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By "acceptable subst.i.tute," I mean one acceptable to me. Purists have cited the fish stock as a reason for not making farce double farce double at all. In La Tour Lambert, they rightly a.s.sert, the way the stock is kept allows it to evolve without spoiling: in the amphora-like jars that are stored in the coldest depths of the great cave, a faint, perpetual fermentation gives the perennial brew an exquisite, violet-flavored sourness. This, they say, is inimitable. at all. In La Tour Lambert, they rightly a.s.sert, the way the stock is kept allows it to evolve without spoiling: in the amphora-like jars that are stored in the coldest depths of the great cave, a faint, perpetual fermentation gives the perennial brew an exquisite, violet-flavored sourness. This, they say, is inimitable. I I say that 30 drops of decoction of elecampane blossoms will reproduce it so perfectly as to convince the most vigilant tongue. say that 30 drops of decoction of elecampane blossoms will reproduce it so perfectly as to convince the most vigilant tongue.
Fifteen minutes before roasting time, put the quenelles in one of the clay hemispheres. Set the other against it, dent to dent. Seal the seam with clay, except for the hole, and thumb down well. Hold the sphere 143 143 in one hand with the hole on top. With a funnel, pour in hot hot poaching liquid until it overflows, then empty 1 cup of liquid. This is to keep the sh.e.l.l from bursting from within when the broth reaches a boil. poaching liquid until it overflows, then empty 1 cup of liquid. This is to keep the sh.e.l.l from bursting from within when the broth reaches a boil.
Be sure to keep the sh.e.l.l in your hand: set in a bowl, one bash against its side will postpone your dinner for several days at least. In La Tour Lambert, where even more fragile gut is used, the risks are lessened by placing the diaphanous bags in woolen reticules. It is still incredible that no damage is ever done to them on the way to the stuffing tables.
To avoid their cooling, they are carried at a run by teen-age boys, for whom this is a signal honor: every Sunday throughout the following year, they will be allowed to wear their unmistakable lily-white smocks.
Earlier in the day, you will have anointed the lamb, inside and out: inside, with fresh basil, coriander leaves, garlic, and ginger thickly crushed into walnut oil (this is a must must); outside, with mustard powder mixed with-ideally-wild-boar fat. I know that wild boars do not roam our woods (sometimes, on my walks through Central Park, I feel I may soon meet one): bacon fat will do-about a pint of it.
You will have left the lamb lying outside down. Now nestle the clay sh.e.l.l inside the boneless cavity. Work it patiently into the fleshy nooks, then urge the meat in little bulges around it, pressing the lamb next to the sh.e.l.l, not against it, with the gentlest possible nudges. When the sh.e.l.l is deeply ensconced, fold the outlying flaps over it, and shape the whole into a regular square cushion roast. Sew the edges of the meat together, using fine nylon thread. (Nylon is acceptable. It has even been adopted in La Tour Lambert, partly for its efficacy, partly because local materials became scarce after a murderous outbreak of cat leprosy in 1962.) The seams must be hermetically tight.
If the original roasting conditions will surely exceed your grasp, a description of them may clarify your goals.
In Auvergne, the body of the lamb is lowered on wetted ropes into a roasting pit. It comes to rest on transverse bars set close to the floor of the pit. Hours before, ash boughs that have dried through three winters are heaped in the pit and set ablaze: by now they are embers.
These are raked against the four sides and piled behind wrought-iron grids into glowing walls. The cast-iron floor stays hot from the fire.
When the lamb is in place, a heated iron lid is set over the pit. The lid does more than refract heat from below. Pierced with a mult.i.tude of small holes, it allows for aspersions of water on coals that need damping and the sprinkling of oil on the lamb, which is thus basted throughout its roasting in a continuous fine spray. Previously, I might add, the lamb 144 144 has been rapidly seared over an open fire. Four senior cooks manage this by standing on high stepladders and manipulating the poles and extensible thongs used to shift the animal, which they precisely revolve over the flames so that it receives an even grilling.
Thus the onslaught of heat to which the lamb is subjected is, while too restrained to burn it, intense enough to raise the innermost broth to the simmering point.
Carefully lower the lamb into a 25-inch ca.s.serole. (If you have no such ca.s.serole, buy one. If it will not fit in your oven, consider this merely one more symptom of the shoddiness of our age, which the popularity of dishes like farce double farce double may someday remedy.) Cover. You will have turned on the oven at maximum heat for 45 minutes at least. may someday remedy.) Cover. You will have turned on the oven at maximum heat for 45 minutes at least.
Close the oven door and lower the thermostat to 445. For the next 5 hours, there is nothing to do except check the oven thermometer occasionally and baste the roast with juices from the ca.s.serole every 10 minutes. If you feel like catnapping, have no compunctions about it.
Do not not have anything to drink-considering what lies in store for you, it is a foolish risk. The genial cooks of La Tour Lambert may fall to drinking, dancing, and singing at this point, but remember that they have years of experience behind them; and you, unlike them, must act alone. have anything to drink-considering what lies in store for you, it is a foolish risk. The genial cooks of La Tour Lambert may fall to drinking, dancing, and singing at this point, but remember that they have years of experience behind them; and you, unlike them, must act alone.
One song always sung during the roasting break provides valuable insight into the character of the Auvergnat community. It tells the story of a blacksmith's son who sets out to find his long-lost mother. She is dead, but he cannot remember her death, nor can he accept it. His widowed father has taken as second wife a pretty woman younger than himself. She is hardly motherly toward her stepson: one day, after he has grown to early manhood, she seduces him-in the words of the song, "she does for him what mother never did for her son." This line recurs throughout as a refrain.
It is after the shock of this event that the son leaves in quest of his mother. His father repeatedly tries to dissuade him, insisting that she is dead, or that, if she is alive, it is only in a place "as near as the valley beyond the hill and far away as the stars." In the end, however, he gives his son a sword and a purse full of money and lets him go. The stepmother, also hoping to keep the son from leaving, makes another but this time futile attempt to "do for him what mother never did for her son."
At the end of three days, the son comes to a city. At evening he meets a beautiful woman with long red hair. She offers him hospitality, which he accepts, and she attends lovingly to his every want. Pleasure and hope fill his breast. He begins wondering. He asks himself if this 145 145 woman might not be his lost mother. But when night falls, the red-haired woman takes him into her bed and "does for him what mother never did for her son." The son knows she cannot be the one he seeks.
Pretending to sleep, he waits for an opportunity to leave her; but, at midnight, he sees her draw a length of strong, sharp cord from beneath her pillow and stretch it toward him. The son leaps up, seizes his sword, and confronts the woman. Under its threat, she confesses that she was planning to murder him for the sake of his purse, as she has done with countless travelers: their corpses lie rotting in her cellar. The son slays the woman with his sword, wakes up a nearby priest to a.s.sure a Christian burial for her and her victims, and goes his way.
Three days later, he arrives at another city. As day wanes, a strange woman again offers him hospitality, and again he accepts. She is even more beautiful than the first; and her hair is also long, but golden. She lavishes her attentions on the young man, and in such profusion that hope once again spurs him to wonder whether she might not be his lost mother. But with the coming of darkness, the woman with the golden hair takes him into her bed and "does for him what mother never did for her son." His hopes have again been disappointed. Full of unease, he feigns sleep. Halfway through the night he hears footsteps mounting the stairs. He scarcely has time to leap out of bed and grasp his sword before two burly villains come rushing into the room. They attack him, and he cuts them down. Then, turning on the woman, he forces her at swordpoint to confess that she had hoped to make him her prisoner and sell him into slavery. Saracen pirates would have paid a high price for one of such strength and beauty. The son slays her, wakes up a priest to see that she and her henchmen receive Christian burial, and goes his way.
Another three days' journey brings him to a third city. There, at end of day, the son meets still another fair woman, the most beautiful of all, with flowing, raven-black hair. Alone of the three, she seems to recognize him; and when she takes him under her roof and bestows on him more comfort and affection than he had ever dreamed possible, he knows that this time his hope cannot be mistaken. But when night comes, she takes him into her bed, and she, like the others, "does for him what mother never did for her son." She has drugged his food. He cannot help falling asleep; only, at midnight, the touch of cold iron against his throat rouses him from his stupor. Taking up his sword, he points it in fury at the breast of the woman who has so beguiled him.
She begs him to leave her in peace, but she finally acknowledges that she meant to cut his 146 throat and suck his blood. She is an old, old witch who has lost all her powers but one, that of preserving her youth. This she does by drinking the blood of young men. The son runs her through with his sword.
With a weak cry, she falls to the floor a wrinkled crone. The son knows that a witch cannot be buried in consecrated ground, and he goes his way.
But the young man travels no further. He is bitterly convinced of the folly of his quest; he has lost all hope of ever finding his mother; wearily he turns homeward.
On his way he pa.s.ses through the cities where he had first faced danger. He is greeted as a hero. Thanks to the two priests, all know that it was he who destroyed the evil incarnate in their midst. But he takes no pride in having killed two women who "did for him what mother never did for her son."
On the ninth day of his return, he sees, from the mountain pa.s.s he has reached, the hill beyond which his native village lies. In the valley between, a shepherdess is watching her flock. At his approach she greets him tenderly, for she knows the blacksmith's son and has loved him for many years. He stops with her to rest. She has become, he notices, a beautiful young woman-not as beautiful, perhaps, as the evil three: but her eyes are wide and deep, and her long hair is brown.
The afternoon goes by. Still the son does not leave. At evening, he partakes of the shepherdess's frugal supper. At nighttime, when she lies down, he lies down beside her; and she, her heart br.i.m.m.i.n.g with gladness, "does for him what mother never did for her son." The shepherdess falls asleep. The son cannot sleep; and he is appalled, in the middle of the night, to see the shepherdess suddenly rise up beside him. But she only touches his shoulder as if to waken him and points to the starry sky. She tells him to look up. There, she says, beyond the darkness, the souls of the dead have gathered into one blazing light.
With a cry of pain, the son asks, "Then is my mother there?" The shepherdess answers that she is. His mother lives beyond the stars, and the stars themselves are c.h.i.n.ks in the night through which the fateful light of the dead and the unborn is revealed to the world. "Oh, Mother, Mother," the young man weeps. The shepherdess then says to him, "Who is now mother to your sleep and waking? Who else can be the mother of your joy and pain? I shall henceforth be the mother of every memory; and from this night on, I alone am your mother-even if now, and tomorrow, and all the days of my life, I do for you what mother never did for her son." In his sudden ecstasy, the blacksmith's son understands. He has discovered his desire.
And so, next morning, he brings the shepherdess home. His father, 147 147 when he sees them, weeps tears of relief and joy; and his stepmother, sick with remorse, welcomes them as saviors. Henceforth they all live in mutual contentment; and when, every evening, the approach of darkness kindles new yearning in the young man's heart and he turns to embrace his wife, she devotedly responds and never once fails, through the long pa.s.sing years, to "do for him what mother never did for her son."
The connection of this song with farce double farce double lies, I was told, in an a.n.a.logy between the stars and the holes in the lid of the roasting pit. lies, I was told, in an a.n.a.logy between the stars and the holes in the lid of the roasting pit.
When your timer sounds for the final round, you must be in fighting trim: not aggressive, but supremely alert. You now have to work at high speed and with utmost delicacy. The meat will have swelled in cooking: it is pressing against the clay sh.e.l.l harder than ever, and one jolt can spell disaster. Do not coddle yourself by thinking that this pressure is b.u.t.tressing the sh.e.l.l. In La Tour Lambert, the handling of the cooked lamb is entrusted to squads of highly trained young men: they are solemn as pallbearers and dexterous as shortstops, and their virtuosity is eloquent proof that this is no time for optimism.
Slide the ca.s.serole slowly out of the oven and gently set it down on a table covered with a thrice-folded blanket. You will now need help.
Summon anyone-a friend, a neighbor, a husband, a lover, a sibling, even a guest-so that the two of you can slip four broad wooden spatulas under the roast, one on each side, and ease it onto a platter. The platter should be resting on a soft surface such as a cushion or a mattress (a small hammock would be perfect). Wait for the meat to cool before moving it onto anything harder. Your a.s.sistant may withdraw.
Meanwhile attend to the gravy. No later than the previous evening, you will have made 1 quarts of stock with the bones from the lamb shoulder, together with the customary onions, carrots, celery, herb bouquet, cloves, scallions, parsnips, and garlic, to which you must not hesitate to add any old fowl, capon, partridge, or squab carca.s.ses that are gathering rime in your deep freeze, or a young rabbit or two. Pour out the fat in the ca.s.serole and set it on the stove over high heat. Splash in enough of the same good champagne to sc.r.a.pe the ca.s.serole clean, and boil. When the wine has largely evaporated, take off heat, and add 2 cups of rendered pork fat. Set the ca.s.serole over very low heat and make a quick roux roux or brown sauce with 3 cups of flour. Then slowly pour in 2 cups of the blood of the lamb, stirring it in a spoonful at a time. Finally, add the stock. Raise the heat to medium high and let the liquid simmer down to the equivalent of 13 cupfuls. or brown sauce with 3 cups of flour. Then slowly pour in 2 cups of the blood of the lamb, stirring it in a spoonful at a time. Finally, add the stock. Raise the heat to medium high and let the liquid simmer down to the equivalent of 13 cupfuls.
148 While the gravy reduces, carefully set the platter with the roast on a table, resting one side on an object the size of this cookbook, so that it sits at a tilt. Place a broad shallow bowl against the lower side. If the clay sh.e.l.l now breaks, the poaching broth will flow rapidly into the bowl. Prop the lamb with a spatula or two to keep it from sliding off the platter.
Slit the seams in the meat, spread its folds, and expose the clay sh.e.l.l.
Put on kitchen gloves-the clay will be scalding-and coax the sh.e.l.l from its depths. Set it in a saucepan, give it a smart crack with a mallet, and remove the grosser shards. Ladle out the quenelles and keep them warm in the oven in a covered, b.u.t.tered dish with a few spoonfuls of the broth. Strain the rest of the liquid, reduce it quickly to a quarter of its volume, and then use what is left of the champagne to make a white wine sauce. Nap the quenelles with sauce, and serve.
If you have worked fast and well, by the time your guests finish the quenelles, the lamb will have set long enough for its juices to have withdrawn into the tissues without its getting cold. Pour the gravy into individual heated bowls. Place a bowl in front of each guest, and set the platter with the lamb, which you will have turned outside up, at the center of the table. The meat is eaten without knives and forks. Break off a morsel with the fingers of the right hand, dip it in gravy, and pop it into your mouth. In Auvergne, this is managed with nary a dribble; but lobster bibs are a comfort.
(Do not be upset if you yourself have lost all desire to eat. This is a normal, salutary condition. Your satisfaction will have been in the doing, not in the thing done. But observe the reaction of your guests, have a gla.s.s of wine [see below], and you may feel the urge to try one bite, and perhaps a second...) It is a solemn moment when, at the great communal spring banquet, the Mayor of La Tour Lambert goes from table to table and with shining fingers gravely breaks the skin of each lamb. After this ceremony, however, the prevailing gaiety rea.s.serts itself. After all, the feast of farce farce double double is not only a time-hallowed occasion but a very pleasant one. It is a moment for friendships to be renewed, for enemies to forgive one another, for lovers to embrace. At its origin, curiously enough, the feast was a.s.sociated with second marriages (some writers think this gave the dish its name). Such marriages have never been historically explained; possibly they never took place. What is certain is that the feast has always coincided with the arrival, from the lowlands, of shepherds driv- 149 is not only a time-hallowed occasion but a very pleasant one. It is a moment for friendships to be renewed, for enemies to forgive one another, for lovers to embrace. At its origin, curiously enough, the feast was a.s.sociated with second marriages (some writers think this gave the dish its name). Such marriages have never been historically explained; possibly they never took place. What is certain is that the feast has always coincided with the arrival, from the lowlands, of shepherds driv- 149 ing their flocks to the high pastures where they will summer. Their coming heralds true spring and its first warmth; and it restores warmth, too, between the settled mountain craftsmen of La Tour Lambert and the semi-nomadic shepherds from the south. The two communities are separate only in their ways of life. They have long been allied by esteem, common interest, and, most important, by blood. Marriages between them have been recorded since the founding of the village in the year one thousand; and if many a shepherd's daughter has settled in La Tour Lambert as the wife of a wheelwright or turner, many an Auvergnat son, come autumn, has left his father's mill or forge to follow the migrant flocks toward Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Perhaps the legend of second marriages reflects a practice whereby a widow or widower took a spouse among the folk of which he was not a member. The eating of farce double farce double would then be exquisitely appropriate; for there is no doubt at all that the composition of the dish-lamb from plains by the sea, fish from lakes among the grazing lands-deliberately embodies the merging of these distinct peoples in one community. I should add that at the time the feast originated, still another group partic.i.p.ated harmo-niously in its celebration: pilgrims from Burgundy on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Just as the people of La Tour Lambert provided fish for the great banquet and the shepherds contributed their lambs, the pilgrims supplied kegs of new white wine that they brought with them from Cha.s.sagne, the Burgundian village now called Cha.s.sagne-Montrachet. Their wine became the invariable accompaniment for both parts of would then be exquisitely appropriate; for there is no doubt at all that the composition of the dish-lamb from plains by the sea, fish from lakes among the grazing lands-deliberately embodies the merging of these distinct peoples in one community. I should add that at the time the feast originated, still another group partic.i.p.ated harmo-niously in its celebration: pilgrims from Burgundy on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Just as the people of La Tour Lambert provided fish for the great banquet and the shepherds contributed their lambs, the pilgrims supplied kegs of new white wine that they brought with them from Cha.s.sagne, the Burgundian village now called Cha.s.sagne-Montrachet. Their wine became the invariable accompaniment for both parts of farce double farce double; and you could hardly do better than to adopt the custom. Here, at least, tradition can be observed with perfect fidelity.
It is saddening to report that, like the rest of the world, La Tour Lambert has undergone considerable change. Shepherds no longer walk their flocks from the south but ship them by truck. The lakes have been fished out, and a subst.i.tute for chaste chaste is imported frozen from Yugoslavia. The grandson of the last wheelwright works in the tourist bureau, greeting latter-day pilgrims who bring no wine. He is one of the very few of his generation to have remained in the village. (The cement quarry, which was opened with great fanfare ten years ago as a way of providing jobs, employs mainly foreign labor. Its most visible effect has been to shroud the landscape in white dust.) I have heard, however, that the blacksmith still earns a good living making wrought-iron lamps. Fortunately, the future of is imported frozen from Yugoslavia. The grandson of the last wheelwright works in the tourist bureau, greeting latter-day pilgrims who bring no wine. He is one of the very few of his generation to have remained in the village. (The cement quarry, which was opened with great fanfare ten years ago as a way of providing jobs, employs mainly foreign labor. Its most visible effect has been to shroud the landscape in white dust.) I have heard, however, that the blacksmith still earns a good living making wrought-iron lamps. Fortunately, the future of farce double farce double is a.s.sured, at least for the time being. The festal cave has been put on a commercial footing, and it now produces the dish for restaurants in the area all year round (in the off is a.s.sured, at least for the time being. The festal cave has been put on a commercial footing, and it now produces the dish for restaurants in the area all year round (in the off 150 season, on weekends only). It is open to the public. I recommend a visit if you pa.s.s nearby.
Eat the quenelles ungarnished. Mashed sorrel goes nicely with the lamb.
151 CHARLES LAMB.
A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig Mankind, says a Chinese ma.n.u.script, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the Cooks' Holiday. The ma.n.u.script goes on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling (which I take to be the elder brother) was accidentally discovered in the manner following. The swine-herd, Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who being fond of playing with fire, as younkers of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage (a sorry antediluvian make-shift of a building, you may think it), what was of much more importance, a fine litter of new-farrowed pigs, no less than nine in number, perished. China pigs have been esteemed a luxury all over the East, from the remotest periods that we read of. Bo-bo was in the utmost consternation, as you may think, not so much for the sake of the tenement, which his father and he could easily build up again with a few dry branches, and the labour of an hour or two, at any time, as for the loss of the pigs. While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those untimely sufferers, an odour as-sailed his nostrils, unlike any scent which he had before experienced.
What could it proceed from?-not from the burnt cottage-he had smelt that smell before-indeed this was by no means the first accident of the kind which had occurred through the negligence of this unlucky young fire-brand. Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premonitory moistening at the same time overflowed his nether lip. He knew not what to think. He 152.
next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it.
He burnt his fingers, and to cool them he applied them in his b.o.o.by fashion to his mouth. Some of the crumbs of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time in his life (in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted- crackling crackling!
Again he felt and fumbled at the pig. It did not burn him so much now, still he licked his fingers from a sort of habit. The truth at length broke into his slow understanding, that it was the pig that smelt so, and the pig that tasted so delicious; and surrendering himself up to the newborn pleasure, he fell to tearing up whole handfuls of the scorched skin with the flesh next it, and was cramming it down his throat in his beastly fashion, when his sire entered amid the smoking rafters, armed with retributory cudgel, and finding how affairs stood, began to rain blows upon the young rogue's shoulders, as thick as hail-stones, which Bo-bo heeded not any more than if they had been flies. The tickling pleasure, which he experienced in his lower regions, had rendered him quite callous to any inconveniences he might feel in those remote quarters.
His father might lay on, but he could not beat him from his pig, till he had fairly made an end of it, when, becoming a little more sensible of his situation, something like the following dialogue ensued.
"You graceless whelp, what have you got there devouring? Is it not enough that you have burnt me down three houses with your dog's tricks, and be hanged to you! but you must be eating fire, and I know not what-what have you got there, I say?"
"O father, the pig, the pig! do come and taste how nice the burnt pig eats."
The ears of Ho-ti tingled with horror. He cursed his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should beget a son that should eat burnt pig.
Bo-bo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened since morning, soon raked out another pig, and fairly rending it asunder, thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Ho-ti, still shouting out, "Eat, eat, eat the burnt pig, father, only taste-O Lord!"-with such-like barbarous e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.i.o.ns, cramming all the while as if he would choke.
Ho-ti trembled every joint while he grasped the abominable thing, wavering whether he should not put his son to death for an unnatural young monster, when the crackling scorching his fingers, as it had done his son's, and applying the same remedy to them, he in his turn tasted some of its flavour, which, make what sour mouths he would for a pretense, proved not altogether displeasing to him. In conclusion (for the 153 ma.n.u.script here is a little tedious), both father and son fairly set down to the mess, and never left off till they had dispatched all that remained of the litter.
Bo-bo was strictly enjoined not to let the secret escape, for the neighbours would certainly have stoned them for a couple of abominable wretches, who could think of improving upon the good meat which G.o.d had sent them. Nevertheless, strange stories got about. It was observed that Ho-ti's cottage was burnt down now more frequently than ever. Nothing but fires from this time forward. Some would break out in broad day, others in the night-time. As often as the sow farrowed, so sure was the house of Ho-ti to be in a blaze; and Ho-ti himself, which was the more remarkable, instead of chastising his son, seemed to grow more indulgent to him than ever. At length they were watched, the terrible mystery discovered, and father and son summoned to take their trial at Pekin, then an inconsiderable a.s.size town. Evidence was given, the obnoxious food itself produced in court, and verdict about to be p.r.o.nounced, when the foreman of the jury begged that some of the burnt pig, of which the culprits stood accused, might be handed into the box. He handled it, and they all handled it; and burning their fingers, as Bo-bo and his father had done before them, and nature prompting to each of them the same remedy, against the face of all the facts, and the clearest charge which judge had ever given,-to the surprise of the whole court, townsfolk, strangers, reporters, and all present-without leaving the box, or any manner of consultation whatever, they brought in a simultaneous verdict of Not Guilty.
The judge, who was a shrewd fellow, winked at the manifest iniquity of the decision: and when the court was dismissed, went privily and bought up all the pigs that could be had for love or money. In a few days his lordship's town-house was observed to be on fire. The thing took wing, and now there was nothing to be seen but fire in every direction. Fuel and pigs grew enormously dear all over the district. The insurance-offices one and all shut up shop. People built slighter and slighter every day, until it was feared that the very science of architecture would in no long time be lost to the world. Thus this custom of firing houses continued, till in process of time, says my ma.n.u.script, a sage arose, like our Locke, who made a discovery that the flesh of swine, or indeed of any other animal, might be cooked ( burnt burnt, as they called it) without the necessity of consuming a whole house to dress it. Then first began the rude form of a gridiron. Roasting by the string or spit came in a century 154 or two later, I forget in whose dynasty. By such slow degrees, concludes the ma.n.u.script, do the most useful, and seemingly the most obvious, arts make their way among mankind- Without placing too implicit faith in the account above given, it must be agreed that if a worthy pretext for so dangerous an experiment as setting houses on fire (especially in these days) could be a.s.signed in favour of any culinary object, that pretext and excuse might be found in ROAST PIG.
Of all the delicacies in the whole mundus edibilis mundus edibilis, I will maintain it to be the most delicate- princeps obsoniorum princeps obsoniorum.
I speak not of your grown porkers-things between pig and pork-those hobbydehoys-but a young and tender suckling-under a moon old-guiltless as yet of the sty-with no original speck of the amor immundit amor immundit, the hereditary failing of the first parent, yet manifest-his voice as yet not broken, but something between a childish treble and a grumble-the mild forerunner or prludium prludium of a grunt. of a grunt.
He must be roasted. I am not ignorant that our ancestors ate them seethed, or boiled-but what a sacrifice to the exterior tegument!
There is no flavour comparable, I will contend, to that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted, crackling crackling, as it is well called-the very teeth are invited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance-with the adhesive oleaginous-O call it not fat! but an indefinable sweetness growing up to it-the tender blossoming of fat-fat cropped in the bud-taken in the shoot-in the first innocence-the cream and quintessence of the child-pig's yet pure food-the lean, no lean, but a kind of animal manna-or, rather, fat and lean (if it must be so) so blended and running into each other, that both together make but one ambrosian result or common substance.
Behold him, while he is "doing"-it seemeth rather a refreshing warmth, than a scorching heat, that he is so pa.s.sive to. How equably he twirleth round the string!-Now he is just done. To see the extreme sensibility of that tender age! he hath wept out his pretty eyes-radiant jellies-shooting stars- See him in the dish, his second cradle, how meek he lieth!-wouldst thou have had this innocent grow up to the grossness and indocility which too often accompany maturer swinehood? Ten to one he would have proved a glutton, a sloven, an obstinate, disagreeable animal-wallowing in all manner of filthy conversation-from these sins he is happily s.n.a.t.c.hed away- 155 Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade, Death came with timely care- his memory is odoriferous-no clown curseth, while his stomach half rejecteth, the rank bacon-no coal-heaver bolteth him in reeking sausages-he hath a fair sepulchre in the grateful stomach of the judicious epicure-and for such a tomb might be content to die.
He is the best of sapors. Pine-apple is great. She is indeed almost too transcendent-a delight, if not sinful, yet so like to sinning that really a tender-conscienced person would do well to pause-too ravishing for mortal taste, she woundeth and excoriateth the lips that approach her-like lovers' kisses, she biteth-she is a pleasure bordering on pain from the fierceness and insanity of her relish-but she stoppeth at the palate-she meddleth not with the appet.i.te-and the coa.r.s.est hunger might barter her consistently for a mutton-chop.
Pig-let me speak his praise-is no less provocative of the appet.i.te, than he is satisfactory to the criticalness of the censorious palate. The strong man may batten on him, and the weakling refuseth not his mild juices.
Unlike to mankind's mixed characters, a bundle of virtues and vices, inexplicably intertwisted, and not to be unravelled without hazard, he is-good throughout. No part of him is better or worse than another.
He helpeth, as far as his little means extend, all around. He is the least envious of banquets. He is all neighbours' fare.
I am one of those, who freely and ungrudgingly impart a share of the good things of this life which fall to their lot (few as mine are in this kind) to a friend. I protest I take as great an interest in my friend's pleasures, his relishes, and proper satisfactions, as in mine own.
"Presents," I often say, "endear Absents." Hares, pheasants, partridges, snipes, barndoor chickens (those "tame villatic fowl"), capons, plovers, brawn, barrels of oysters, I dispense as freely as I receive them. I love to taste them, as it were, upon the tongue of my friend. But a stop must be put somewhere. One would not, like Lear, "give everything." I make my stand upon pig. Methinks it is an ingrat.i.tude to the Giver of all good flavours to extra-domiciliate, or send out of the house slightingly (under pretext of friendship, or I know not what) a blessing so particularly adapted, predestined, I may say, to my individual palate-It argues an insensibility.
I remember a touch of conscience in this kind at school. My good old aunt, who never parted from me at the end of a holiday without 156 156 stuffing a sweetmeat, or some nice thing into my pocket, had dismissed me one evening with a smoking plum-cake, fresh from the oven. In my way to school (it was over London Bridge) a grey-headed old beggar saluted me (I have no doubt, at this time of day, that he was a counter-feit). I had no pence to console him with, and in the vanity of self-denial and the very c.o.xcombry of charity, schoolboy-like, I made him a present of-the whole cake! I walked on a little, buoyed up, as one is on such occasions, with a sweet soothing of self-satisfaction; but before I had got to the end of the bridge, my better feelings returned, and I burst into tears, thinking how ungrateful I had been to my good aunt, to go and give her good gift away to a stranger that I had never seen before, and who might be a bad man for aught I knew; and then I thought of the pleasure my aunt would be taking in thinking that I-I myself, and not another-would eat her nice cake-and what should I say to her the next time I saw her-how naughty I was to part with her pretty present!-and the odour of that spicy cake came back upon my recollection, and the pleasure and the curiosity I had taken in seeing her make it, and her joy when she sent it to the oven, and how disappointed she would feel that I had never had a bit of it in my mouth at last-and I blamed my impertinent spirit of alms-giving, and out-of-place hypocrisy of goodness; and above all I wished never to see the face again of that insidious, good-for-nothing, old grey impostor.
Our ancestors were nice in their method of sacrificing these tender victims. We read of pigs whipt to death with something of a shock, as we hear of any other obsolete custom. The age of discipline is gone by, or it would be curious to inquire (in a philosophical light merely) what effect this process might have toward intenerating and dulcifying a substance, naturally so mild and dulcet as the flesh of young pigs. It looks like refining a violet. Yet we should be cautious, while we condemn the inhumanity, how we censure the wisdom of the practice. It might impart a gusto- I remember an hypothesis, argued upon by the young students, when I was at St. Omer's, and maintained with much learning and pleasantry on both sides, "Whether, supposing that the flavour of a pig who obtained his death by whipping (per flagellationem extremam) (per flagellationem extremam) super-added a pleasure upon the palate of a man more intense than any possible suffering we can conceive in the animal, is man justified in using that method of putting the animal to death?" I forget the decision. super-added a pleasure upon the palate of a man more intense than any possible suffering we can conceive in the animal, is man justified in using that method of putting the animal to death?" I forget the decision.
His sauce should be considered. Decidedly, a few bread crumbs, done up with his liver and brains, and a dash of mild sage. But banish, 157 157 dear Mrs. Cook, I beseech you, the whole onion tribe. Barbecue your whole hogs to your palate, steep them in shallots, stuff them out with plantations of the rank and guilty garlic; you cannot poison them, or make them stronger than they are-but consider, he is a weakling-a flower.
158 EDWARD STEINBERG.
The Vines of San Lorenzo: A Proposal This book is about the making of a great wine.
The primary narrative thread follows one wine from birth to bottle.
Through the enlivening particular the reader learns about the general.
"In the end," writes emile Peynaud, the most influential enologist of our time, "it's everywhere like in Bordeaux." In spite of the infinite variations possible, the story of the growing of grapes on one plot of land in a given year and their subsequent transformation is the story of Everywine.
Our wine is Italian: the 1989 vintage of Angelo Gaja's Sor San Lorenzo, a vineyard in the village of Barbaresco. Further essential geography includes the region of Piedmont, the town of Alba and the area around it called the Langhe, the Tanaro River.
Why Italy? Italy is going through a vinous revolution to overthrow an oppressive heritage and is in many ways more interesting than other choices, such as France, with its long-standing successful tradition and California, which was "born free."
Why Sor San Lorenzo? It certainly is a great wine. When the 1985 vintage made its debut, two of Germany's leading wine writers wrote about "multifaceted structure, enormous extract, concentrated fruit, unbelievable richness, magnificent finish." Their most famous American colleague described the wine as "exotic, compelling, and incredibly complex" and its bouquet as "reminiscent of what a fictional blend of Romanee-Conti and Mouton-Rothschild might taste like." Sor San Lorenzo is made with a native Italian grape, Nebbiolo. Gaja was in the vanguard of the revolution. He grows many grape varieties, planted in various vineyards, which makes revealing comparisons possible.
What does it take to make a great wine? In 1977, Andre Mentzelopu-lous bought one of the most famous wine estates in Bordeaux, Chateau Margaux, which had not produced a great wine since 1961. He engaged as a consultant the enologist referred to earlier, emile Peynaud, and told him that he wanted to make the best wine in the world. "That's 159 not so hard," Peynaud replied. "All you have to do is give me the best grapes in the world."
Peynaud's reply took many things for granted that will be an important part of our story. But there is no doubt that it all begins in the vineyard, with the grapes.
Our main guide here is Federico Curtaz. Just over thirty, born to the north in the Valle d'Aosta and partly bred in the nearby town of Asti, Federico started to work for Gaja in 1983. As a schoolboy, he had partic.i.p.ated precociously in the radical politics and strenuous ideological confrontations of the seventies. "If you want war," Angelo told him, "you'll have it."
Federico has worked on a farm in England, growing hops and squash.
While harvesting, he talks about jazz or the cartoons by Raphael in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. We see him walking among his vines, examining a leaf here, removing one there. His att.i.tude is at once clinical and paternal. When he kneels down and scoops up a handful of earth, he talks about soil structure as pa.s.sionately as wine lovers discuss the differences between Pauillac and Pomerol. He observes that the soil of a vineyard Angelo has just bought has been overfertilized. "We have to make those vines suffer," he says deadpan.
"I've read de Sade."
Most people are more familiar with table grapes than with the great wine varieties. The latter are smaller, juicier, less crunchy. They have a higher ratio of skin to pulp and can look rather miserable to an un-trained eye, as Angus Reach noted almost a century and a half ago in his book Claret and Olives Claret and Olives. Observing the "unpromising" grapes at Chateau Margaux, he saw in them a "homily against trusting to appearances. If you saw a bunch in Convent Garden you would turn from them with the notion that the fruiterer was trying to do you with over-ripe black currants."
There are many varieties of all plants. A pa.s.sionate potato-lover, Donald Maclean, once had more than 400 varieties growing in his collection, but just six of them account for over 80 percent of America's commercial production. Who writes about the difference between the common Russet Burbank and the rare Pink Fir Apple, and how many consumers are ready to pay the difference in price?
Wine grapes are one of the few crops capable of fetching a price that rewards growing fussy, low-yielding varieties such as Nebbiolo.
"Nebbiolo," says research agronomist Lorenzo Corino, whom we meet in Asti, "is a discouraging grape." Indeed, when Barbaresco growers met in 1908 160 to discuss fraud and other problems, they protested against their Nebbiolo vineyards being put in the highest tax bracket. "Given that the fastidiousness of that variety does not ensure a constant income,"
they noted, "in no vineyard is Nebbiolo grown by itself, but together with Barbera, Freisa and Dolcetto," lesser but hardier varieties. "With Nebbiolo," says Aldo Vacca, who works in the office at the Gaja winery, but comes from a family of Barbaresco growers, "you're always in the vineyard."
The importance of site was expressed prosaically in the seventeenth century by the English philosopher John Locke (who marveled during a visit to Bordeaux that the mere "width of a ditch" separated the great vineyard of Haut-Brion from a lesser one) and poetically in our own by the French writer Colette ("The vine makes the true savor of the earth intelligible to man. It senses, then expresses in its cl.u.s.ters the secrets of the soil").
When we observe Sor San Lorenzo at sunrise and sunset from the hill across the valley, Faset, it is like a stage where the lights go on early and are turned off late. On a cold morning in January 1989, Faset is still covered by the snow that fell yesterday. On the slope of Sor San Lorenzo it has completely melted, while there are still patches here and there on contiguous plots. We are reminded that when the cooperative winery was founded at Barbaresco in 1894, it cla.s.sified as first-cla.s.s those vineyards of its members where the snow melted first. We begin to understand the local dialect: sor sor, a slope facing south, a slope that catches the most sun.
That same morning, Federico and his crew are at San Lorenzo to do the winter pruning. We observe him sizing up a vine before clipping off the "past" (the canes that bore last year's crop) and tr.i.m.m.i.n.g the "present" (the one that will bear this year's) and the "future" (the spurs that will provide the fruiting cane next year). Federico comments; we learn about the vine.
Even the n.o.blest wine varieties are marked by their origins as forest creepers. Under natural conditions a vine must compete with other plants. Since it does not have a thick trunk to hold it above the ground, it has evolved other means to ensure itself a place in the sun. It grows rapidly and over a long period; tendrils enable it to climb to the top of trees. Nathaniel Hawthorne was fascinated by such a sight in Tuscany in 1858. "Nothing can be more picturesque," he wrote in his notebook, "than the spectacle of an old grape-vine...stretching out its innumerable arms on every bough." But the writer also recorded his suspicion that 161 161 "the vine is a pleasanter object of sight under this mode of culture than it can be in countries where it produces a more precious wine, and therefore is trained more artificially."
Hawthorne's suspicion was well founded. Great wine is a product of strenuous viti culture culture, of nature highly nurtured. With vines as with us, culture directs the course of nature toward certain goals.
Federico chuckles at the thought of what would happen if vines were allowed to follow their natural tendencies. "The vine doesn't know it's supposed to produce the kind of grapes we want," he says. "You have to discipline it pretty brutally." He pauses. "After all, pruning is a mu-tilation."
We learn about various training systems (which give the vine's permanent and semipermanent parts a certain form) and pruning (which regulates annual growth and thus the quant.i.ty and quality of the grapes produced in a given year). The aim of the latter is to get the vine to channel its energy into the nourishment of a limited amount of grapes instead of wasting it on excessive vegetation or the production of more grapes than it can bring up properly.
The pruners regulate production by the number of eyes they leave on each vine. Quality and quant.i.ty are at odds here. Angelo says that when his father would talk about a certain year as being exceptional, it always turned out that the harvest had been small, as in 1961, when hail reduced the crop by more than half. In the early sixties, Angelo worked in the vineyards and decided to halve production by pruning more severely. The workers couldn't believe what they were being told to do. They talked about it at the local tavern and soon the whole village thought Angelo was crazy. "One day my father rushed into the house all upset. 'Everyone is saying that we have so few grapes we're going to go bankrupt!' he exclaimed. 'How are we going to pay the workers?'"
Pruning is over, but the crew cut will not last long.
As we observe San Lorenzo during the growing season, we learn about other factors affecting the growth of a vine and the quality of its grapes. We notice from Faset that the vines of another vineyard are closer together (density of planting). The rows of vines at San Lorenzo follow the curve of the hill (girapoggio) (girapoggio), while others run straight up and down the slope (rittochino) (rittochino). One vineyard is covered by gra.s.s; another does not have a single blade. Federico explains how thinking about vineyard management has changed since the sixties, when a "body building" concept was dominant. Strolling through San Lorenzo during a prolonged spell of drought, we notice that the vines in one section seem more 162 wilted than those in another (age of vine). We also notice, just above the ground on the trunk of each vine, the slight bulge that reminds us that, because of the phylloxera louse, the proud aristocrat is unable to stand on its own feet and needs the help of a plebeian American immigrant to survive (rootstock).
We follow as the various vineyard tasks are performed far from the limelight of cellar and tasting room by Federico and his men. We get to know some of them, hear their voices. Federico talks about the problems many workers have when they start at the winery. "They have no idea what quality is all about." Like the vines they tend, the workers have their roots deep in the soil of history, of culture. Last year he sent a couple of men to thin out the cl.u.s.ters in another vineyard in order to reduce the yield. "They tided up the shoots and cleaned around the vines," he says, "but they didn't remove a single bunch." Federico respects them. "They come from families that have stared hunger in the face." He mentions the solitude of some of the older workers. "There are those who suffer if they have to pair off with others." He nods in the direction of an old man. "Beppe couldn't have muttered more than three words all morning. Even having to listen listen to others is painful to him." to others is painful to him."
Federico is proud of his work, but expresses its goal in modest terms: "to enable the winemaker to choose choose when to harvest," rather than having to because the grapes would rot if they stayed on the vine any longer. when to harvest," rather than having to because the grapes would rot if they stayed on the vine any longer.