Whether you are looking to gorge on epicurean trivia, astound dinner guests with your incandescent eruditeness of all things gastronomic, or simply looking to identify the best hangover cure, you can’t do better than Ben Schott’s Food and Drink Miscellany.
What other book can tell you the accepted procedure when drinking from a Loving Cup; which potatoes are best for mashing; how to fold your napkins into a variety of pleasing shapes; the correct technique for lighting a cigar, or a Christmas pudding; or how to make the legendary ‘Monster Egg’? It will inform you of the King who served foie gras to his dog; the feast where guests ate in fear of their lives; the socialite who spiked his punch with benzedrine; and the dining club whose members ate their meals in reverse. An ‘olla podrida’ of all that is pertinent to wining, dining and socialising, Schott’s Food And Drink Miscellany offers everything for the food-lover, wine-drinker, gastronome and glutton.
Here are a few excerpts from this wonderful book:
Since alcohol was first imbibed – and its residual effects suffered – a noble, distinguished (almost alchemical) search for the ultimate hangover cure has been underway. The homeopathic principle ofsimilia similibus curanter (‘like cures like’) lies behind ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ remedies which seem to have included everything from a straight brandy to a spicy Bloody Mary. Some of the more elaborate hangover remedies are:
The Doctor: Raw egg, brandy, sugar, fresh milk (sherry may be substituted).
The Coalman: Melt butter over hot water, stir in a dessertspoonful of Worcester sauce, the same quantity of orange juice, a pinch of cayenne, and about half a wineglassful of old port. Take some freshly browned toast and soak in the mixture before eating.
ST Mary’s Pick Me Up: 10 drops of Angostura bitters, 10 drops of orange bitters, a glass of brandy, two glasses of water, a shot of curacao, lemon juice. Mix well.
The Bathing Cure: A series of baths – ice cold and as hot as can be borne – in alteration.
Brazil Relish: 1/2 curacao, one raw egg, fill with maraschino.
The Lazenby: Hot water infused with ginger, cloves and honey.
Champagne: Regularly cited as the ultimate hangover cure. Some recommend adding a splash of brandy, others a couple of raw eggs – when the concoction becomes a Surgeon-Major.
Tastes Like - The Flesh of…is said to taste like:
Armadillo – Rabbit
Baby Wasps – Scrambled Eggs
Lion – Veal
Iguana – Rabbit
Bat – Partridge
Termites – Lettuce
Beaver – Pork
Horse – Beef
Kangaroo – Venison
Giant Waterbug – Gorgonzola
Flamingo – (Fishy) Wild Duck
Sea Slug – Green fat of Turtle
Flying Fox – Game
Reindeer – Beef
These descriptions have been taken from a variety of sources – including personal and anecdotal experience – though a valuable text was Peter Lund Simmons’s superb 1859 account The Curiosities of Food.
The tropical fruit Durian (Durio zibethinus) enjoys the rare distinction of being banned throughout the entire Singapore transport system – as well as from many hotels, airlines and public buildings. The simple reason is that the large, oval, spiky fruit (dury is Malay for spike) smells very bad indeed. The chef Anthony Bourdain, with a characteristically vivid simile, wrote: ‘It smelled like you’d buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later.’ Yet it seems that the taste of Durian more than makes up for its odour. The fruit is eaten in a variety of ways: raw, in ice-cream, as a vegetable, in cakes, fried with onions, salt, and vinegar, roasted with coconut oil, or made into jams and sweets. Durian can weigh over 2kg and, since durian trees often reach heights of 30m, falling durian can be fatal – as Alfred Wallace noted in 1869:
When the fruit begins to ripen it falls daily and almost hourly, and accidents not unfrequently happen to persons walking or working under the trees. When a durian strikes a man in its fall it produces a dreadful wound, the strong spines tearing open the flesh, while the blow itself is very heavy; but from this circumstance, death rarely ensues, the copious effusions of blood preventing the inflammation which might otherwise take place.
Copies of this marvelous book can be purchased on Amazon here – a great wee stocking filler for any gastronome.