Location: Los Angeles, California, U.S. Outlying Islands

I am a graduate student in American Literature...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Scottish whiskey, Chicken-Fried Deer, and some thoughts about the British

Well, I’m staying out in the Texas countryside, and one of the favorite pastimes here is, as you might expect, drinking. Last night my friends and I were drinking some Scottish single-malt scotch, and someone surprised us with a guide to scotch. Looking at the book, I learned a lot about how a connoisseur might discuss these matters, but I have to admit that the adjectives rather reminded me of, shall we say, the “language of love.” This is not quite the language of sex, and not quite the language of romance, but somewhere in between. So, for instance, you might describe a scotch as oily, or fudgey (or both), but it might also smell like the sea air, or evoke the “salt spray” of that romantic seaside. At any rate, the scotch was good, and as the crowd grew tipsy, I overheard someone bandying about what is now my favorite phrase of the week: “Imperialism-a-go-go.”

This morning I was asking my host if the path that winds through the woods behind the house was walkable, and found out that not only was it open, but that there was a herd of about 15 deer that could be spotted quite regularly out there. I’ve never eaten deer, but I was wondering what it tastes like, and asked my host. She explained that it was all right, but very strongly flavored, and told me about the first time she ever ate the stuff. She was teaching piano to a young ten-year old girl whose father was a big hunter. Now this man had really wanted to have boys, but ended up instead with two girls, whom he had trained to be hunters (and presumably in other boyish things). One day this girl showed up with a pile of tenderized deer, and explained to her teacher that if she were to just pull out her frying pan and her flour, these deer steaks would be a fine substitute for the old Texas favorite, chicken-fried steak.

Well, we got onto other topics and as I sliced up a piece of homemade bread, my host brought out some orange marmalade. She explained to me that traditional English marmalade is made out of Seville oranges, which are so bitter that they cannot really be eaten; but leave it to the practical British, who are always eager to make something out of nothing. They found these inedible Spanish oranges, which the Spanish thought well enough to leave alone, dumped in a whole load of sugar, which even then barely disguised the bitterness, and called it marmalade. This got me thinking about other feats of the British, and I was reminded of the history of genever (dutch gin).

Genever was originally invented by a Dutch professor, Franciscus de la Boe, who was looking for a preventitive for kidney disease that people would actually take (the main flavoring agent in genever and gin are juniper berries, which are very good for you, though I wonder how healthy they can be when accompanied by fermented barley, but go figure). In the late 17th century, when William of Orange became King of England, he began taxing brandy made in Catholic countries, and encouraged the importation of genever from Holland to England, to benefit his fellow Protestants. Gin really took off in England, and soon practically the entire population was flailing about the streets of London in a collective fit of drunkenness (it is estimated, actually, that ¼ of the households in London were producing Gin in about 1720). And when the stuff was finally banned by the Parliament in 1736, the result, of course, was illegal production, and the stuff could then be found under such names as Cuckold’s Comfort and My Lady’s Eye Water. The British really know how to make the best out of a difficult situation, don’t they?

But so do the Texans…so the next time you’re down in Bush country, why not help yourself to a healthy serving of chicken-fried deer?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah, a tova blog. it's mollie, aka anonymous. you're so hilarious. i read stans' blog and now yours and you both write in the same conversational, random style that i do and now i feel really good about myself! your egg cooking style is similar to mine, which is influenced partly by thai omelettes and partly by the last scene of the movie "big night." i use olive oil instead of butter, but i let it sit on high heat and get crusty too! then i get really adventurous and flip the whole thing with one flick of the wrist. takes practice and conviction- hesitation gives you egg-covered burners. ;)m

11:29 PM  

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