I apologize for the recent radio silence. I thought I would make up for the unexpected peace and quiet silence on my part that you’ve been blessed forced to endure, I would regale you with a real-life incident that really happened, no really, it did, or, as they loosely say in the movies … “events portrayed are based on a true story.”
I was browsing the used book store a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across an old cookbook from the 1930’s, well-loved and dog-eared, with lots of pen scribbles in the margins of the recipes. To be honest, some of the chicken-scratch in this dusty, old tome read more like a “how to” on summoning a demon than your typical Sunday dinner recipes, but who was I to judge? I had to have it. It was high time to bury myself up to my elbows in flour and try something new, or old, however you want to look at it.
I flipped through the book and found a bean casserole; what could be easier or more wholesome than a bean casserole? I decided to make it that very evening for dinner. I parked in the lot in front of the grocery store and jotted down the ingredients. Difficult to spell spices, Devonshire cream, Hawaiian sea salt, banana flour, Lychee and sea beans? Easy-peasy.
An hour later after a lengthy search for obscure ingredients, I came out of the store with my Devonshire cream, on sale for just $8 a quart, my $25 Hawaiian sea salt, my $18 banana flour, and a variety of top shelf – if not odd smelling – spices. I was also given directions to a produce market about two hours away for my lychee. I was in it to win it, though; I don’t know what a lychee is, but if it’s in this book it’s got to be good. I plugged the directions into my navigation, and off I went.
I pulled into the dusty, broken down roadside shack and got even more excited. What other culinary delights are hidden in there? The bells jingled behind me, and a German Shepherd barked menacingly behind the counter. There, in the back, was a faded sign that read, “Lychee.” The recipe called for ten bunches of Lychee …at $15 per bunch. I was feeling a little less than thrilled, but still determined. I forked over the $150 for my bunches and mentioned that I hadn’t seen any sea beans. He handed me a sack and directed me to a swamp about five hours south.
A quick stop by a Wal-Mart outfitted me with my rubber boots and pants, on sale for $169! I couldn’t believe my luck. Five hours later, I arrived at the swamp. I wandered through the murk until I found them; sea beans! I would have shouted for joy, but I didn’t want to wake the napping alligators on the banks. There was already a water moccasin watching my every move.
Around midnight, I got back home and took my finds into the kitchen, eager to get started. First, it seems, I needed to “bruise” the lychee. I hesitated to do this, I was rather fond of the fruit by this point. I took the bunches and began bashing them with a hammer. Although it was a great stress reliever (you don’t even know!), this just didn’t seem right, so I looked up the term only to find it means “gently” crushing the fruit. I slopped the remains into a pot; it couldn’t matter that much, really. I peeled the sea beans, only to read a pen scribbled note in the margin of the recipe that the beans shouldn’t be peeled. That can’t be too important, right? At any rate, I dumped them into the bowl with the remains of my Lychee. Looking good so far, folks!
Now, on to the fun! I grabbed a measuring cup and my imported Devonshire cream. I checked the cup several times but found no measurement for a “jigger.” Undaunted, and remembering back to the days of my youth when my own mother cited this oft-used but heretofore forgotten in my mind measuring increment, I poured the entire quart into the soggy mess of lychee and sea beans. Ok, next I needed a saucer of flour. I still am not entirely clear what measurement a saucer is, but I gamely dumped several cups into the mixture figuring a saucer is pretty big … you know, to catch all of that spilled coffee. Next, I included a stick of butter in response to “butter the size of a walnut” (because …butter), a quarter cup of garlic powder (one saltspoon? What the heck is a saltspoon?) and, of course, a pinch of Hawaiian salt. I have small fingers, so I added a few more pinches to make sure. I mean, who knows who wrote these recipes? It could’ve been Paul Bunyan for all I know, and you know what size fingers he must’ve had.
Next, I needed to cook my delicious dish in a “slow oven” for 30 “scruples.” Not sure what a “slow oven” is, since mine has never shown any inclination to run a marathon, I heated it to 425, poured my mixture into a casserole dish, set the timer for an hour and a half, and sat at the table waiting with excitement. This was going to be awesome; I could see myself serving this dish to my neighbors, bringing it to office picnics, offering it for holiday feasts.
The smell hit me first; somewhere between skunk and sulfur, the smoke was billowing out of the oven and the casserole was on fire. I took it out to let it cool “for a few moments” before having to admit, I was defeated. $370, including my fishing outfit, and hours later, I had a congealed scorched mass of I don’t even know what. I put it outside for the crows and raccoons, but so far, they’ve only been sitting around it, in a circle, mumbling to themselves and periodically looking up at my window as though they’re plotting my demise for having insulted their taste buds in such a manner.
Come to think of it, summoning a demon might’ve been easier, and certainly a lot more interesting. Smell probably would’ve been the same. Still, there are 153 other recipes in the book, and I can’t wait to try them all …once I pay off the credit card debt from this one.