28.3.14

For Feanor

And your collection of food in books. 
He opened it and then poured equal quantities of brandy and champagne into three large glasses.
....
The kitchen ... was stone-flagged and at one end a positive battery of charcoal fires glowed and winked under the bubbling pots.  The walls were covered with a great variety of copper pots, kettles, platters, coffee pots, huge serving dishes, and soup tureens.  They all glowed with a pinky-red gleam in the fire-light, glinting and winking like tiger beetles.
....
The first course that Demetrios-Mustapha set before us was a fine, clear soup, sequined with tiny golden bubbles of fat, with finger-nail size croutons floating like crisp little rafts on an amber sea ... Demetrios-Mustapha filled our glasses with more of the pale, musky wine and placed before us a platter of minute baby fish, each one fried a golden brown.  Slices of yellow green lemons in a large dish and a brimming sauce-boat of some exotic sace unknown to me accompanied it.
....
Demetrios-Mustapha removed our empty plates, poured a red wine out for us, dark as the heart of a dragon, and then placed before us a dish in which lay snipe, the heads twisted round so that their long beaks could skewer themselves and their empty eye-sockets look at us accusingly.  They were plump and brown with cooking, each having its own little square of toast.  They were surrounded by thin wafers of fried potatoes like drifts of autumn leaves, pale greeny-white candles of asparagus and small peas.
....
"You do like wild boar, I hope?"
I said that it was one of my favourite meats, which was true, but could I have a very small helping, please?
"But of course you shall," she said, leaning over the great brown, gravy-glistening haunch and starting to cut thick, pink slabs of it.  She placed three of these on a plate - obviously under the impression that this was, by anyone's standard, a small portion - and then proceeded to surround them with accoutrements.  There were piles of the lovely little golden mushrooms, chanterelles, with their delicate, almost winy flavour; tiny marrows stuffed with sour cream and capers; potatoes baked in their skins neatly split and anointed with butter; carrots, red as a frosty winter sun and great tree trunks of white leeks, poached in cream.
....
During the pause, the Countess smoked on a long thin cheroot and ate salted peanuts ... she called for the next course, and Demetrios-Mustapha produced two mercifully small omeletes, crisp brown on the outside and liquid and succulent on the inside, stuffed with tiny pink shrimps.
....
The meringues were large and white and brittle as coral and stuffed to overflowing with cream.
....
"Mustapha, bring the boy his owl and bring me some coffee and some of those nice Turkish delights up in the lounge."
....
I dismounted, went behind an olive tree and was deliciously and flamboyantly sick.
- Gerald Durrell (Birds, Beast and Relatives)


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I find it astonishing and distressing just how many avid readers have never even heard of Durrell. I wish I could make his books - particularly the Corfu trilogy - mandatory reading for schoolkids at least.

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I've always wanted a stone-flagged kitchen, with great big fires and hanging pots. I should move to rural Europe, methinks.

7 comments:

km said...

Mate, you are thinking of the wrong Durrrell. The one who wrote the Corfu trilogy was Gerald's brother, Lawrence.

But I agree...those were good books to read in one's teens.

km said...

I got my Durrells mixed up. Corfu trilogy was written by Gerald, not Lawrence. The latter wrote the Alexandria Quartet. Corfu is clearly not Alexandria.

??! said...

Casting aspersions on my Durrel-punditry? Yeh tumhe bahut mehenga padega, km!

The books are pretty darn good reads even in dotage, yo. And relevant with each passing year. I recently re-read the Madagascar and Jersey Trust ones, and couldn't help but notice how matters have only got worse since.



Fëanor said...

Thank you!

Durrells, indeed. I remember Lawrence's 'Antrobus' short stories of a hapless diplomat stuck in some Eastern European hellhole, having to imbibe incendiary quantities of alcohol. Foodiness and moodiness combined.

DewdropDream said...

My Family and Other Animals is a huge favourite. I started Birds, Beasts and Relatives a few years ago but never finished it.

In terms of food writing, GD is on par with Enid Blyton's descriptions of food, methinks in me humble opinion.

hAAthi said...

Came here looking for an email address to send you a link I just stumbled on, but since there isnt one I'm pasting it here.

SInce you were so vocal on the organic food discussion on Brides blog, I thought this might interest you: http://www.pbs.org/food/features/what-is-sustainability/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=pbsfood&utm_campaign=pbsfood_lexiconsustainability

It says very simply, what I was trying to say but it didnt made a dent on that discussion :) Also considered going back and pasting it there, but decided it was pointless.

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