Noir Fest and Dinner: Quicksand (March 1950)

Welcome to 1950! Get comfy, we are spending three more weeks here. I made this dinner on October 30th, but then shit got crazy with me quitting my job and P. turning 40 last weekend. Whew!

Once you pop, you can’t stop

So: I chose this film because I absolutely could not find the intended film for this night, Shakedown (1950) anywhere, either locally or online. I emailed Tony D’Ambra, briefly explained what I was doing, and asked him if he could recommend a comparable film from 1950. He kindly and swiftly replied with a whole list, from which I chose Quicksand. HE IS A CHAMP AND MY IDOL.

I got EVEN MORE THRILLED when I discovered that Quicksand stars Mickey Rooney! And Peter Lorre! Jackpot! This could make up for the last couple of weeks. I had heard that Mickey Rooney had a career slump during/after WWII, but I didn’t know he revived his career with a stint in noir. Whatever pays the bills, eh? I think today Mickey Rooney would be a Steve Buscemi type–the unattractive, sad sack underdog.

The plot is pretty linear, no flashbacks, but compelling. Remember that asshole who traded a paperclip for a house? This is like that, except it starts with Rooney nicking $20 from his boss’s till and ends with COLD-BLOODED MURDER. There’s voiceover narration, which always thrills me, and one really dumb loyal dame (today we would call her a codependent enabler), and a mercenary one (played by Jeanne Cagney). I think we were supposed to be unsympathetic to her character, but she was the only one making sense to me. I liked that there was a scene with him walking down the beach with Cagney and he was on the higher part of the shore! He still looked shorter than her.

Perhaps my career is under this shell

I would recommend this film, which is the first more obscure one I would recommend (Maltese Falcon is a no-brainer). But it’s outside of the official film festival. Whoops! Oh well.

The liquor tag reads “eau de vie de frambroise.” I am jealous. My liquor tags just say things like “scotch.”

Since we have jumped into both a new decade and spring, there is an article on pineapples. I am very familiar with pineapples since Strudel’s birthday is in March, and we eat them a lot then, as well as having pineapple upside down cake.

It’s a lovely motif from a badass graphic arts perspective, but then we have unidentifiable (at least to me) topless natives. Who bring the readers pineapple? I don’t know. Awkward.

Bitches be drivin, AMIRITE? “This is food-related sexism, let’s run it.”

Oh well if a dentist said it

There was another article, and I am kicking myself for only capturing half the name in my photocopy. I was fascinated by it, because it was written by an American woman with an Asian-sounding last name, Ruth Tao Kim Hai. I could find very little about her online anywhere, except on She was married to a Vietnamese man (named Andre M. Tao Kim Hai, who became a French citizen). It seems that she chronicled a couple of months of their travels through Siam.

I was kind of tickled by the article because she discusses what are today commonly known Thai dishes that must have seemed extremely exotic to the readership then. She opens with this:

Chinese food is to the Orient what French food is to America. If you have a visiting fireman on your hands, where do you take him to dinner? To a French restaurant of course. And when it was our turn to be visiting firemen all the way from Bangkok to Honolulu, we were invariably taken to Chinese restaurants. Not that I have anything against Chinese restaurants…but Hai and I wanted to find out what people in the Orient ate when they weren’t having shark’s-fin soup and and the crackling brown skin of roast duck.

Good for you, Ruth. She talks about squid as an apparent substitute for chewing gum, mee kroab, kung tom yum (“It was a soup of prawns boiled with ginger and red peppers, so hot as to make you forget the taste and even the existence of anything you had ever eaten. It took several cups of tea and a slice of cold astringent papaya to revive me.”).

Alas, there are no recipes, because many of the ingredients, like cellophane noodles, were completely unobtainable. Imagine that!

…Mee kroab, which I met that evening for the first time and will remember with fond recollections until we meet again. Unhappily, we aren’t apt to meet again until I can get back to Bangkok because the chief ingredient of mee kroab is not to be had on this side of the Pacific. It is made of tiny noodles the caliber of vermicelli and the length of young fishing worms, lightly fried and and lightly sprinkled with…other spices I couldn’t identify….life isn’t the same without it.

There was nothing about the couple on Wikipedia that I could find. There is a mention from a blogger and artist who knew them personally. They seem to have gone poof into history.


I think I got so distracted by all the exotica going on in this issue, I did not actually choose a hearty main showcasing a big hunk of meat per usual. Between a rice casserole and a fish salad we are covered, however.

Rice a la Grecque
Crab Louis
Oignions a la Monegasque

Pineapple Melba

Bacardi Cocktail

Again, no cocktail recipe, so I relied on an ad again. I know I could always choose a wine, since there are always wine articles, but I rarely have cocktails and they seem so quintessentially midcentury to me.

This drink was nice! Kind of a sweeter daiquiri. My sister, ever the discerning cocktail critic in contrast to me, the Human Spittoon, liked it.

As I mentioned, dinner was kind of all over the place, which is how I like it sometimes. When I was a youth I used to go to the 24-hour fancy bar and grill and order waffles and cioppino at 2 a.m. This is kind of that dinner.

The rice, “rice a la Greque” was a throw-it-in-a-pot-and-bake-it affair, no risotto-esque babysitting. I liked this in spite of the fact that some stuck to the bottom. It was like the baby of a Greek omelette and a paella. I have all these lovely recipes that call for fresh sausage, which I tried to buy the “house made” from my local store, but their ingredients list was smeared beyond recognition, so I had to go for some precooked safe sausage like with the cassoulet. Tres bummer. But it was tasty! The recipe called for frying up some raisins in butter (awesome, I used oil) and tossing in some peas and sweet peppers at the last minute.

The onion dish called for a pound of the smallest onions possible, which I interpreted to mean pearl onions, which you can find in any grocery store, even the hateful ones. Strudel wanted to help me, bless her evil heart, so we sat and peeled 18 ounces of onions, which was about the visual equivalent of somewhere between your average cantaloupe and a soccer ball. We cried. We swore. Then I remembered the garlic hack and I tried that. It did not peel the onions, but it softened them up and made it really easy to peel the last layer, speeding up the process greatly.

Then you cook the onions for about an hour (90 minutes seemed too long) in a mix of vinegar and water. My kitchen was filled with Victorian smells and I was afraid it would be overpowering, but the final product, after being chilled in the fridge, is really an amazing side dish. I would serve this year-round. I am not the biggest onion fan. I like them a lot and I put them in almost everything, but I don’t really think about serving them on their own, but this is GREAT: sweet, tangy, sour, really balanced. This may be making a comeback for Fangsgiving. Partly to have something tasty but also something that does not take up a burner! The name–Monegasque–refers to Monaco.

Then, the centerpiece for my family, which are like 70% crabpigs. (Except for P. I panfried some sea scallops for him to have on the side and he was happy.)

Crab Louis!

I liked how simple this recipe was. It called for leafs, crab, eggs, chive. I think that’s about it. Also, Russian dressing, which is a matter of great debate on the internet. Some people say it involves beets and caviar, others say it is an earlier take on Thousand Island. I did a chili sauce/mayo/dill pickle variation, and I did not make it sweet in any way. It went down well and we’ve been eating the leftovers all week. I wish I would have had time to hunt down a Russian dressing recipe from this era in Gourmet. Searches for Russian dressing from 1950s publications were not super helpful either. Still, the one I made went pretty well.

Dressing pictured on the right

Finally, dessert. HOLY SHIT this was fun.

I made a pineapple melba, which called for gutting pineapples and making ice cream out of the flesh. Again, I love the notion that you can just go fuck off and fetch up your own pineapple ice cream recipe or that you already know one. What kind of 50’s housewife are you, anyhow?? I did a very modern thing and bought a couple of pints of Coconut Dream’s Pineapple-Coconut flavor. I figured the tropicalness of it all would work in a pineapple. I saved the flesh for a couple of days of crazy sweet fruit with our breakfasts. YUM.

I have one nit to pick with this recipe. To make good ice cream, you need quite a few hours, ideally twenty-four, between letting the custard chill and then letting the final ice cream freeze up. This calls for gutting the pineapples and then, I guess, letting the shells sit around. Pineapples have a very short window of deliciousness and prettiness, so I think my way was actually better in this case. No one wants to buy two times the needed amount of pineapples, and no one wants to look at brown tops either.

The melba sauce was a hit too and inspired some undignified bowl licking in the end.

Because I am pretty overwhelmed (but happy) with starting a new job this week, I am going to push my next festival date to this Saturday. Then I can cook all damn afternoon if I like! To quote my favorite podcaster, JOIN US, WON’T YOU?

Noir Fest and Dinner: Abandoned (October 1949)

When I watch these movies, I think to myself, how would I describe them to an alien? How do I actually feel about them? Is this good “for a noir,” or is it actually good on its own merits? Abandoned is another movie that may have lost its original meaning and significance. Like He Walked by Night this is also a “ripped from the headlines” thriller, except there’s a crime ring instead of a lone killer, and the ring is selling dem babies to unscrupulous couples longing for children. It was not very thrilling or sensational, of course. Perhaps this was very thrilling and sensational in 1949?

Since I am completely disinterested in anything resembling real deal film criticism, I will just say I think my favorite scene was when the police set up a sting to catch the baby-peddlers, and they planted a pregnant woman at the whelping house. A couple came in and asked to “see” the mother. Ultimately they spoke with her too, but I totally thought about the process of acquiring Edith and buying something like a pet. Edith’s mother was lovely, like Lady and the Tramp lovely (and we saw how that turned out, cowlick, freckles, less Lady and more Elly May Clampett). Point being I thought this couple in the movie was about to check her teeth.

There was also a bell I couldn’t unring after a certain point, when I noticed that almost every single line of dialogue was rapid-fire zingers, and not very good ones, at that. From a character’s voice perspective, there were three types of characters in this movie: wise guys, bad guys, and innocent dames. Heaven help us when two wise guys get together on the screen, because then you get snappy fatigue.

Barkeep: I haven’t seen you around much, Mark.
Sitko: I’ve been patronizing the bars with the uncut whiskey.
Barkeep: Are they still operating? I’ll have to take it up with my union.
Sitko: Anyhow, I got a problem.
Barkeep: (looking at Sitko’s female companion) I should be so lucky as to have your problem.
Sitko: I got a friend–
Barkeep: Coulda fooled me.

THAT’S ENOUGH, you two. Irwin Geilgud, tsk. (Though I am intrigued by his title I Was a Shoplifter. Weren’t we all, though.) Geilgud died young too, 42. I can’t find any information on him through a quick search. I always wonder about these Hollywood not-even-footnotes.

Thank god Raymond Burr is so enormous, though, or you would mix him up with the other guy (Sitko) who is trying to white knight the dame in question. I made the mistake of sharing the observation about the dialogue out loud, and then my sister and P. couldn’t unhear it either.

Okay, forget this mess. Let’s talk about the success of the evening: the food!

We remain in the same decade, but we climb out of November release dates back into October, which is more my speed. What terrors lie within? The cover is promising. Yes, I want to get down on whatever is in that pot while gazing out at a storybook castle. Window sill carrots you say? JOLLY GOOD. Oh! It’s cassoulet!

Hooray, there is an article on apples!

And an extensive one on cassoulet, as the cover promised! So many cassoulets it was hard to choose. This may turn out be my favorite week of the festival. It’s the halfway point already, whoa. Eight films goes a lot more quickly than a whole year of Victorian cooking, that’s for sure.

There was also an excerpt of An Alphabet for Gourmets by MFK Fisher. People like to chickity check my cooking cred by ascertaining that I have read all of Fisher, and you know, I haven’t. I am just not that into her, and I don’t remember why exactly. Maybe I will try back in a few years and something will have changed.


Dear Sirs, please send a gross of these to my house immediately, find enclosed a bank check for $48 Kind regards

Also I died of jealousy when I saw this ad:

$57.50!!! What a steal. But that’s about $500 in today’s dollars. Seriously, I did not know they were mass-producing duck presses at this late of a date. There will be a duck press at my future inn. OH, you’re too fancy for pressed duck for breakfast?? GO STAY AT THE HOJO DOWN THE STREET.

What the sherbet


Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
Habichuelas a la Vizcaina (String Beans Biscay)
Whipped Avocado
simple salad (no recipe)

Apples Bourgeoise

London Fog

Recipes here.

A quick eyeball of the prodigious cassoulet recipe led me to think that it would take about 6-7 hours of cooking and preparation time, which I forgot about when the actual day rolled around. There are dozens of ingredients. Ay carumba! I started cooking at 2:30, and I probably could have pushed it back to 1 or so, seriously.

The first thing I did when my sister walked in was hand her a London Fog. It’s becoming our tradition to have the evening’s signature cocktail first. To be fair, she’s not really a cocktail person (being a Millennial she is like 2% wine, the rest blood and pus or whatever), but I wish I would have snapped the look on her face when she took a sip of Pernod and gin. Poor thing. I drink peaty scotch and apple cider vinegar on purpose and sometimes even Pernod on ice. I like anise-flavored things. But that drink was too much even for me. Sometimes I think people try so hard to make their mark on the cocktail world they do some hateful things.

My girls are used to eating fairly late by American standards (we often eat at 7 or 7:30), and my sister eats later too, but I didn’t want to push things too late since we had a film to watch as well. I did something a little goofy and made two desserts–I thought the whipped avocado might be a terrible flop, so I wanted to have a “real” apple dessert in the wings.

So, my backup plan as the clock was ticking down was to serve the simple green salad with a Dijon vinaigrette (seemed on theme) and the whipped avocado as a first course. I thought that would keep people pretty sated (but not full) through the first half of the movie while the cassoulet finished in the oven.

I decided to mash the avocado with a fork rather than getting out the mixer. It was fine, and no one really noticed the lumps. I did, however, make a change. I could not BEAR to add the 1.5 cups of sugar it called for. For three avocados! I took it down to about a 1/3 of a cup and kept the 4 tablespoons of lime juice. This is a keeper, and so easy.

Let me tell you, this was the shock of the evening! On one hand it’s dumb as fuck to put anything in avocado, which is basically the most perfect food, besides, say, salt and pepper, or dill and hot sauce…yum. But sweetening them absolutely transformed it into something different. My sister was getting honeydew from hers. But with that creamy texture. Pretty amazing!

Yes I served regular avocado in my salad, because I dropped an extra one and the skin cracked. I knew it would go brown. No one complained!

Next to the recipe for Whipped Avocado, I was very happy to find a recipe for forcemeats, which were apparently still a going concern in 1949.

So then we suffered through watched the first half of the movie, and paused when the cassoulet came out and the beans were done. Yes, I served beans on the side of beans. Green beans are more like vegetables though.

I’ll get the green beans out of the way. I didn’t love them. They were basically tomatoes, onions, and beans with sliced eggs on top.

“I can’t put my finger on why I don’t like this,” I said.

“They taste like oven porcupines,” my sister observed.

That was it! I was done after that. Our mother made them once a week for years and they were just so bland and boring. The rice at the bottom of the pan got soggy and the rice at the top of the meatballs stayed (or got?) crunchy. My mother wasn’t seasoning anything to an interesting degree when I was a kid. I don’t think she learned about the virtues of flavorful cooking until I was in my 20s.

Let’s talk about something more pleasant: cassoulet. I thought about modern cassoulets I’d made, which are much more streamlined and require much less cooking time. Was it worth it? I am going to say, yes, absolutely it was. Though this may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I chose the “Castelnaudary” style Gourmet offered, because I liked the look of the ingredients the best. Interestingly, bickerpredia says that cassoulet from this region does not actually contain lamb. I am not going to split history hairs here. (I may be influenced by the fact that I love lamb so much and think it should be in everything.)

I did a little substituting, as I have been doing for this festival. For my Victorian year I tried to go as authentic as possible, but I am much more relaxed this go round, and am getting really used to doing on the fly substitutions all the time!

I did one-stop shopping at my nice local store instead of hitting a butcher. I bought a chunk of cooked ham instead of getting raw, though now I kind of wish I would have used prosciutto or something in my green beans. The cassoulet called for a garlic sausage and three raw pork sausages, but I couldn’t really trust any of the store-made sausages not to have wheat or accidental cross-contamination, so I bought some fancy pre-cooked ones with a reassuringly uptight allergen listing, but they tasted great after plumping up in the broth. My store told me they could order lamb breast, but that they don’t keep it on hand, so I subbed a shank.

After I amassed my ingredients, arguably the best thing ever happened at my house:


Okay, this is not high art. But can I get a job arranging meat for a living? That is all I want to do all day. A pork fat rose. My heart sang.

This was a meal of taking up most of one’s oven. I had a pot going with the beans, bouquet garni, the salt pork, and the pork fat, and another to braise in some onions and rabbit broth I happened to have laying around *cough humblebrag.*

I roasted the duck legs in the oven. I know confit is incredible, but I couldn’t justify the expense of the the duckfat needed to bury the legs, not to mention the extra time. Roasting went very well, and the legs did not dry out.

And did I save this duck fat? Hells yes I did.

So then in stage two, everything pretty much got to be friends in the big pot, but not you, Monsieur Bouquet Garni! You get out of the pool now. Then there is more and more simmering so the beans can finish cooking and the meat can continue getting tender.

I didn’t wrap up the bouquet garni in cheesecloth like I was supposed to, because I think that step is bullshit. The result, of course, is that there were small amounts of parsley in the finished dish. It was interesting–heavy use of onions and garlic to flavor the meat, broth, and beans, but no onions in the final recipe. I think that is one of the biggest things that sticks in my crawdad about old thymey cooking. Don’t throw those aromatics out! My chickens often get my stock veggies and they love them.

Here they are poking around outside my window as I cook. They get two hours in the yard before dark now that the tomatoes are dead. If they stay out all day, they tend to take up residence on my back porch, leeching off the heat loss from my French doors. And loitering chickens means loitering piles of shit.

Then you pull the meat and make it bite-sized, and it gets layered with the beans in a big pan. I am not a fancy French lady doing things all rural and effortlessly, so I don’t actually own a stoneware casserole dish. I knew this was too much food for my standard 13″x9″ Pyrex casserole, so I busted out my cheap turkey roasting pan that I got from IKEA a few years ago. IKEA is great for things you hardly use and don’t want to drop fat stacks of cash on, isn’t it? I’m relieved I don’t have to rely on IKEA for everything anymore, because that’s when you’re in the middle of a big dinner and your cheap turnip twaddler breaks.

It came out like this:

Not much crust, which is ideal, but plenty of broth at the bottom to keep things loose, like a good risotto. It tasted amazing. Some of the beans broke and I was afraid I had cooked them beyond edibility, but they were really great. This recipe is intense by modern standards, and could have been more so if I’d confit’d the duck. But I think it held up in taste. Everyone loved it.

Dessert number two was nice as well, and much more autumnal. There were a lot of crisp/tart/pie recipes in the apple articles, which makes sense, because apples in a crust are OUTSTANDING. I did manage to find a recipe I could do without wheat: Apples Bourgeoise.

The idea behind the dessert was this: you gently stew some apples in syrup, fill them with candied fruit, spread creme patissiere (pastry cream/custard) over the top of this candied fruit and the apples, and sprinkle something crunchy on top, then you broil the whole mess.

When I got this recipe, I thought I could still eat dairy. NOPE. So dig this: I made the creme patissiere with coconut milk and arrowroot. It was fricking delicious.

The market doesn’t have its holiday candied fruit on sale, and I probably can’t eat it even when they do, so I did a quick candied lemon peel for some zing and threw some chopped dates into the syrup as the peels cooked. Why not?

The topping called for almonds or crushed macaroons, so I used some shredded coconut I had mixed with chopped pecans. Then it went in under the broiler.

FOOMP! That shit was legit on fire when I pulled them out, all six of them. P. came up behind me and blew them out like birthday candles. I scraped off the tops and tried again. They were delicious and only a tiny bit cajun. The cream was not at all gross–it really tasted like a custard.

So other than the green beans (ugh) I found some real keepers this week! We were all happy and enjoying ourselves and having fun with new things, which is one of my goals. Finally, in week four, I have hit my mark.


Here is a real review of the film if you care about such things.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt calls cassoulet “Southern French Beenie-Weenies” and he is correct.

Noir Fest and Dinner: He Walked by Night (November 1948)

This week we send a middle school note folded like a football with a greeting that reads “‘Sup” to the amazing year 1948. Let me say that, like my life in middle school, my visit to 1948 was a bit of an embarrassing disaster. The movie this week was He Walked by Night (1948).

To summarize briefly, the movie is about a cat-and-mouse game between the police force and a murderous thief with a well-trained dog. The dog is not integral to the plot in any way and its big scene is when it hops around on two legs making strangled noises until the criminal gives it a plate of cream. It does not humanize the criminal. I am going to guess that the producer was sleeping with a dog trainer. That is the only logical conclusion here.

ARGLEBARGLEAROOOOOO “Oh shut up already”

I had kind of a bad feeling at the beginning when the cheesy narrator, whose voice did not seem to belong to anyone who was actually in the film (a la the conceit of the detective talking about the dame that just walked in on those pins), informed us that this was a TRUE STORY taken from the LOS ANGELES HOMICIDE FILES. P. and I looked at each other: was this shit about to get real, or real boring? (The answer was “B.”)

So the cops break into our antagonist’s car trunk at the beginning after he botches a break in and runs off. It’s full of crazy weapons and weird machines, and you think, “Ho ho, this guy’s going to be some kind of diabolical genius, this should be fun!” But no. It’s revealed he steals the machines and passes them off as his own in some kind of consignment shop for real evil geniuses maybe?, and the weapons are just weapons. No freeze rays. Then he becomes a stick-up artist and there is a strange and protracted scene at the police station where the police use a slide projector overlay device to mix up facial features until all of his living victims cry out that the nose matches the chin well enough. It’s like Guess Who? for grownups who have been pistol whipped by this asshole. What’s wrong with an old fashioned sketch artist, I ask you?

Then the police catch him. The end!

I wish I could know what the significance of this movie is in relation to the film festival downtown that I am shamelessly and Scrooge-ily biting the steez of. I know that the theme is “Live by Night” and indeed, the movie takes place primarily at night, except for one scene where the cops work super hard all night and then the sun comes up. Man, that’s dedication! The whole thing really read like an ad for the LAPD.

Okay, I will say that I got my hands on a pretty fuzzy copy of the print. I have seen screenshots of more cleaned up versions of this film on the GIS and I’m sure the sewer chase scene at the end rendered sharply on an even bigger screen than my classroom-sized projector screen must be pretty badass. But man, it was not worth it to get to the climax! Just skip to minute 50 or so.

I have seen some dogs in the previous annual noir fests, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed them, but this–this was like the great-grandpappy of all mediocre police procedurals from the pre-CSI era. In contrast with The Maltese Falcon, which was “missing” voice-over narration (but not really, it was fine without it), He Walked by Night was missing another classic element of film noirs: there were no turns or twists, no double crosses. The storytelling was linear, and I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, some hook, or a dame, or something. What is the thief’s motivation? How did he turn out this way? We’re not sure, he just is an evil thief or something. All Strudel cared about was “What will happen to that poor dog??!!”

Speaking of what happened to poor dogs, let’s talk about food. This issue of Gourmet from November, 1948, was similar to the 1947 issue, even with many of the same ads from year to year, much like, say, The New Yorker today.

As with the previous 1947 issue, there is a mix of vague instructions and precise ones. Sometimes the reader is instructed to cook with a slow or fast oven, and sometimes exact degrees are given. Sometimes there is a call for exactly 3 sprigs of parsley, sometimes it is a vaguer amount of herbs.

I was thrilled to discover that this was a wild game issue. Just look at all those animals in the background! I will eat you all. Even you, doggy!! (Don’t tell Strudel.)

I should also apologize for the wubbly quality of the images. I am aware they are crooked or distorted. I really didn’t want to reef on ~70 year old bound journals just to get some perfect snaps. I think you can get the picture okay, though.

I, Asshole: Untouched by human hands!!

Unlike many cooking magazines today, Gourmet of the 1940s felt no pressure to provide complete meals or menus, and even omitted complete categories, like, say, vegetables. I appreciate that there were deeper, travelouguey dives into regional cuisine (like articles on Basque main dishes with no thought to sides or desserts) or just a focus on 12 types of rice dishes. There was a template of sorts that the editors obviously followed, but as I said, the picture did not add up to something that would please everyone and make a whole meal. If you were diligent, however, I think it would be possible to cook your way through the index in one month’s time, unlike later issues, as we will see.

If I recall correctly this issue had many, many recipes for frittered veggies, and while I like them, I’d rather not do gluten-free fritters if I can avoid it. I attempted to choose recipes that were natively gluten free or would take easy substitutes. So for this meal I am serving simple mashed potatoes to complement the rabbit.

It sure is, Mr. Beard!

This article looked very similar to articles on meat carving that appear in Cook’s Illustrated today. In fact, now I see what Cook’s Illustrated is up to, with their arty cover paintings and drawings. It’s Gourmet plus SCIENCE!

Tortolettes just sounded so awesome and delicious I had to capture it. So exotic! From way out California way!

This issue did not feature a cocktail recipe, in addition to no recipes for non-fried vegetables, so I am taking liberties here. I was going to make hot buttered rum based on inspiration from an advertisement (and then I discovered that dairy is giving me weird lesion-y hives right now, sorry, TMI). I thought mashed potatoes would be nice with the hare, and I served a simple green salad to balance out all the (forgive me) warm mush happening here. Don’t get me wrong, I find warm mush dinners soothing in the fall. I just need some contrast. I will focus on only recipes I have taken from Gourmet below.


Civet of Hare with Wine
Mashed potatoes of your choice
Simple salad
Angels on Horseback

Coconut Creams

Trader Vic’s Hot Buttered Rum


Let’s start with a success: angels on horseback. I dithered about what size oysters to buy. I know sometimes they have huge shells with tiny little guys inside. Sisters Points were kind of on sale, but they ended up pretty teeny. I could get four angels out of each strip of bacon.

It was okay, though. Sometimes it is okay to have a teeny bite of something delicious. This is no establishment that serves bloomin’ onions. We had three apiece. This part of the meal was like when the police found all the weapons and devices and machines in the thief’s trunk: tantalizing and promising!

Going in:

And coming out:

The rabbit was not as good as I recalled from my Victorian year. I think my rabbit dishes turned out so well I kind of romanticized the meat itself. And then I remembered, they are a bitch to break down into usable tidbits. But I got there.

Marinade with wine and aromatics

The real sticking point for me is the “silverskin,” which is a pain to remove. In short, I think anything I would like to do with rabbit, I would rather do with chicken. I assume wild hare has a gamier flavor and could not be replaced with chicken.

Darling illustration for the civet of wild hare recipe

As the recipe called for, I swirled in some blood sauce to finish, and then served it over a mesa of potatoes. It was very homey and warming. But again, not really worth it in the end! This represented the part of the movie where the voiceover guy came back while we literally watched people stuff envelopes with the police sketch of the thief for their NATIONWIDE MANHUNT! Boring. But comforting and necessary? I dunno.

MMMM I am humoring my snap happy mother who will not let me get through a meal:

Alright, now let’s talk about dessert. This is the part of the movie where you realize you don’t care about any of these people and there is going to be no character development and NO PAYOFF even when you see the thief lying facedown in a storm drain, dead. Dessert was DOA.

I picked this dessert because of this hilarious letter written by a shitlord hater:

I love it when the response to hate mail is provide the recipe. I had to try it. Well, friends, I suck at soft ball candy (fondant), it seems.

Things were going okay:

Then a burn bloomed through the pan, sigh:

I don’t know what possessed me to spread it out in the designated pan anyway. I guess I thought it might cool faster and I could dispose of it more quickly.

I did have fun pulling the sugar into what would be a horrible jagged painforest for say, a mouse.

I tried again and took the sugar syrup up to “soft ball” stage more quickly this time, which seemed to be the key somehow. I whipped it as the instructions suggested for a long time with a flipper and “worked it about” with my hands as well, and it never really stiffened into anything that I could see forming into balls.

It just maintained a resemblance to my favorite answer in Mad Libs to the query “a Liquid.”


I tried to find a tutorial online somewhere, but all the videos I could find about fondant were that modern nightmare smotherpaste people put on wedding cakes. Once I was at a birthday party at a scary cocaine gangbanger sushi bar and someone handed me a fondant vulva off the erotic cake being served there. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A FONDANT VULVA? I carried it around for several minutes offering it to people. “Vulva?” No takers!

And drinks! Hot buttered rum, I love you. You are perfect for October. I cannot drink you right now. Oh shit, I could totally do this with coconut milk…wait, no, STAHP. So this non-existent drink represents the part of the movie where there should have been suspense and character motivation.

See you next week!!


Other people liked this movie. I like what Tony D’Ambra says: “DP John Alton’s visual poetry offsets zero characterisation.” TRUE FACTS.

After viewing The Maltese Falcon recently I got caught up on Karina Longworth’s wonderful podcast and lo there was an episode called “Bogey Before Bacall.” Great insights if you don’t know much about the man himself, as I did not.

Noir Fest and Dinner: Out of the Past (November 1947)

This week’s movie is Out of the Past. The female lead, Jane Greer, was unfamiliar to me. She has one of those faces that are so, so lovely and perfect that if you’re me you forget them instantly. I much prefer someone slightly unusual looking, like Barbara Stanwyck.

I looked Greer up, and bango bingo, there she was in Twin Peaks. I didn’t think she was great in Out of the Past, but I think she was perfectly matched as Norma Jennings’ mother: wide-eyed, glib, and with slight undertones of psychosis underneath, like Norma and Annie. That’s just my reading though.

Kirk Douglas and his many clefts and dimples smarmed his way through each scene. But, sadly, not chewing quite as much scenery as he did in Lust for Life, which has to be one of my top ten movies. In addition to the extremely photogenic cast, it was also shot well and just interesting to look at.

UK title, after the original novel

Look at the cartoon of Mitchum! He looks like a Looney Tunes gangster.

Foodwise, this is a fun week. I got my mitts on the actual real-deal Gourmet Magazine, fully bound and gathering dust downtown. I was giddy, or perhaps it was the offgassing of decaying old journal pages.

This is the Thanksgiving issue for 1947, and it contains recipes for turkey, stuffing, holiday snacks, and side dishes as you might expect. The template was already in place for modern holiday magazines.

Doesn’t that turkey look..uh…look at the time!

I love this cover artist. It’s hard to tell in my terrible reproduction, but he had a real way with crystal objects, which show up on his covers repeatedly: goblets, flagons, decanters. Also notice how the salt cellar lurches towards us to show us its innards while the (sweating?) turkey is shown almost from the side. I have always maintained that perspective is for jerks. Also that crystal “bone” propping up the knife? WHAT IS THAT CALLED? HOW QUICKLY CAN I GET ONE???

I should confess I am not at all familiar with Gourmet Magazine as an entity. I never subscribed or picked it up. I am very aware of Gourmet‘s last editor, Ruth Reichl, and have read some of her memoirs. I understand that this was a big deal, important magazine. Since I started cooking in the 1990s, however, what caught my eye was impossible looking things on the cover of Martha Stewart Living, so that was my manual of choice.

I’m a little surprised I never jumped into it, actually. When I was a kid I used to collect old magazines that I would find at flea markets, like Life. I always thought I would make Important Feminist Collages with them, or at least frame some of the ads, but I could never bear to cut them up. I put them on my coffee table, as if it was June 12, 1961 at my house or something.

With that preamble out of the way, I should jump in to the amazing year 1947, a year before Ruth Reichl was born. The ad sections were full of gift ideas, including regional specialties from all around the country, such as Grade A syrup for Vermont, and nuts from California.

God it’s so true

There was also the theme of what I think of as the “angry wife” running through this issue. I’ve only reproduced one cartoon that shows it, but there were multiple cartoons featuring angry women and their hapless spouses.

Here’s your fucking toast asshole

I mentioned this to my majordomo of cocktails, John Smythe, and he expressed surprise that this was present.

“I would think the audience for a cooking magazine in the 1940s would be women,” he said. “It seems weird to have a bunch of sexist comics throughout it.”

I would think so too, but after looking at several issues, it was so upscale and aimed at food geeks (which were at one time known as “epicures”), who obviously had money to spend. These aren’t articles about how to bang out a meal and get it on the table in less than an hour, how to reduce your grocery budget–in short this is no Good Housekeeping. I didn’t count, but there seemed to be an equal number of men and women contributors via the letters section (“Sugar and Spice”) and in the recipe requests section (“You Asked for It”). The letters often started off with statements such as “My wife/husband and I loved the recipe for fricasseed coswallop and would like to know if we could substitute…,” which leads me to think that being an epicurean was often a hobby that was shared between spouses, much like today.

However, someone would need to fund such a lifestyle that involved the possibility of traveling on your appetite, procuring exotic, expensive ingredients that were often available only via mail order at the time, and I am guessing that someone would probably be a man.

I choose to pretend that this is what hotdogs in a bathtub used to be called. If he dumps you, call me bae

I opined to John Smythe that we also shouldn’t underestimate the role of internalized sexism. I wish I would have said it that elegantly, though. What I said was something like, “You know how shit is all fucked up around women and they think it’s all normal?” There was lots of handwaving too. Quick, someone get me a TED talk.

There were some bright spots, though. I have no beef with this. I love to see some ladies getting their gimlets on. Fallen arches, AMIRITE, ladies?

The standout in this issue for me was a folksy article by a Colonel S.P. Meek (“Aided and Abetted by Edna Noble Meek”) on what amounted to a recipe for barbecue and another for roasted duck, which included a lot of chuckle-ly anecdotes and asides from his wife, including one about intimidating the barbecue recipe out of an African American cook, whose dialogue is written in what is supposed to be Mississipi dialect.

The article is called “I Like Good Food” because apparently the editor was struggling for a unifying theme in this grab bag of wtf, and possibly because, “I Am an Entitled Old Cracker” was taken up in the previous month’s issue.

The Colonel, who is no Calvin Trillin, speaks:

The barbecue is to Southern California what the fried clam is to New England, the tamale to Texas, and the hot dog to Coney Island. I wondered at the alleged superfluity of good barbecue cooks, and in the interests of gastronomy I made of martyr of my stomach and stopped at sixty-five barbecue stands in the course of twenty miles of driving and sampled the product. Some were bad and some were worse, but patience was finally rewarded. At a little place near Montecito, I found food that started the tears of recollection flowing and I sought the cook that I might weep on his neck.

[Spoiler alert: Colonel Meek did kind of the opposite of neck-weeping next.]

“Git away from me, white man,” said the Ethiopian brother when I attempted to carry out my program of rejoicing. [Good instincts.] “Ah ain’t done nothing the sheriff wants me fur.”

“Son of Ham,” I demanded. “Ah you from Miss’sippi?”

He recognized the accent.

“Boss, Ah is. Cap’n, howdy suh. Admur’l, ohduhs from yo’all is ohduhs. Guv’ner, what does yo’all want?”

“Boy,” I said solemnly, “I’m the Representative of the United Amalgamated Pure Food and Correct Cooking League of the World and Adjacent Universes. In fact, I’m the Lord High Grand Exalted and Otherwise Prominent Gazinkus for Southern California. My orders are that you tell me how to cook that barbecue.”

“Bobbycue, Gin’ral? Yessuh, Senatuh, Ah’ll shuah tell y’all.”

We have it all, really. A (God I hope) fictionalized African American man who addresses the Colonel by a thesaurus’s worth of honorifics, is afraid the authorities want him, and can be hornswoggled by a high falutin’ made up title. Not to mention the illustration.

At this point I am thinking, in between bouts of nausea, “GOURMET. Pull the other one, it has bells on.” Looks like SP Meek was a real dude though, a hack writer who obtained a degree in Mississippi but didn’t really grow up there.

There was also a Turkish recipe–obtained from a real Turk! Just like the real barbecue when he happened to find a Southern transplant barbecue cook in Southern California. Despite all of this busted-ass, Walter Mitty-esque creative license, I found his recipe for wild duck a la Bordeaux interesting (obtained from a gen-yoo-ine Frenchman!) and I settled on that as my entree for this week.


Wild Duck a la Bordeaux
Cauliflower Gourmet
Sweet Potato Balls

Spiced Nuts

Blood ‘n Sand


Dinner was kind of a mixed success, as usual, when I am at the helm. I have never met a recipe I won’t run off the road.

I buy my ducks at a dodgy Asian market near me. Not all Asian markets are dodgy, especially in Seattle, but this one assuredly is. It’s funny, because a million years ago when I first moved here, it was the nicest, hoity-toitiest supermarket in the city. This is well before the rise of Whole Paycheck. I look at the scuffed and cracked tiles on the floor, stained with streaks of something being dragged across them, and I think about how I used to buy fancy candy to sneak into a movie here. Or wine. And now, head-on duck.

A terrible vanitas to non-delight you

[Smaller child, walking past disembodied duck head on counter: “IS THAT A DUCK HEAD THAT IS SO COOL.”

Larger child, returning from school and walking past disembodied duck head on counter: “IS THAT A DUCK HEAD EWWWW.”]

I also picked up a couple of frozen rabbits for next week’s dinner. I couldn’t find them right away because the freezer they used to be kept in was broken and walled off with a display of Mexican cookies (more red flags for this market really). I waited at the meat counter and was behind a guy who was impatiently yelling about the fact that he was in a hurry as the meat cutters intermittently popped in and out of the back room.

Finally it was my turn, and the impatient guy was having some huge slab of halal meat cut down.

“Do you still have rabbit?” I asked a meat cutter.

“No, but we have dog. HA HA HA.”

Me: :|

Impatient Guy followed us over to the rabbits’ new home (in a fish case, why did I not figure that out myself) and said, “Rabbit! What do you do with that? Barbecue?”

“You can poach it in wine, broth, and herbs. It’s very tender with a delicate flavor.” He looked a little surprised to hear this answer come out of a disheveled woman with out of control hair that looked like fuzz on a traumatized coconut, a hoodie, and pants with paint stains, I think. Maybe he expected me to say “YEEHAW I AM BBQ’in WITH MY HUSBROTHER.” My point is that I did look like white trash yesterday (if the Ugg fits).


Since it wasn’t a wild duck and was super fatty, I decided I didn’t need to cover the duck as the recipe called for. We’ve been having issues with grease smoke in the house from roasting birds, so I made a little foil drip catcher that would let grease go in but not back up. This meant basting was out, so I soaked the dook in the spiced wine for about 45 minutes before it went in the oven. I funneled the spiced wine back into the bottle and poured it over the duck every so often while cooking in lieu of a baste.

I did more of a chicken roast with it (higher heat than called for). It was nice, but I wish I would have cooked it even higher so the fat would have rendered better. But it was a lovely rosy color, and I hear you lose some of that when you cook it high.

I got a little flame effect while serving, and I regret adding the lime juice to the brandy before pouring. Oh well! I am looking forward to using the ducky leftovers. I am thinking soup with duck egg and buckwheat noodles.

The sides were actually my favorite, particularly the Cauliflower Gourmet.

And it gave me an excuse to buy tarragon vinegar. YESSS


I went to talk to P. like this and casually asked him a question, which he halfway answered before triple taking on my lumpy jugs. Twas awesome.

Once removed from shirt, soaked in a solution of vinegar and saltwater, and cooked, cauliflower gourmet called for a bagna cauda sauce to be poured over the whole boiled heads. I have never served cauliflower whole, but it wasn’t as unwieldy as I thought it might be, and “made a nice presentation” as Beeton would say.

The sweet potato balls were unremarkable, and reminded me a lot of Victorian potato rissoles. I didn’t want to get gluten-free bread crumbs, or make them, so I minced cashews and tossed in some coconut flour. I took this inspiration from a former-favorite of mine, peanut-crusted chicken.

Drab to look at, but it worked somewhat well. The drawback was that the cashew bits didn’t cling as I thought they would, since I did not use an egg dip as for rissoles. The balls had less of a structure than they should have, but were also less heavy and gluey as the rissoles always were. The coconut flour browned nicely, though. I would do this coating again with an egg dip.

I finished them off in the oven because I knew the sweet potato had gotten so cool that the frying wouldn’t totally warm them through. Instead of butter and cream, I used about 1/2 cup of my own kefir. Why not go with lower lactose, I figure.

Pan fried and ready to go in the oven.

After they came out, they were quite soft. But good!

The dessert was my favorite kind, which is to say, premade. In all my days of candying things, I have not seen a recipe that called for dipping the nuts into the egg whites in a strainer. How did I miss this small piece of cooking brilliance?

Scooping the nuts out of the sugar was a different story. All of a sudden I was like, ARGH, catboxy!

Another outstanding thing about the spiced nuts was the fact that they contained SO. MUCH. CLOVE. I am a HUGE fan of clove. When I was a kid I ate clove candy and gum, and graduated to clove cigarettes (sigh) and I will often just chew on a bud if I’m hanging around the house. The recipe calls for many other baking spices, but it is a TABLESPOON of clove to 2 cups of sugar. Holy shit! If you bake, you know that most recipes call for a much more moderate quarter teaspoon or so. It is a background flavor that adds all that “mmm mmm there is a cozy food blanket in my mouth and now I have something to live for this winter and it is apple tart.” These nuts were more like KICK YOU IN THE FACE gingerbread.

I am told that clove was often used as a numbing agent in dentistry in the mid-century and for that reason many older people hate it. So this recipe surprises me a little. A+, will totes make again. I had so much extra sugar and egg wash that I made almost an extra cup of walnuts, because I knew I would not save the mixture. Oh, I also consulted with my My First Cookbook and did them on 300F for 40 minutes instead of 250F for 2.5 hours because that seemed a bit overkill.

I didn’t get a final picture and then I sent the leftovers home with my sister for her boyfriend, but trust that they looked less catboxy when they came out. I spent some time keeping them broken up as they cooled because I WAI crowded the cookie sheet and they wanted to cleave together.

So, the cocktail. I almost arm-pumped when I found this letter. I LOVE THIS DRINK. Thank you, Gourmet Chaos gods.

TOO BAD IT WAS KIND OF TERRIBLE. I really think it was our fault since we went with Luxardo, which was the cherry liqueur we had on hand. P’s feeling was that we should have something like Cherry Heering, so it wasn’t just predominantly ORANGE and SCOTCH and SWEET. Looks like others agree. I was interested to see, also at this link, that the drink was created for the premier of the movie, Blood and Sand [1922]. The name makes more sense now, but also the fact that it’s hung on. Cocktail people love silly names like “corpse reviver.”

Blood and sands are scotch, orange juice, cherry brandy, and sweet vermouth. I love all of those things (with perhaps the exception of sweet vermouth, yuckth). It was not undrinkable, but I wouldn’t want one like that again. We switched to wine pretty quickly.

Thank you 1947! It was fun to visit you!

Noir Fest and Dinner: The Maltese Falcon

So Paint very wow

I have nothing of substance to say about The Maltese Falcon that hasn’t been said one grillion times before and better. I liked that the festival opened with the first “true” film noir. I had remembered that it had the trope of voiceover narration, but I was mistaken. Obviously I was thinking of many other classic noirs. I enjoy the film, but more than that I think I liked watching the girls watch it. Strudel’s contribution was, “I have no idea what’s going on, but I like it.” That’s kind of my philosophy for life.

I drove Franny to school the next day and when we were alone she said she wanted there to be a true gold falcon inside of the lead one. “Sam could have been rich and never worked again!” We talked a little more and I got that she definitely grasped the theme of greed and its consequences that ran through it.

“I got something else out of it, too,” I said. “I think it was more about finding purpose in your life and what your life’s work is. Sam was a really good detective and he didn’t make a fortune off the deal, maybe enough to live on for a few months. He’ll continue solving crimes. The Fat Man was already rich; he didn’t really need another treasure. In the end the criminals ran off in pursuit of the falcon, which brought meaning to their sad lives.” She laughed.

This probably says more about my mental state in general right now that whatever Dashell Hammett intended.


I should talk menu a bit. IMDB tells me that the Maltese Falcon was released January 1, 1941. Wikipedia tells me it was released in October, 1941. I went with IMDB initially and tried to track down the first issue of Gourmet Magazine, which is not available locally. I tried to piece it together with some clever googling. I pulled some dishes out of the eleven course holiday meal contributed by Georges Gonneau from the Hotel Pierre.

Potage Pierre La Grand
Dinde Rôtie Des Artistes (avec Ses Tout Maquillages et Arrangements)
Salade Verte Tendre L’Estragon
Merlans à la Pluche Verte

I found the complete menu listed in this cool book online that I’d be interested in reading all of: Words to Eat By: Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language [2011] by Ina Lipkowitz, which includes an epilogue about the death of Gourmet.

Lipkowitz says exactly what I was thinking on first glance at seeing the list of recipes and articles from the scans on Serious Eats: “The forty-eight pages of Gourmet’s premier issue were nothing if not Francophile through and through.”

The notion of a holiday meal being presented in a January issue of a magazine is quaint, even though subscribers to modern cooking magazines routinely receive their issue a couple of weeks before the month printed on the magazine starts. I imagine it appeared on the stands before Christmastime. Today, of course, the January issues of food and lifestyle magazines trumpet eating light and New Year’s resolutions.

To roughly translate the above menu, what I selected was a salad with tarragon, fish fillets in a parsley velouté, a roasted chicken with herbs, and a very springy “Peter the Great” soup.

The soup called for a water base, but I like to add stock. I had some leftover mixed meat stock that I’d made about a month ago with saved chicken backs, veg, and various other bones. I cooked celeriac, celery, onions, and potatoes in the stock until they were tender. I blended it in the pot and added celery chunks to cook for a bit longer, and topped with chervil.

I forgot about how much I like chervil, which I used occasionally in my Victorian year. I really need to grow it next summer.

Somehow I accidentally bought tilapia, which was perhaps in the spirit of just-around-the-corner wartime rationing, but not to my liking. I have no idea how a person accidentally buys a type of fish they don’t like, except to say that I got it out of a frozen fish bulk bin. In this self-imposed cooking reality blog, I am my own wildcard challenge. I had some half and half in the fridge I’ve been feeding my hibernating milk kefir grains with, so I tried soaking the fillets but could not lose the fishy flavor completely. They were enjoyed by one half of the table but not the other.


I made the velouté out of coconut flour. It was edible, but not at all smooth like a flour gravy. Next time I will go back to my old Victorian pal, arrowroot.

The dinner came together well. I only roasted half a chicken, having used the other half in a Thai-style soup the night before. I pulled the tarragon out of my mini herb garden that I keep in pots on my back porch.

The chocolate guns and birds went over very well, surprising no one. We listened to some 1940s music while I cooked and during dinner. I think the inaugural night was a success. Next up is Out of the Past (1947).