Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Of Fructose, Hares, and Darwin

Once you stop eating sugar for a while, the thing you really notice is how sweet a lot of things are. And if that sweet thing is a prepared food, you can just bet that one of the major ingredients will be either sugar or, far worse, high fructose corn syrup. I was making a salad dressing today, thinking Michael would be a little less bored with another salad lunch if it had a creamy dressing rather than my usual olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Put in some mayo, put in some sour cream, put in some crushed garlic, a little salt and pepper, a little dill, a little chipotle chili powder... yum! But I thought, this needs some bite. So I added some of a product I've used for years, Marukan seasoned rice vinegar. Never thought very much about what it was seasoned with, until my dressing turned sickly sweet. Turns out, right toward the top of the list is high fructose corn syrup. Sigh. Another product I won't be buying any more (at 5 carbs per tablespoon, and all of that from sugars).

The dressing actually wasn't bad on the salad, although it would have been better if less sweet. Reminded me, a little weirdly, of this horrible dish that my mother used to make, a sliced hardboiled egg with Thousand Island dressing over it. I think this is one of the things that people made in the 60s, along with Jell-O molds with fruit and whipped cream. It was revolting.

Anyway, I got this wonderful cookbook in the mail today. It's called Simple French Cooking, by X. Marcel Boulestin, and it was published in the 1920s as a guide to British cooks and their mistresses. That's mistresses as in employers, not the other kind! Back from the time when it was reasonable to think that a lot of people would have a cook. This book is just marvelous to read if you like old recipes. My favorite so far is the Lievre a la Royale, which I think translates to something like Royal Hare. The beginning of this recipe starts: "Bone the hare. Prepare a stuffing of truffled foie gras cut in slices, a quarter of a pound of veal and pork mixed, salt and pepper; arrange the minced meat between the slices of foie gras and remodel the hare." Remodel the hare??? Add an extra room and some wallpaper? The rest of the directions include cooking for 12 hours. I am dying to try this but I have no idea where I would get a hare. Or truffled foie gras.

The really interesting thing is that the vast majority of these recipes are rich but incredibly low carb. (And, by the way, just how big is "a good piece of butter?")

The preface to the book includes a quote from Darwin that I'd never heard before:
"Even the headless oyster seems to profit from experience."

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