, fermented, fresh; and,
  allowing thus our guard to
  drop, to latch upon a treat.

Having cast my lot against
I can not expect much mercy 
anymore, toward how I handle
breakfast. I think I get the
flag, in other words, but I'm
not so sure about the amplifi-
er. Why the incorrigible must
seem delightful at that time
of day, must be how the waffle
got its reputation. 

Still, we do wince at infidel-
ity to expectation, enough to
shift Michel Roux's brilliant
notion for breakfast, to that
late night sphere of nightcap
snacks, when most of the wit-
nesses have found their way
to the other side of the door.
For, if breakfast is indeed
the feast of greater triumph
for our finest cocktail hour,
at least the waffle could not
care less when it is served.

What occasion could be more
practiced in the art of in-
dulgence, we needn't ask of
Christmas Eve, which proves
there is at least one night
a year when anyone's blog is
relevant -- and what is any
amplifier worth, that can't
exploit the sounding board
of the groaning board of in-
gredients beyond expected

Waffle Sauce Café et Drambuie

             In a small saucepan, warm 1 cup maple syrup,
             then add 1 tablespoon instant coffee, dissol-
             ved. As soon as the syrup is hot but not boil-
             ing, take the pan off the heat and whisk in
             1/4 cup vodka and 1/4 cup Drambuie, not too
             vigorously [perish the thought, Ed.]. Cover
             the sauce with plastic wrap and set aside in
             a cool place. Before serving, gently re-heat
             and stir in 8 coffee beans, freshly crushed.

Michel Roux
  Sweet and savory,
  classic and new
Kate Whiteman
Martin Brigdale
  [Glenfiddich Prize, 1997]