More Early-day Stuff...
I am no kind of academic, but I can—when necessary—fake it fairly well.
The first time I ever read any of my work in public was at a conference in Corvallis, Oregon. It was a joint conference, an unlikely pairing of food scholars and nutritionists. The paper I read was a chapter of a book I was writing at the time (How to Serve Man: On Cannibalism, Sex, Sacrifice, & the Nature of Eating). I was as surprised as anyone when “What is the Flavor of Human Flesh” was accepted—but, as it was a chance to try it out in public (and my employer was picking up the tab for my travel), I went for it.
As you might guess, my paper elicited a very different set of responses from the academics and the dieticians. Somehow, none of the latter became my friends after the event.
Or even went near me at lunch.
However, the scholars—all of whom I was meeting for the first time—ate it up. One of those adventurous eaters was Ken Albala—who is, in real life, a genuine scholar. I could also characterize him as a gentleman, but I suspect he would resent the impugning of his reputation. Ken and I might well be brothers-from-another-mother.
Over the years, we’ve collaborated on two books, plus he edited another one of mine—and we’re thinking of starting another one now. One of our books was a little anthology of anthrophagic literature (Human Cuisine). It’s a smorgasbord of tasty, and tasteless, tales of cannibalism. We did the book via e-mail and telephone, since we live on opposite coasts. Our phone calls were hysterical. We decided that, in addition to the pieces we received from some delightfully-deranged writers, we would each contribute a story under pseudonym.
I won’t tell you which ones.
The book’s entries are interspersed with recipes—which we made up on the spot. OK, two spots. I’m including, below, the ones I contributed. Nowadays, since trigger warnings have become mandatory, I feel it’s my duty to offer some advice.
Do not read them before dinner.
Promethean Foie Gras
Trick one of your colleagues into giving away some corporate secret. This is certain to incur the wrath of the CEO, who will hang the silly goose out to dry in some god-forsaken spot. Almost immediately, human resources, a flock of ravenous lawyers, and assorted other corporate birds of prey will gather to divide up the poor fellow’s liver. Collect any leftover scraps, warm gently over some stolen fire, and serve on toasted pita points. Don’t worry about running out—there will always be more tomorrow.
First catch your emperor. He’ll be easy to recognize, since he’ll be the one wrapped in a bedsheet, with a wreath of bay leaves on his head, hurrying towards the forum. Assemble a group of thin friends to cut the emperor into pieces suitable for cooking, marinate in Falernian wine before grilling (but do not braise him). Slice the untimely-ripped flesh as neatly as possible, and use it to garnish a platter of Romaine lettuces that have been dressed with beaten egg, garlic and liquamen.
Rockefeller Mountain Oysters
When you really want to impress someone, at an intimate dinner for two, there’s no substitute for rich foods made from rare and expensive ingredients. This most delicate of meats should be served as an upscale amuse-gueule with a cool (not chilled) White Graves, preferably a youngish Laville Haut-Brion.
Separate the oysters from unusable portions of the Rockefeller (which can, if cost is an issue, be reserved for another purpose), trimming carefully to reveal two exquisite jewels. Place half oyster shells (preferably ones with a lustrous lining of nacre) in a thick layer of rock salt, in an ovenproof serving dish. Prepare a bed of coarsely chopped watercress in each pearly shell.
Lay the opulent orbs gently amid the greens, top with seasoned butter and fine crumbs of brioche.
Roast in preheated broiler, until a soft popping sound signals that dinner, and the end of a dynasty, is at hand.
The best Dingleberry Pies are made from a good variety of berries. Select some from young bushes—they’ll be sweeter, but hard to gather since the bushes have such sparse foliage. Berries from older bushes are easier to pick, are more fragrant, and many are blessed with a very desirable “late harvest” quality that lends character to the finished dish. Prepare just as you would a Blueberry Pie—but, unless you are fortunate enough to collect some Tart Dingleberries, you may need to adjust the flavor with a bit of lemon juice.
These pies are generally be made without a “bottom crust,” as many connoisseurs feel that it is merely redundant.
Ply J.P. Donleavey with whiskey until he has passed out (indicating that the proper level of marination has been achieved). Place in large barrel, top off with more whiskey, and age until the next wake or other celebration occurs. Strain a generous jigger into hot sweetened coffee cups—enough for all the patrons of all the pubs in Dublin that the author used to frequent (you’ll need lots of coffee). Top with whipped cream of British nobility.
Carefully withdraw the still-beating heart of a young monk and plunge it into a cask containing brandy and an assortment of bitter herbs. Allow mixture to steep for a fortnight. Strain the resulting liquid, discarding all earthly remains, and sweeten with simple syrup until beatified.