Kitchen of Perfection

“It would be impossible to describe in detail the lavish variety, the orderly complexity, the gleaming cleanliness of that great room, but the effect it wrought upon his sense was instant and overwhelming.  It was one of the most beautiful, spacious, thrilling and magnificently serviceable rooms that he had ever seen: everything in it was designed for use and edged with instant readiness; there was not a single thing in the room that was not needed, and yet its total effect was to give one a feeling of power, space, comfort, rightness and abundant joy.”  Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River (1935).     This exactly describes what the Microsoft Kitchen of the Future is NOT.

I’m reading American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes; it was from this anthology that I pulled the above quote.    Like a Rorschach test, the manifestation of this perfect kitchen could be imagined so differently by different readers- what, exactly, would be thrilling about one’s own ‘perfect kitchen’?    a Wolf range?  two sinks?  a moving sidewalk?  Without a dishwasher, our present kitchen, while serviceable, will never attain perfection.  But today, while out shopping, we obtained four items that soon will be cleaned and “edged with instant readiness”:   a  wide wire spoon for fishing fried things from molten oil, a 9-inch tamis (which was made in Japan and, from the label, appears to be something used to strain beaten eggs ??), and two long-lusted-after large, aluminum sheet pans.    What I won’t be able to do with those sheet pans!  There is a space in the kitchen that has been waiting for them, a place that I can reach them, half a step from the sink,  so they may assist in all the prepping, dry-rubbing, drying, marinating, resting, proofing, cooling and draining for which I have [long had!] need.

From the library, I also picked up The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook; complete with recipes, musings and terrible, terrible illustrations.   Originally published in 1954, I am amused by the recipes in which the tools, techniques and/or ingredients are out of date:

Suprême of Pike A La Dijonaise

Cut the fillets from a pike, see that no bones adhere and then skin them.  Interlard them as one does fillet of beef.  Put them in a deep dish with 1/4 cup brandy, 1/2 cup sherry, and 1 cup good, dry red wine, salt and pepper and 4 shallots chopped fine and 4 bouquets each containing 1 stalk of celery, 1 small twig of thyme and 1/4 laurel leaf, each bouquet tied in a muslin bag.  Baste with liquid and put aside.  In winter keep for 48 hours, in summer for 24 hours, basting twice a day.   When the fillets are ready to be cooked place in a deep earthenware dish which has been heavily coated with soft butter, the fillets, the four little bags and the strained marinade.  Put into preheated oven 400º for about 20 minutes, basting frequently.  When the fillets are well browned, remove from oven, add 2 tablespoons cream and 3 tablespoons soft butter. Baste and serve at once.

“I’ll be working from home today;  I must be here to interlard and then baste my pike.”

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