Friday, November 5, 2010

The Art of Cuisine

In a startling conjunction of two of my reigning passions, my aunt gave me a copy of The Art of Cuisine by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Maurice Joyant for my birthday. One doesn't think of great, if syphilitic, artists cooking. Possibly because they are too busy starving.

Henri apparently cooked in addition to ornamenting the Left Bank, and not only that, he passed his recipes around. Toulouse-Lautrec's blog probably would have been more interesting than mine. A lowering thought -- I shall try not to dwell on it. Instead have a taste of this most peculiar and delightful book.

From "Woodcock with Port"
Having autumn and winter woodcock, which have spent some time in our region -- not migratory woodcock from the seaside, which are often detestable and taste fishy -- let them hang by the beak in the pantry for from ten to thirty days, according to the temperature; woodcock demands to be eaten when it is very high -- fresh woodcock just do not exist.

One sentence, how many dependent clauses? But who cares? Instead contemplate the nicety of a mind that considers coastal woodcock both detestable and fishy, not merely detestably fishy. A mind that holds the existence of fresh woodcock in contempt. Supposedly this monomania is necessary for the life of a great artist. Not all the recipes are equally riotous but all of them are interesting if exquisitely unconcerned with such flourishes as measurements and cooking times.

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