“Writers are fortunate people.”
Susan Cooper

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Pepper!
literary kitchen experiments in the near future
Tue 2016-09-06 23:59:59 (in context)

It's always exciting when the weekly CSA share has a new vegetable in it. This week featured the first green peppers of the season. I think I will put mine in my Pseudo-Medieval Chicken Experiment tomorrow, about which more in a moment. The rest of the share was: Salad greens, zucchini and/or yellow squash, cucumber, kale, collards, tomatoes, and the weekly loaf of bread. And little bitty peaches as a sort of lagniappe; a friend of the farm had given them a ton of 'em, so they were passing the yummy along to their members. I'd consider putting the peaches into the Pseudo-Medieval Chicken Experiment too, only I've already eaten them all.

OK. So. Chicken experiment. Here's the thing: I just reread Patricia McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe. One of the main characters scrubs pots all day in the castle kitchens, so the reader gets to hear a lot of kitchen talk. And a lot of the kitchen talk is the head cook telling everyone what to cook. And they're cooking for the king, so you better believe they're cooking some amazing things. In quantity.

Supper was a prolonged drama of great pies of hare and venison with hunting scenes baked in dough on their crusts, vegetables sculpted into gardens, huge platters layered with roast geese, woodcocks and pigeons, and crowned with tiny hummingbirds made of egg white and sugar.

...as they drizzled a latticework of chocolate sauce on a stewed pear, and placed walnut halves on small tarts of egg and cheese and finely chopped mushrooms.

"I grated the barest fleck of nutmeg into the raspberry sauce," the sauce cook said....

I want to try it all. But there are no recipes, only these descriptions. I am astounded to be unable to find such a thing as a Cookbook of Atrix Wolfe out there in the wide Googlable world (though in my searches I did come across this article by McKillip herself retelling her most memorable kitchen disasters). I'm just going to have to improvise and research and experiment.

Some things described herein are a little beyond me...

"So I boiled the boar's head in a stock of onions and pepper and rosemary; salt I added later, and garlic," a stew-cook said to another.... "I debated raisins and cranberries, but decided on garlic instead, and tiny onions and tiny red potatoes. The brains and tongue are simmering with leeks and cloves."

...mostly because I'm not sure where I'd find a boar's head, nor a pot big enough to boil it in, nor enough people willing to try the results of the experiment with me. Most people I know draw the line at brains. If I'm cooking something uncertain, I cook in small quantities and for myself alone; the experiment may not succeed, but its audience is guaranteed to eat it regardless.

Other descriptions sound a lot more like something I could do without a lot of prep or complication:

"Sauce. Orange and honey for the duck, pear and onion for the pheasant."

So I did a little searching and found a recipe involving a sauce of pear and caramelized onion, and when I went to the grocery today I made sure to pick up a pear and a couple chicken breasts (they did not have duck or pheasant that I could see). Tomorrow or maybe Thursday I'm going to see what I can do with it.

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