The Duke seldom missed a performance of Jenny's, occupying a box just below that of the Queen, 'like a loyal old watchdog, guarding his mistress,' Chopin remarked. As soon as Jenny appeared on the stage he would rise, bow and ask her ceremoniously how she did. Jenny would bow in her turn, thank him and say she did very well, after which the performance would go on.Fancy an opera production today being halted every time the greatest man in the house wishes to greet the prima donna. Of course we wouldn't allow it, perhaps because we have chosen long since to elevate art to fearfully untouchable status, while ruthlessly diminishing heroes. I suspect we're the duller for it.
Prue obediently tugged away at the crane, with its black hooks, from which hung the iron tea kettle and three-legged pot; then she settled the long spit in the grooves made for it in the tall andirons, and put the dripping pan underneath, for in those days meat was roasted as it should be, not baked in ovens.As the story moves on Mother and Father unexpectedly return, bringing the entire mountain clan with them in two sleighs. The iron-souled and busily cooking young folks had already planned to serve forth at five p.m., which is considered late and "genteel." The various details of the ruined dinner are more or less interchangeable with those of Jo's luncheon in the "Experiments" chapter of Little Women. Tilly put catnip and wormwood in the turkey stuffing, because up in the dim larder those "yarbs" looked so like mint and pennyroyal; and the turkey scorched on one side because the girls forgot to turn the spit. Just as Jo's suburban meal ended in good-natured laughter, "bread and butter, olives and fun," so the Bassett Thanksgiving finishes with a surprising amount of equanimity or even, as Bertie might say, dashed sang-froid. I would have expected hardscrabble farmers to be appalled by the young folks' waste of food, never mind the good intentions. No. Everyone laughs, eats apples and drinks cider, and dances and plays the mysterious parlor games Hunt-the-Slipper and "Come, Philander." Meanwhile we moderns can't help but wonder, in a juvenile sort of way -- how is this family of fifteen, give or take an Aunt or two, also seeing to the needs of the body on a snowy November night? Tough souls.
Meantime Tilly attacked the plum pudding. She felt pretty sure of coming out right, here, for she had seen her mother do it so many times, it looked very easy. So in went suet and fruit; all sorts of spice, to be sure she got the right ones, and brandy instead of wine. [Mem.: note the rich ingredients ready to hand.] But she forgot both sugar and salt, and tied it in the cloth so tightly that it had no room to swell, so it would come out as heavy as lead and as hard as a cannon ball, if the bag did not burst and spoil it all. Happily unconscious of these mistakes, Tilly popped it into the pot, and proudly watched it bobbing about ....
Eating and Drinking-- and runs to about 72,000 words, which I think will make for a respectable thickness in hard copy.
Women and Men
Traveling in the Past
A Handful of Impossible Recipes
Melt butter and/or olive oil in a heavy pan (about 3 Tbsp.)
Sauté leeks (one, light green part only, diced and washed)
Add a diced clove of garlic
Add sliced mushrooms (about a half pound)
Add 1/2 cup cream, and salt
Simmer gently -- then add a half cup or so of the reserved salted pasta water, plus another piece of butter to give the sauce some body
Just before serving, stir in a peeled, seeded tomato so that it just warms
Then stir in a handful of chopped chives and parsley
The book on the purple table today is a collection, Three Plays of Euripides (tr. Paul Roche, 1974). If that great tragedian did not invent zombies in his The Bacchae (pronounced "bocky"), he came very close to it. Frenzied women go out into the mountains and catch and tear apart animals with their bare hands, in worship of Bacchus, the god of wine. They happen also to tear apart a man who spies on their doings; the unspooling of his fate gives us the plot of the play. It is while he is being driven mad by the god offstage, in preparation for his own journey to the mountains, that the chorus sings the lovely lines above.There are always a thousand hopes
For a thousand mortals, and some
Hopes are crowned with success;
Others run into sand.
To me the one who is lucky
Is he who day by day lives happy.
CADMUS: Turn your eyes first, please, to the skies up there.
AGAVE: I am looking. And what am I supposed to see?
CADMUS: Is it still the same -- or do you see some change?
AGAVE: [Dreamily] It is lighter than before ... more luminous ....
As Mr. Wyse, another of the constant guests at Lucia's constant dinner parties, might sigh, "Answer comes there none."... mankind has two blessings:
Demeter is the one, the goddess,
(Earth, that is -- call her what you will),
who keeps men alive with solid food;
the other is Semele's son,
who came afterward and matched her food with wine ....