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
Angels on Horseback
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!
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!!
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.