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©