Black Bean Chicken

Chinese Entree

BLACK BEAN CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

1 pound chicken breasts
½ tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon grated ginger
4 teaspoons rice wine or sake
2 garlic cloves
2 shallots
2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons black bean sauce (aka black bean paste)*
¼ cup chicken stock
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 green onion
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds or sesame seeds

* = If you can’t find black bean sauce, you can substitute with hoisin sauce or miso. Alternatively, use your sonic obliterator on any guest complaining about your lack of authenticity. You don’t need that negativity in your life.

SPECIAL UTENSIL

sonic obliterator

Serves 3. Takes 40 minutes.

PREPARATION

Slice chicken breast crosswise into ¼” thin strips. Add corn starch, ginger, and rice wine to large mixing bowl. Mix with whisk until well blended. Add chicken strips. Mix with hands until chicken strips are thoroughly coated. Marinate for 15 minutes.

While chicken strips marinate, mince garlic cloves and shallots. Add peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic, and shallot to pan. Heat peanut oil using high heat. (Peanut oil is ready when a bit of shallot starts to dance in the oil.) Sauté at medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Stir constantly. Add black bean sauce. Sauté for another 30 seconds. Stir constantly.

Add chicken strips, chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to boil using high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Stir occasionally. While chicken simmers, chop green onion into thin slices. Garnish with green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

TIDBITS

1) Chickens are usually calm creatures. “Live and let live is their motto.”

2) Unless, they don’t get black beans to eat. Then things get ugly.

3) In 1848, farms all around Scotland ran out of black beans. It all came to a head in the great Paisley Chicken Riots.

4) In retrospect, Paisley’s authorities should have seen it coming. The local chickens had forsaken their usual, “Poc, poc, poc, poc” for “POC, POC, POC, POC!!” Since chickens speaking in all capital letters and exclamation points have become a byword for terror. But back then, the town’s constabulary was caught flat footed. Enraged Scottish hens broke into seed barrels everywhere.

5) Fortunately, it rains a lot in Scotland and rain seeped into barrel upon barrel filled with corn seed, or maize seeds as the local chickens would have said. These soaked seeds became fermented from the rain. The chicken got drunk, wobbled around with outstretched wings, and finally passed out in the streets.

6) “They need intervention,” said the bonnie Franchesca. Paisley’s mayor agreed. Just one week later work started on the World’s First* Chicken Alcohol Treatment cent or as WFCAT as it is more commonly goes by. * = As far as we know.

7) The Chicken Rebellion of 1848 fizzled out. Unrest in Great Britain died down. Isn’t amazing how many people take their lead from chickens?

8) But other European leaders learned nothing from this. Their poor people starved. Middle class people protested for more and more say in government. Chickens demanded the black beans their brethren in England got. European fowl ransacked seed stores in all major cites.

9) Orators everywhere exhorted the mobs. “Citizens, are we cowards? Are we going just sit at our tables eating mushroom mush while our fowl friends lead the charge towards liberty and equality?” “No!” shouted the seething masses. And so, Europe erupted into the Year of Revolution.

10) Finally governments responded to the crisis engulfing their lands. First, no succeeding year would ever be known as 1848 for, as we all know, there is lots of symbolism in numbers. Second, generous subsidies to farmers would ensure bumper crops of black beans for centuries to come. In fact, in1927 seed growers planted so many black-beans that its future market crashed. Economic depression loomed. Alert government chefs suggested a dish made of chicken and black beans to gobble up the seed surplus.

11) You might think the chickens would have objected to being eaten. But they never have, remaining docile as long as they got their black beans to eat, “Thank you very much.”

12) Then, in 1993, the Chinese Bikini Team visited Great Britain and later brought the dish back with them. Black bean chicken became enormously popular. It still is. This is why this entree is known as coming from China.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

American Dessert

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

¾ teaspoon baking soda
2¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1¼ teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

SPECIAL UTENSILS

electric beater
2 cookie sheets

Makes 50 cookies. Takes 1 hour. (Varies with the number of batches.)

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add baking soda, flour, and salt to 1st, large mixing bowl. Mix with whisk or fork until thoroughly blended. Add butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, and vanilla to 2nd, larger mixing bowl. Blend with electric beater set on medium until mixture becomes fluffy.

Gradually add dry mixture from 1st mixing bowl to the butter/sugar mixture in 2nd mixing bowl. Mix with beater at medium setting until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Mix with hands until well blended.

Roll dough into little balls about 1″ wide. Leave a 1″ gap between chocolate chip/dough balls. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown. (Baking times for successive batches may vary.) Let cookies cool for 2 minutes before transferring with a spatula to wire rack or cold plate. Cool for an additional 5-to-20 minutes or as long as you can stand waiting.

TIDBITS

1) In 2006 a company developed a microchip to be inserted into its employees. This was done prevent industrial espionage of its products and also deter the excuse, “But I was only going to the water cooler.” Management’s new enhanced employee monitoring resulted in a staggering 87% decrease in time spent away from work desks. “Na, na, na, poo, poo,” corporate security would say, “Our restrooms are in the other direction.”

2) All major businesses were posed to micro chip their workforce. But because of a typo, engendered by a poorly administered time-travel program, corporate America placed an order for one-trillion dollars of chocolate chips. This huge expenditure tore gaping holes in their budgets, forcing them to cancel their microchipping programs.

3) In a completely related event, production of chocolate-chip cookies output soared by billions and billions. So much so, that the Commerce Department started sending super tankers filled with such cookies to countries lacking chocolate-chip cookies.

4) This program, Chocolate Chip Cookies for People, or CCCP became permanent when, a scant year later, a chocolate chip congressman became head of the influential Ways and Means Committee.

5) International communist propaganda vanished when unstable countries confused CCCP with Soviet-style communism. Money that should have spent destabilizing their neighbors went to heretofore unimportant culinary budgets.

6) Dictators for life everywhere found their menus restricted to chocolate-chips for every meal of every day. Fortunately, chocolate-chip cookies are so yummy and delicious that tyrants all over couldn’t stop eating these delights. They became filled with the contentment that only chocolate-chip cookies can give.

7) It is time to ponder why Roget’s ThesaurusTM has no synonym for chocolate-chip cookies. Let’s just call them CCC, shall we?

9) Any way, it’s time to pick up the thread events that we left in tidbit 6.

10) World leaders became too contented to invade anyone.

11) Happy people everywhere even stopped saying, “And so’s your mother.”

12) In 2016, Gaston LaCroute, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fortuitous typo,

13) In 2017, Monsieur LaCroute became president of France. He didn’t have a platform at all other than all entrees should be properly spiced.

14) French voters wrote him on their ballots by the tens of millions. “It’s about time our presidents concentrated on food,” they said.

15) America was happy too. Burgeoning employment in its CCC industry meant that the unemployment rate fell to -2.3%

17) Negative unemployment rates are possible when your government possesses a time-machine. In 2005 the United States was poised to prevent World War II by going back to 1938 and eliminating warmongering dictators. But typos, once entered into official documents take on a life of their own. All we ended up in doing was to cause Monsieur La Croute into making his famous typo.

5) And so, the world became peaceful and happy. Now you know why.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Make a Sandwich From the World Day

Gentle Readers,

Do you enjoy sandwiches? Sure, we all do. What sandwiches do we like to eat? Some of us like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Others prefer: ham, cheese, roast beef, salami, and many, many other types.

But what is the only sandwich that none of us have ever made?

The Earth.

Is there any sandwich that would be bigger than an Earth sandwich?

No.

Would we get into the Guinness Book of Records(TM) for making an Earth sandwich?
Oh yes. And we would stay there until science advances enough to make a Jupiter sandwich.

So, I humbly propose that we make Thursday, November 5 “Make a Sandwich From the World Day” or MSFWD, short.

How do we participate?

Simply put a single slice of bread on the ground. As soon as two people have done so, we will have created the first World Sandwich?

Mightn’t this result in a lopsided sandwich if, say, two neighbors in San Diego are the only people to put down bread slices?

Oh yes, we need to recruit all our friends and acquaintances. We particularly need to enlist people on the opposite side of the globe. A good way to accomplish is the through the website https://othersideoftheglobe.com/ which pinpoints the place you’d get to should you ever decide to tunnel through the center of the Earth. Simply contact people on the nearest bit of land from that spot and ask them to participate.

Buy your bread and be ready on Thursday, November 5. Together we can achieve greatness. Together, we’ll make the World Sandwich.

Kudos to NKLOTZ of I’m Not Right in the Head.com

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

 

 

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Fluffernutter Sandwich

American Entree

FLUFFERNUTTER SANDWICH

INGREDIENTS

2 slices white bread
1 glop* marshmallow fluff**
1 glop creamy peanut butter

* = A precise scientific term meaning the amount of peanut butter, or fluff, that you want to spread with a knife.
** = See preceding recipe for marshmallow fluff. Or buy it at stores if you live in Massachusetts or its neighboring states. It can also found online.

Serves 1. Takes 3 minutes.

PREPARATION

Spread peanut butter on one bread slice. Spread marshmallow fluff on other. Put bread slices together.

TIDBITS

1) It takes a little skill to cut a fluffernutter sandwich in two. If you slice too slowly or press down with a dull knife, you will most likely squoosh the marshmallow fluff out of the sandwich.

2) “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” – Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

3) Isaac Newton invented the fig newton.

4) On July 18, 1673, Isaac tried to cut a fig newton in half with a dull knife. The slow impact of his knife pushed two halves apart. Figgy stuff came out of the newton pieces. “Wow,” he said, “this gives me an idea. With a big enough knife, perhaps 100 yards long and a large enough fig newton, perhaps 50 yards by 50 yards, I could propel my mansion to the moon.” Space travel looked to be a few years away.

5) But no, just a few minutes after having this brainstorm, his comely maid, Sarah Bellum, sashayed by wearing a tight-fitting dress. Sir Isaac’s blood flowed away from his brain and space travel would be forgotten for three centuries.

6) Then in 1958, Pedro Erickson, head chef at NASA’s two-MichelinTM star restaurant served fluffernutter sandwiches to the engineers. He cut a sandwich in half. The two sandwich halves moved ever so slightly apart while marshmallow fluff oozed out the cut. “Aha,” cried Peter Pepper, “we can use solid-state fuel to propel our rockets. If not with marshmallow fluff, then with something else.” And with that explosive idea, NASA’s mission to space would really take off.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Cheese Souffle

French Dessert

CHEESE SOUFFLE

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter (3 tablespoons more later)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (¾ cup more later)
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
1¼ cups milk
1 cup grated gruyère cheese
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

SPECIAL UTENSILS

4 ramekins or 1 souffle dish
electric beater with whisk attachments, if available
baking sheet
flying monkeys, just in case

Serves 4. Takes 1 hour 15 minutes.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter each ramekin with an equal part of 1 tablespoon butter. Coat each ramekin with an equal part of 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. (This is a good time to separate egg yolks and whites if you haven’t already done so.)

Add 3 tablespoons butter to pan. Melt butter using medium heat. Add flour. Stir flour constantly until you get a flour paste. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with whisk until mixture is smooth. Bring to boil using medium heat. Stir constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes or until you get a thick white sauce. Remove from heat.

Add gruyère and Parmesan to pan. Stir until well blended. Add eggs yolks, paprika, pepper, and salt. Stir gently until well blended. Transfer flour/egg/cheese mixture to 1st large mixing bowl and let cool.

Add egg whites and cream or tartar to 2nd large mixing bowl. Beat egg whites with electric beater set on low. Beat until egg whites become foamy and form peaks. Gently fold in ¼ of the egg whites into the flour/egg/mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended. Pour this blended souffle equally into the ramekins. Gently smooth souffles with spoon. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until souffles puff up and turn golden brown.

Do not open the oven the door while baking the souffles. NO, NOT EVEN ONCE! OPENING THE OVEN DOOR WILL MAKE THE SOUFFLES COLLAPSE. YOU WILL FALL SOBBING TO THE FLOOR. NOT ONLY THAT, YOU WILL RELEASE VICIOUS FLYING MONKEYS ALL OVER THE WORLD.

Serve immediately to adoring guests. If they’re unappreciative or late to table, by all means, release the flying monkeys. Those critters need exercise.

TIDBITS

1) With the proper type of internal combustion engine, cars can run on cheese souffle.

2) This actually happened from 1937 to 1940.

3) For on July 14th, Bastille Day, 1937 a very inebriated Chef Auguste Oeuf accidentally staggered to his Renault, unscrewed its gas cap, staggered back to his restaurant, grabbed a tray of cheese souffles, staggered back to his car, and one by one threw the souffles into his gas tank.

4) What are the odds are doing all those things while drunk? And in that order?

5) Small.

6) Less than half.

7) Any way, Chef Oeuf needed to go to the market and buy some chickens for his plat du jour. He turned the ignition. The engine roared into action. He used the newly untamed fury of his Renault to make to the market in record time.

8) He would make trip after trip for ingredients. His customers loved the unparalleled freshness of his cuisine. Ouef’s restaurant, Le Chaton D’or became the most popular restaurant of all Paris. Other chefs of the city noticed this. They too would get rip-roaring drunk and whip up a batch of cheese souffles for their cars. The culinary reputation of Parisian food reigned supreme.

9) The secret of drunken chefs feeding souffles to their cars soon spread to every corner of France.

10) There was though a distressing period, though. when some chefs didn’t get sufficiently soused. Miles per souffle (MPS) suffered. And in consequence, so did the vital culinary/automotive industry.

11) As a result, an anagramist in French government required all cheese-souffle chefs to enter the Fuels Of Cheese (FOC) association.

12) Mais zut alors, in 1940, the Germans conquered France. The long horrors of the occupation permanently sobered up all the country’s chefs. The dried-up cooks retained no memory of how to make souffle fuel. This is why our cars now run of gas.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Ancient Roman Honey Cake

Ancient Roman Dessert

HONEY CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1½ cups spelt flour or regular flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
¾ cup liquid honey (2 tablespoons later)
¾ cup milk
⅓ cup sweet wine
¼ cup slivered almonds or hazelnuts
2 tablespoons liquid honey
no-stick spray

NOTE: Spelt flour is the closest you can get to what the ancient Romans used. The Romans used the herb “rue” instead of coriander. However, some people are extremely allergic to it; feeling queasy smelling it or getting blisters just by touching. The Romans used pine nuts instead of other nuts. However, many people have allergic reactions to it. Clearly, the Romans were dare-devil eaters. Dare-devil eaters became all-conquering soldiers. This is how the Roman Empire became so big.

SPECIAL UTENSILS

9″ cake pan
wire rack

Serves 8. Takes 1 hour 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, coriander, and pepper to medium mixing bowl. Mix with whisk. Add eggs, ¾ cup honey, milk, and wine to large mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients until well blended.

Gradually add dry ingredients from medium bowl to large bowl. Whisk until well blended. Use spatula to fold in nuts. Spray cake pan with no stick spray. Pour mixture from large bowl into cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey. Let cool on wire rack for 20 minutes before serving

NO TIDBITS! I ran out of space with the above rather tidbitty NOTE.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Montenegrin Burger

Montenegrin Entree

MONTENEGRIN BURGER
(Pljeskavica)

INGREDIENTS

4 garlic cloves
1 small onion (1 more small onion later)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons paprika
¾ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup sparkling or fizzy water
6 pita* halves (optional)
1 small onion
1 Roma tomato

* = It’s most authentic with lepinja, a Montenegrin flatbread. It can be powerful hard to find.

SPECIAL UTENSIL

outdoor grill

Makes 6 burgers. Takes 2 hours 30 minutes.

PREPARATION

Mince garlic and onion. Add garlic, onion, beef, lamb, paprika, pepper, salt, and sparkling water to large mixing bowl. Mix with hands until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Make 6 patties from meat. Add patties to grill. Grill at medium heat for 6 minutes. Flip patties and grill for another 6 minutes or until meat is done to your liking. Cut onion into 6 slices. Cut tomato into 6 slices. Insert patty and onion and tomato slices into each pita half.

TIDBITS

1) The Montenegrin Burger is eerily similar to the famed Pac-ManTM . Is this a case of parallel development or was one of the two inspired by the other? You decide.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Chilaquiles

Mexican Breakfast

CHILAQUILES

INGREDIENTS

3 serrano chiles
2 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 small onion
18 corn tortillas
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup shredded Oaxaca or Monterrey Jack cheese
¼ cup sour cream

SPECIAL UTENSILS

food processor
8″ casserole

Serves 6. Takes 1 hour.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Seed chiles. (Or leave seeds in for a spicier entree. Add chiles and tomatoes to food processor. Blend until tomatoes are pureed. Dice bell pepper. Mince onion. Cut each tortillas into 8 pieces.

Add oil to pan. Heat oil using medium-high heat until a little piece of tortilla in the oil starts to dance. Add tortilla pieces. Sauté for 12 minutes or until tortilla become crispy, but not burnt. Stir frequently. Remove tortillas pieces and place them on plates covered with paper towels. Add bell pepper and onion to pan. Sauté for 5 minutes on medium-high heat or until onion softens. Stir frequently. Remove bell pepper/onion mix. Add eggs to pan. Reduce heat to medium and scramble eggs until they are done to your liking.

Add ⅓ of tortilla to casserole dish, then ⅓ bell pepper/onion, followed by ⅓ egg to casserole. Smooth after each layer. Repeat 2 more times. Pour serrano chile/tomato puree over everything. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from over and spoon sour cream evenly over everything.

TIDBITS

1) “Chilaquiles” is an anagram of “Ah, ice quills.” Unlike their American cousins, Greenlandic porcupines have quills made from ice. These northern critters are also stupendously tasty. This is why Eskimo porcupine-hunters exclaim, “Ah ice quills,” whenever they come across ice quill remnants. And of course, it was but a matter of time before vibrant Greenlandic/Mexican chef community transformed porcupine stew into chilaquiles. Ah ice quills, indeed.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Mustard Chicken

Gabonese Entree

MUSTARD CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

3 garlic cloves
2 onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup Dijon mustard

Serves 6. Takes 50 minutes.

PREPARATION

Mince garlic cloves. Dice onions. Add oil to large pan. Heat oil using high heat until a tiny bit of onion will dance in the oil. Carefully add chicken breasts to pan. (You might need to cook in batches.) Sear chicken for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove chicken and set aside. Keep oil.

Add garlic and onion to pan. Sauté at medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until garlic and onion soften. Stir frequently. Add garlic, onion, chicken, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard to pot. Mix with fork until well blended. Cover and simmer at low/medium heat for 25 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink inside. Stir occasionally. Put chicken breast on each plate. Ladle mustard/onion sauce over chicken breasts. Goes quite well with rice.

TIDBITS

1) “Mustard” is an anagram for “Drums rat.” And it almost goes without saying that “chicken” is an anagram for “chicken.” So, “Mustard chicken” by an extension of logic, an anagram for “Chicken drums rat.” Indeed, “Chickens drum rat” is the first complete sentence in English. In fact, a newly discovered fresco at St. Camembert’s church, dating before 1000 AD, shows chicken pounding drums with their wings. Beneath the painting are the words, “Chickens drum ‘rats’.” And whenever farmers heard “rat” being drummed out, they rushed back and shooed off the ravenous vermin.

2) Unfortunately, English farmers never taught their chickens to drum out “Normans.” So when in 1066 Duke William of Normandy landed his army, a perplexed chicken sentry didn’t know what to do. Eventually, she drummed out “rat” to England’s king. King Harold Godwinson didn’t give a fig about rats and instead scurried north to defeat Harold Hardrada. Meanwhile, back on the southern English beaches, the Norman forces assembled unmolested into a coherent, compact army. The two forces met as Hastings. The tired English lost to the fresh Normans. Duke William became the new English king. However, William knew what a near-run thing his invasion had been. His barons went through the realm slaying every single chicken-drumming teacher. Now, no chicken knows how to drum. It’s a pity as the Chicken Drumming Festival at St. Albans was something to behold.

– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef

My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.

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Spotlight on Concha Alborg, Author of “My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War”

About the book

 

Over eight-hundred letters were written between the author’s newly-engaged parents during the time that her father was on the Republican war front fighting against Franco’s forces, and her mother awaiting the end of the war. Her father, Professor Juan Luis Alborg, would live to become a well-known literary historian and critic. Her mother’s life, on the other hand, was overshadowed by her husband’s academic celebrity. The letters were discovered whilst preparing for a symposium marking the centenary of her father’s birth, celebrated at the University of Malaga in 2014

This unique memoir is a microhistory of the Spanish Civil War at an individual level; it illuminates the ‘official story’ as told in history books at multiple levels. Her mother’s personal narrative adds to the understanding of this significant time because she shows how a family lived in the midst of war. A primary relevance is that she lived in Valencia, which in November 1936 become the official capital of the Republican government. Working in a government co-op gave her an insider’s view of the ongoing political and military situation. She describes the contrasting burdens between family life in Valencia, and the life of her fiancé soldier on the southern frontlines. The author’s mother is exemplary of the women who were formed under the liberal Second Spanish Republic (1931–39) only to be silenced during Franco’s repressive dictatorship (1939–75). The long-lost letters made Concha Alborg realize how little she understood her mother’s passion to set down complex feelings in the most difficult of circumstances. My Mother, That Stranger will be of interest to Hispanists, historians and literary critics for its uniqueness on the epistolary genre and gender studies, and to the general public as a heartfelt family memoir.

 

Excerpt From My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War

 

In this memoir My Mother, That Stranger. Letters from the Spanish Civil War, Concha Alborg included recipes from her family in Spain. Today, we would like to share one with you.

“Rollitos;” Christmas Anisette Cookies:

All the entries in my mother’s recipe notebook are of desserts; there is not a single one of her savory dishes. The recipes are written neatly, underlined with red ink and they encompass a life trajectory of sorts. There are several from the old Alborg aunts, Isabel and Vicenta, some from her Spanish friends, all the way to my recipe for sherry cake and another for chocolate chip cookies, written in English! My mother never ceases to surprise me. It is interesting that she would take the time to write down these recipes, but not any of the meals she was best known for. It is as if she believed that cooking is an art and baking a science. She did not need to record her masterpieces, but needed the exact ingredients of the sweet treats, although she wrote “as much flour as needed” for the “rollitos.”

Growing up we seldom had sweet desserts. Fruit was served at the end of each meal, but cakes and cookies were reserved for holidays, such as the Saints’ Days and birthdays. Only at Christmas time did we have special treats of almond nougat and marzipan. “Meriendas” (a late afternoon or early evening snack) were usually made up of a sweet roll or a croissant, but those were store-bought. As children we usually had plain bread with some chocolate and a glass of milk, nothing more.

She made “rollitos” in early December for our Saint’s Day on the 8th and the leftovers were reserved for Christmas. They were and still are my favorite cookies ever! Their liqueur smell permeated the house and when I was a little girl, I could smell them the minute I stepped out of the elevator. The recipe I have in my mother’s handwriting with red ink on a 3 X 5 card is yellowed and stained, but I would never think of copying it anew.

I started making them as a young bride and continued doing so religiously after my daughters were born. I was glad that most of my friends and in-laws found them strong and strange and preferred the traditional American sugar cookies for Christmas, the more for me to savor. I know that making “rollitos” is a tedious job. They take a minimum of two hours and they are all rolled by hand in small donut-like circles the size of a ring. They are dipped in sugar, which makes one’s hands sticky and you need to wash them often. When I was little, I liked them best eaten warm and I was supposed to wait until they cooled down or I would get a stomach ache. But I found out that it was not true, because once I ate at least a baker’s dozen (an expression in English I love and we do not have in Spanish) when the “rollitos” had just come out of the oven and absolutely nothing happened to my stomach.

Diana, my oldest, learned to make them early and I thought she was a fan until the day that she took the dough and made one huge “rollitón” announcing: “Here, I’m done.” Luckily, her sister was old enough to take over and, again, I thought she enjoyed the family tradition, only to find out that she hated making them too and did not like eating them, even if they were warm. When my daughters grew up and left the nest, I found friends and neighbors to join me making them. I soon got the feeling as soon as the first Christmas songs were heard, that no one wanted to see me, and they would disappear from my kitchen with the excuse of being really busy. My late husband Peter, despite his serious character faults, was very helpful in the kitchen and a fellow “rollito” lover and made them with me for years. In desperation, during my years as a widow, I have recruited unsuspecting boyfriends to bake with me with the expectation of perhaps winning my heart, which has not happened yet.

As we know, life can have very sweet surprises and now I have two lovely twin granddaughters who enjoy making “rollitos” with me, I think. At least they humor me as long as I make them a “tortilla de patatas” in return, a potato omelet, which they love. Having two helpers instead of one makes it more efficient. Actually, I have doubled the recipe since now the three grandchildren expect their own tin of “rollitos” to take home. The twins are amazing. They have figured out that one rolls out the dough and the other dips “rollitos” in sugar, which saves with the hand washing. They know how to charm me and speak Spanish during our baking day. One year, when they were in the “fighting-with-each-other phase,” I allowed them to insult each other as much as they wanted as long as they used the affirmative and negative commands in Spanish, which are so tricky to learn. There is nothing like being a retired professor and a grandmother to come up with this trick!

Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

1 cup virgin olive oil
1 cup anisette
1 cup sugar and more for dipping
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons baking powder
Flour, as much as needed (about six cups)

METHOD

In a large bowl, combine the oil, anisette, eggs and sugar. Add the lemon zest and the baking powder. Add the flour little by little until it becomes manageable and it can be kneaded on the counter.

Form rings of half an inch-size wide dough. Dip them in sugar before baking. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 20 minutes. The bottom should be golden brown.

Makes about five dozen.

 

Bio

 

Dr. Concha Alborg was born in Valencia and grew up in Madrid. She has lived in the United States since the 1960s. She received a Masters from Emory University and a Ph.D. from Temple University. She was a professor of contemporary Spanish literature at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. Some of her academic publications include: Cinco figuras en torno a la novela de posguerra, a critical edition of Caza menor, and Temas y técnicas en la narrativa de Jesús Fernández Santos. Her fiction and creative non-fiction publications are detailed on the press website.

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Paul De Lancey

http://www.pauldelancey.com

Categories: book reviews and excerpts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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