This is NOT a story about venison, and the cooking thereof. It is a celebration of The Stag Cook Book: Written by Men, for Men, (New York, 1922), by Sheridan, C. Mack. This marvellously informative and much-needed book has a rather poignant dedication:
THAT GREAT HOST OF BACHELORS AND BENEDICTS ALIKE
who have at one time or another tried to “cook something”; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil, what, under more favorable circumstances, would have proved a chef-d’œuvre.
Then, on the next page is the vindication:
“They may live without houses and live without books”
So the saying has gone through the ages,
“But a civilized man cannot live without cooks – “
It's a libel, as proved by these pages,
For when left by himself in a small kitchenette,
With a saucepan, a spoon and a kettle,
A man can make things that you'll never forget —
That will put any cook on her mettle.
Where camp fires glow through the still of the night,
Where grills are electric and shiny,
Where kitchens are huge, done in tiling of white.
Where stoves are exceedingly tiny.
Where people are hungry — no matter the place —
A man can produce in a minute
A dish to bring smiles to each skeptical face,
With art — and real food value — in it I
At range and at oven, at (whisper it!) still,
A man is undoubtedly master;
His cooking is done with an air and a skill.
He's sure as a woman — and faster!
He may break the dishes and clutter the floor,
And if he is praised — he deserves it —
He may flaunt his prowess until he’s a bore. . . .
But, Boy, what he serves — when he serves it!
I have, in fact, given you a story from the book in a previous post (Justifiable Homicide, Chef Style), but there is yet more to share. How could any Stag not be tempted by this book, when the introduction simultaneously appeals to the universal love of celebrities, hints at the irresistible delights within, and reassures the Stag that it is all doable, if only he hold his awe in check?
The immortals who have contributed recipes to this volume were born with a silver spoon not in their mouths, but in their hands. The cap and apron, not the cap and bells, is the garb in which they perform. Secrets handed down through generations are thrown with a wanton hand on the pages that comprise this volume. Sauces from the south, chowders from New England, barbecued masterpieces from the west, grilled classics from field and stream, ragouts, stews, desserts, dressings are hung within reach of all, like garlic clusters from the rafters of opportunity. Reach up and help yourself.
Be not disturbed by occasional jocund phrases in this symposium. Behind them is probably concealed a savory or a flavor. A long paragraph may conclude with full particulars concerning the architecture of a gastronomic dream. Turn the pages slowly lest you be overwhelmed by the richness of the menu.
As for the recipe for the day, I was initially equally tempted by the very manly-sounding Hog Jowls and Turnip Greens, and the rather girly-sounding Fried Elderberry Blossoms. I finally decided on Tomato Wiggle, because the name sounds like fun, and the dish can be described as a form of Welsh Rarebit – which as you know, is one of my pet topics. The recipe was provided by one James R. Quirk, editor and publisher of the first movie fan magazine Photoplay, which was founded in 1911.
To one pound of diced American cheese, add one can of Campbell's Tomato Soup.
Heat over a slow fire until a thick, smooth mass has been obtained. And then add one beaten egg,
and follow it quickly with a cup of cream or very rich milk. Stir in a dessertspoonful of
Worcestershire Sauce, and enough salt to give the proper kick.
Serve on soda crackers that have been heated - large soda crackers.
The name? That's just to make it difficult.
Quotation for the Day:
Cooking is a gift, not an art. Eating is an art, not a gift. In combination a grace is developed. No great culinary triumph was ever perfected by accident.
The Stag Cook Book (New York, 1922); Introduction by Robert H. Davis.