Tuesday, January 04, 2005

all the people who died

I have to admit, I hardly missed the internets. Especially with all the bad news -- Susan Sontag and Artie Shaw seemed a fitting end to a year of death, at least until a cruel piece of natural philosophy added 150,000 to the total. Unfortunately, it turns out that my job escaped "the holidays"* unscathed, and with it the internet. Some solace is to be had in t-muffle's alleged return, and the official coronation of bad news hughes as the funniest man on the internet, but one is really better off reading books.

The danger, in my current circumstances, is not that this will turn into a chronicle of home improvement disasters, but rather that, reading only plumbing-supply catalogs, I will have nothing to explain to you that is worth knowing. I can, at least, report on the food: Noche Buena tamales norteños: ok, but not quite right; Christmas Cassoulet (Paula Wolfert's recipe)**: excellent, thanks more to Taylor's charcuterie than my cooking; torta di mandorle, limone, e polenta (from the first River Cafe book): delicious, but too much butter, and ridiculous quantities as usual; Paula's panade (not the tarted-up version that Steingarten concocted with Bertolli): a keeper (leftovers not so much); New Year's Hoppin' John (from Serious Pig): good but a bit austere. There was more, including a fine New Hampshire ham and some initial inquiries into "ryaninjun" to be reported presently, but those are the recipes you might wish to attempt. As for the wine:

We have had, since high school, a silly tradition of drinking a bottle of Veuve on New Years. We always save it for midnight. In the old days, this was stupid, because we were far too wasted by then to appreciate the good stuff. Now, pathetically, this is stupid because we fall asleep before we even finish the first flute. The point, however, is that with more of my wits about me when the ball drops, it has become clear that Veuve is really not so good. I rarely drink champagne anymore, precisely because of the qpr, so it was something of a shock to see how poor that ratio has become relative to Lombardy, Catalonia and even -- I hate to admit it -- California. Either fork it over for propriétaire recoltant or get your mass-produced sparkly swill from elsewhere. The widow too has expired.

Enough about me. Read here about the market's invisible hand, which currently appears to be engaged in a sweet bit of dairy price-fixing at the CME (not that dairy farmers, for the most part, don't need all the help they can get). Also: you can, in Oklahoma at least, eat half-decent food on food stamps [via MeFi]. It just takes more time (and gas) than you can afford.

Finally, we return to the fascinating subject of how there will always be an England, as if Boswell's Johnson and buttered knobs weren't enough. Could a woman of any other nationality have written the following sentence?

He tittled round his girl so busy with with his clicks and and passes that the slender, apparently indifferent, girl seemed to be assailed by a fussy little cock.

(That is the great Patience Gray describing a village dancing champion on Naxos, from the most exciting of the many Christmas gifts I am very thankful for).

* the best thing about the latest tiresome annual whinefest was that while the persecuted red-staters were tormenting semi-literate teenagers at the mall, or Wal-Mart or wherever they propitiate the god of commerce, the liberal elite was home watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, or at least listening to the soundtrack.

**Too lazy to upload the real picture. This is the first cassoulet I made, several years ago, from MtAoFC, in the biggest pan I had at that penurious time ("liberated" from a college girlfriend). It didn't seem to be crusting sufficiently, so I broiled the fuck out of it, which was not a bad idea, especially since I garnished the top with whole pieces of confit.


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