Today I want briefly to carry on yesterday’s theme of mock food. One common reason for substituting one main ingredient for another, while trying to maintain the illusion of the original recipe is, of course, economy. Seventeenth and eighteenth century English cookery books are full of recipes for cooking beef to appear (and hopefully taste) like venison, for example, and in Australia ‘Colonial Goose’ was made from lamb. The motive here is fairly easy to understand.
The opposite substitution can be found occasionally in old cookery books – the case of a “good” meat being substituted for one of lesser reputation. I have not read too many reports which eulogize possum flesh, for example, and suspect that the intense desire to try to mimic its delights does not figure too commonly in the breasts of cooks around the world. The only reason I can think of that anyone would want to do this is not related to the delights of the dish itself, but the wish to recreate an experience – a huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ style of experience in the wilderness perhaps? A tough, manly, campfire sort of experience, to be remembered fondly back in civilization, where at times life seems just a little too soft?
From The All American Cook Book; being a collection chiefly of recipes of the favorite dishes of famous Americans, by Gertrude Frelove Brebner, (Chicago, 1922), the proceeds of which were to go to “the relief of disabled, needy, and unemployed ex-servicemen and their dependent families”, I give you a recipe from a military man - Brig.-General D.E.Aultman, Camp Knox, Kentucky.
This is a Dixie recipe that tastes just as good when made north of Mason’s and Dixon’s line. For this toothsome dish take a pound slice of pork steak and roll it about the following dressing: Boil and peel two medium sized sweet potatoes and press through a colander. Season them with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of cane syrup, 1 egg, salt, red pepper, and a touch of ginger. Tie the dressing securely in the steak, rub with salt and pepper and put in dripping pan with 1 pt. of hot water. Bake 1 ½ hours and serve garnished with halved, baked apples.
Quotation for the Day.
It scored right away with me by being the smooth, fine-grained sort, not the coarse, flaky, dry-on-the-outside rubbish full of chunks of gut and gristle to testify to its authenticity. I sometimes feel that more lousy dishes are presented under the banner of pâté than any other.
Kingsley Amis, discussin the pâté at London’s Simpson's-on-the-Strand restaurant, in the London Illustrated News May 1986
I think the word "toothsome" is under used these days and I propose a revival.
As in "I'm looking forward to a toothsome mock-quesadilla for lunch!"
'Possum' story. A good friend of mine when she and her brother were kids killed a possum, skinned, built a fire, roasted it on a spit and then tried to eat it. She says it was the greasiest thing she has ever tried to eat. When her grandmother found the remains. Grandma explained to her, "You have to boil possum in salt water and then bake it on a rack and it will still be greasy. You have to be hungry to eat one."
FYI - a "Northumberland duck" is a leg of lamb, with the shank cut half-through and then posed to look like the rising neck & head of a duck. I used to know a butcher who would do this. Please not to ask me why...
I think Amis's comment about pâté also applies far too often to sausages - especially the chunks of gristle. I find many "gourmet" sausages quite unpleasant for this reason.
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