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©

Friday, March 17, 2017

For Burke, for Sheridan, and innocent pedestrians

Frederic Reynolds, twelve years old, thought he was going to die. He was walking down the narrow passage between Vinegar Yard and Bridges Street at nine o'clock on a May evening in 1777 when he heard a terrible noise above his head. The sudden, tremendous rumble made him sure that Drury Lane Theatre, which formed one side of the passage, was collapsing .. He covered his head with his hands and ran for his life, but 'found the next morning that the noise did not arise from the falling of the house, but from the falling of the screen in the fourth act; so violent and so tumultuous were the applause and laughter.' He had passed by the opening night of Sheridan's new play, The School for Scandal.

St Patrick's is more than certainly as good a day as any, for a coming to grips with the possible, when an entertainer turns to politics, and invokes the English language to do it. Never mind the factor of imperialism in its adoption, Ireland is all the rage in the Executive branch of the American government today, not for her genius with English, but for the myth of her people's welcome as immigrants to this land. It was not the shrewdest move of this mountebank regime, to patronise a people who has seen it all and then some, from such frauds. Sheridan's biographer has noticed, and by anyone in that dervish cabinet who can read, this might have been expected. 

Readers of this page will remember Sheridan as the brilliant Irish dramatist-statesman of the 18th Century, whose use of this language electrified audiences in Parliament and theatre alike, not merely with its acuity, but with its undeniability. In Sheridan, as in his rival Edmund Burke, the line between the power and the purpose in rhetoric was controlled by the most luminous exercise of conscience. Indeed, Sheridan once said to Burke, I don't mean to flatter, but when posterity reads one of your speeches in Parliament, it will be difficult to believe that you took so much pains, knowing with certainty that it could produce no effect, that not one vote would be gained by it.

With no falsity whatever, therefore,
by virtue of the genius of the great
unwashed - a phrase misattributed to
Edmund Burke - for the unvarnished 
and unfalsified, clean energy of a
language which only its scoundrels
demand to make compulsory in a free
nation, it's not only possible, not
only necessary, to revel on St Pat-
rick's day as a refreshment to Amer-
ican principles. It is a way of re-
vealing them.

Fintan O'Toole

A Traitor's Kiss
  The Life of 
  Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  pp. 122 & 258
op. cit. 

Green Beer and
  Rank Hypocrisy
The New York Times©
March 16, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A sea wall firebreak in the Lowlands?

In the Dutch national elections yesterday,
their Donny Thump-Thump didn't win such a
large minority as ours did, in the multi-
layered coup d'état that threw America out
of the family of nations. Was it our exem-
plary proof of nativist idiocy that turned
the tide, or an ingeniously fractured par-
at The New York Times? Withal, Holland's
salvation is not an occasion for the minc-
ing of words. They are safe, and they have
shown it can be done.

Instead of awakening this morning to an ab-
surdly unstable concentration of revanchist
power in one party, they've awakened to an
endearingly familiar mess of partisan frac-
turing, which our Constitution was design-
ed to preserve, institutionally. (It works
just fine, with weak parties). Instead of
awakening this morning to a declared war
in their national budget, upon the global
environment and domestic justice, they are
handed time for further reflection.

If the United States did contribute to an
outcome needed by this world, it's not a
precedent that we'd discourage, only its

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Origins of Wednesday xlv: Worry for the Netherlands

  at the moment, and throughout much of
  the world, for the first time in any-
  one's memory, there's some worry that
  they might imitate the United States.

  Now so much a spectacle of humanity's
  worst fears, it's only proper for the
  US to defend decency abroad by domes-
  tic capitulations to its abandonment.
  This is no less than official policy:
  exhort, exploit, exclude, extinguish.

Piet Mondriaan

Winter Landscape

Composition Nr 10
1939 - 1942

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mid-Atlantic seasonal mix

   I'm not sure I understand
   the concern of California
   friends, for highway vis-
   ibility in our transition
   into Spring. Once I shook
   off Daylight Savings, the
   rest was a piece of cake.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The lady vanishes

People do not say, I'm the life
of the party, 'cause I tell a
joke or two. On the contrary -
one's own best friends haul one
aside sometimes by the snark,
and whisper, I never know when
to take you seriously. That said,
film buffs, as they conveniently
are called, will not hesitate to
identify this charade by the Al-
fred Hitchcock masterpiece, The
Lady Vanishes, in which two (count
them) almost hilariously rutting,
premonitory lovers, cavort in a
baggage car with the obligatorily
Italian stage illusionist's coffin.

What can one say. I just saw the
movie again at this very desk, via
dvd, and apart from the fact that
pleasure dome, in Graham Greene's
immortal phrase, does not reduce it-
self amiably to a computer monitor,
the lack of audience responses puts
one's feet to the fire to appraise
the thing from every angle, the hy-
pothetically hilarious to the con-
frontationally evangelical. Within
even this cockpit, The Lady Vanishes
gets up and frontally confides its
risible ludicrousness on the spot,
preserving (thereby) one's delight
in, and ration of reality, even in 
absentia under the new government --

which advances a "health care plan,"
us, and a border-crossing salad of
hallucinatory security measures,
certain to incite their most urgent
and, need I say, sorry penetration.
And still one can't bring oneself,
these days, to put a thing seriously.
How soon we expose ourselves, unexpec-

Alfred Hitchcock
Alma Reville [Hitchcock]
Jack Cox
Margaret Lockwood
  Paul Lukas
  Dame May Whitty
  Naunton Wayne
  Basil Radford
Gaumont, 1938©

Sunday, March 12, 2017

John Surtees

I glimpsed a note in The Times
this evening, after dinner, on
the demise of Mr John Surtees.

I wish the natural reluctance,
to convey any such news, could
survive an indiscipline of af-
fection in boys, for exemplars
of adroit tempering of risk by
inordinate physical capacities
and skill. If, for all time, a
sweet note of memorable brevi-
ty hovers in the rapturous re-
flex they reserve for fulfill-
ment of their truest rival and
inspiration, then I do not ex-
aggerate to observe among that
generation of ours, resolution
to be the next of its apostles.

We'll be delighted to go fast-
er, but never so vain as to go

Sean Spicer Süß, Keeper of the Scabies

Have we been enjoying the mouthpiece's
the paradigm for its impromptu hyster-
ia about Deep State vermin and burrow-
ing disloyalists was published as that
publicity coup of Joseph Goebbels, Jud
Süss, as ingenious an allegory for the
naughtiness of outcasts as Mr Spicer's
script of the present. Sad it is, with
his principal's ostentatious non-anti-
semitic protestations, he cannot foot-
note it. His denials will do for that.