Saturday, March 18, 2017

The game blade and I

As I considered how to announce this 
posting, in the way of a heading, I 
thought I might just let the whole 
thing ride on a cheerful double en-
tendre, and say no more. But this is 
no way to get off one’s chest such an 
abiding, leeching peeve that I’d be re-
luctant to call it a pet. On the other 
hand, Saturday, with all its consoling 
liberty, is no time for a Miltonian 
trumpet blast on the proximity of “the 
end,” which in many things can be most 
welcome. If one could suggest an end, 
therefore, I’d certainly choose the ir-
rational, fashionable adoption of the 
device described as “the steak knife.” 

Readers are invited to peer over the 
shoulder, as we all tend to do anyway 
at this page, to observe how very near 
indeed “the end” may be, if one could 
wean the tenant opposite, of promoting 
the steak knife.

The steak knife is to gastronomy, and
to its table service, as the Modern Jazz
Quartet of the 1950s and 60s was to jazz:
a shiny, slightly glittering object of no
inherent derivation in its medium. Probab-
ly research will show they emerged at the
same time, along with turquoise roadsters.
Sadly, it seized the known world by its
consummate extraneousness, as any artifact
of ostentation always does, such as the
several superfluous chronometers in a sing-
le Breguet wristwatch: not having to have
them, means having to have them. Even ad-
mitting the restaurant's genius for botch-
ing things, fails to justify the easier
slicing of the undesirable, only to ac-
celerate the distress of the jaws.

Now, who would take on, on Saturday, the
remediation of commercial gastronomy, es-
pecially in a setting such as this one,
which has renounced that oxymoron, in no
uncertain terms? Only the present writer?
I greatly doubt it, for the impertinences
of public dining have penetrated our pre-
serves, in the assumptions of our guests.
In the feeding, then, of visitors, even
the discreet open themselves to emulating
that tragic discovery of restaurants: he
who dines alone, is likely to stay alone.
And Saturday affords no support for this.

Admitting that the cuisine of China,
Mexico, India, and Oceana, broadly
speaking, exempt us from the likeli-
hood of having to lend a guest this
idiot prop of Western dining, an en-
tire universe of red wines cries out
for the occasional presentation of a
slab of flesh unreduced to bite size.
We don't query why this should be so;
it is a fixture of adapting to guests.

And there we are: necessity is the
mother of preposterous invention,
not its excuse. Who among us, would
ever venture within a Marathon of
distance, to serve a cut of meat so
unyielding to the blandishments of a
simple dinner knife, at worst, as to
support a cultural obsession with sam-
urai standards of sharpness, only to
transit the nibble to the frailty of
human teeth? The pristine silliness
of the device cries out to be beaten
back into butter spreaders, for the
plush extractions of the braise, the
discerning selection of the tender-
loin, the opulently grained fibres
of the competently managed roast. 
Are there really tables in our very
homes, where the translation of a
carcass from vitality is in doubt?

Yet still the plea arises, once
the steak knife has been exposed
as the fetish that it is, of the
incompetent and the commercially
seduced, for some residual oppor-
tunity to enjoy the allure of the
boning device, without guilt. If
not from necessity, then certain-
ly from convenience, a whiff of
legitimacy arises from the con-
sumption of wild game, especially
of fowl, the noblest and in many
cases, the most ideal foils for
the glories of red wines. Here an
edge is welcome, in eliciting the
meat from the elegant bone, from
tenacious ligatures of flight as
we admire enough to present to
each other, generously. A roast
of squab is an engagement to be
savored meticulously to the ful-
lest; and, so far from destroy-
ing such a prospect by its bon-
ing in advance, the steak knife
gains preferment it never knew.

Claire MacDonald
The Game Cookbook
Birlinn Publishing, 2015©

Duchess of Rutland
  A Season of Discovery
Quiller Publishing, 2012©

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