DBM goes 1960´s
This evening proved to be very special for the Brown family. We journeyed to the 1960´s in an attempt to seek the culinary roots of 1970´s cooking and had to eat a mole in the process. In the shady 60´s light we cooked the most bizarre meal we yet had the misfortune to encounter, but one thing at a time. First let´s make a journey in time.
Slip on your parka, lace up the desert boots and bring out the checkered miniskirt. This evening the Brown family decided to find out just how it was possible for 1970´s cooking to be so hideous, and the tale starts in the equally strange 1960´s. This is a distant era. Mods in the streets, Mary Quant in the wardrobe, and the Rolling Stones could actually move without the aid of pacemakers. For our guide this evening we had three 60´s cookery books. “The picture cookery book”, “The picture cookery book for men”, and “Come for a pint and a sarnie”. To the soundtrack of Quadrophenia, a perfect choice as it happens, a 70´s film about the 60´s, we entered the kitchen. “The weekend starts here”, to quote Cathy McGowan.
Fake pizza. The name alone lead you to suspect that something´s not quite right, a suspicion that only grows stronger by the fact that the authors themselves tell you straight away that “the real pizza is better”. This recipe is surprisingly simple. Cut a bread roll in half, toast it in the oven, garnish with ketchup, fish and cheese, put it back in the oven for yet a couple of minutes and then: eat.
The somewhat insipid word “fish” used here requires an explanation. The recipe states anchovies, but anchovies in Sweden are a species all of their own tasting nothing like the slightly oily and very salty fish you normally associate with this. Swedish anchovies, although possibly made from the same fish, have been marinated in vinegar and spiced with a curious mixture of cinnamon, bay leaf, clove and pepper if you are to believe the encyclopedia, giving it a very distinct and wholly different taste not normally associated with ketchup. In fact, ketchup would probably be one of the last things you´d care to eat with this peculiar little fish, making the Brown family very suspicious indeed when tasting this odd relic of the past. But, surprise, surprise, in spite of the bizarre combination of ingredients “Fake pizza” tasted, well, really quite good. It was warm, slightly salty, and washed down with a pint of lager as suggested in the book´s title, proved to be the best thing we ate this evening. The score: 3,5, somewhere in between just okay and good.
The southern Swedish province of Skåne, might not internationally be known for its culinary greatness, but in the “picture cookery book for men” it has been given an entire chapter all of its own surpassing even the French cuisine. This piqued our curiosity, and since two members of the family had actually been to Skåne we decided to give it a try even though some of the dishes were bizarre in the extreme, at least to us. This recipe was reportedly created by the “Skanör tavern”, a somewhat fancy restaurant we believe to be still in existence.
“These are rustic dishes fitted for travelers “, we are told, and this bold statement continually reinforced our courage during the cooking. Something we were badly in need of more than once as you will soon see. The main ingredient was so odd that it took our local butcher several days to procure, and even though the cookery book told us you could buy them tinned, this turned out to be a slight exaggeration. If that was due to the fact that we do not live in Skåne, or that the cookery book was some 45 years old we cannot really tell. The ingredient we have hinted at was pigtails. Yes tails from pigs.
Now a pigtail is a small, pinkish, friendly little thing found wagging at the rear end of said animal. At least that was what we thought before we actually saw them. Admittedly, none of the family is an expert zoologist, and the few times any of us had actually seen a live pig could be easily counted, but this… A pig tail turned out to be about half a meter long, incredibly thick at one end and with a skin tone frighteningly alike our own. None of them showed the least inclination to curl, but maybe they had simply straightened with fear when their bearer realized the meaning of the word butcher.
The recipe did not state how many pig tails you actually needed, forcing us to improvise. A look at the picture in the book didn´t really make us any the wiser, but considering their unexpected size and trying to weigh that against the butchers statement that there weren´t much meat on a pigtail we finally decided on two tails per person. A gross miscalculation as it happened, but more of that later.
The Brown family have previously received a lot of flak for deliberately tampering with the recipes, and this time we had to do it again. The tinned pigtails mentioned in the cookery book proved to be unobtainable for some odd reason, hence the fresh ones straight from the butchers. If tinned pigtails were an everyday object of the 1960´s they weren´t any more, at least not where we live. The thought of it did however produce some interesting pictures in our minds. Friday evening 1964. Mods on scooters, the radio blaring out the Who or the Kinks. And to top it all a tin of pigtails being passed around as they all waited for the dexys or black bombers to kick in. Beautiful.
Luckily the tails had all been shaved. Yes shaved. Apparently a pig is full of bristle not unlike a chin that hasn´t met with a razor for a couple of days and therefore requires the treatment of said instrument, and we were somewhat relieved that we were spared the process of applying shaving foam to pigtails. The fact that these tails were fresh off the pig so to speak, meant on the other hand that they were not pre-cooked, a process the butcher strongly recommended. After being boiled for two hours, that was the time advised by the butcher, the colour of the pigtails had turned greyish rather than pinkish and had the look of body parts falling off a zombie. Even the smell had something suggesting a corpse in it and a casual visitor to the Brown family flat remarked: “Bloody hell. What have you been up to in here?”
Again putting all the blame on the hapless butcher, we boiled the pigtails the day before we were going to eat them, and when we finally took them out of the fridge they had developed bruises and were if possible even more unappetizing in colour. Greyish blue with a touch of rigor mortis and a slightly frightening lack of will to cooperate. They seemed to have developed an ill will of their own during the long silent hours of the night, and this strengthened the zombielike impression of the previous day, a fact that increased our awe immensely. Mrs Brown tried her best to “coat the pigtails in mustard and breadcrumbs”, but the result was not in the least reminiscent of the picture in the cookery book.
The tasty pigtails were in accordance with the recipe fried in large amounts of butter, a fact that might account for the red hot projectiles that started to fire at will around the kitchen redecorating the walls in an interesting new and very psychedelic pattern. It also gave the Brown family a painfully large amount of red dots covering arms, hands and faces until all those who weren´t directly involved in the actual frying started to wince and eventually fled the kitchen. Burning hot fat is no laughing matter as we learned the hard way. Well, it is actually. Afterwards, that is. The coating fell off almost immediately and added to the terror and confusion by way of a new a novel type of projectile with the capability of ruining your eyesight for ever.
These weren´t pigtails. This was an evil nest of vipers wriggling across the plates of a family full of awe and even fear. How were you supposed to eat them? Lower them in your mouth and chew them off bit by bit, or perhaps try to carve the minute pieces of meat with the aid of a knife, or maybe just grab them in your hands and chew the fat and gristle like it was a slimy sort of corn on the cob? On this subject the cookery book could not shed light. Could this have been common knowledge during the 1960´s and thus superfluous information? A bit like a modern cookery book that didn´t feel the need to mention the fact that you would need a plate when serving the dish? Of all this we could only speculate, and in the process tried all the aforementioned approaches to eating pigtails.
The taste proved to be a cruel disappointment. We like ham, and we also like mustard and even breadcrumbs, but this was slimy, slippery, and full of fat and gristle nobody knew if we were supposed to eat with the rest of it or simply ignore. We use the word simply in its loosest possible meaning since in reality it turned out to be impossible to avoid the gristle. It was in fact everywhere inside these hideously and monstrously evil zombielike snakes. Two pigtails per head was in fact a very much exaggerated estimation. Half of one would probably suffice for even the most ardent lover of pigs and their body parts. And the accompanying boiled potatoes with caraway seed did nothing whatsoever to ease the impression. For those who did not realize this, caraway seed will effectively kill any other taste and leave only the somewhat sickening taste of, well, caraway seed.
If your preferences include a mortal dose of caraway seed, and if you value a meal of slimy gristle, then look no further. Mustard breaded pigtails is the thing for you. For the rest of us the advise is simply: steer clear of this and you have at least the shadow of a chance to live happily ever after. The tourist board of Skåne is hereby well advised to seek out and destroy all the remaining copies if this ghastly recipe to preserve the reputation of their region. The score 2,1 this dish received is generous in the extreme and in no way describes the actual experience.
After the disaster with the pigtails the Brown family actually looked forward to the pudding: Moles. The recipe comes from “The picture cookery book” and luckily had little to do with real moles. This was instead a feast of prunes and almond paste.
You simply fill the prunes with almond paste and cover it all with whipped cream mixed with vanilla, sugar and gelatin. The expression “simply” is, again, not quite adequate in association with these moles, a fact we soon discovered. The process of finding the “anus” of a prune, and there insert a foreign object in the shape of almond paste almost proved more than a match for us, and was accompanied by the feeling of doing something forbidden and very kinky.
The mixture of gelatin, eggs, cream, vanilla and sugar both looked and smelled great and a premature tasting showed this assumption to be correct. This was really a treat, at least at this stage. The newly penetrated moles were covered in vanilla cream and topped with chocolate flakes. It looked even better now, and the lingering memory of the vanilla pushed the expectations sky high.
The sad truth is that the slightly rubbery and sickeningly sweet prunes completely annihilated any vanilla that might have still been there. It disappeared without a trace in what looked not so much like moles as mole droppings.
This was not in line with expectations and the overall disappointment was accordingly strong. If you managed to avoid the prunes you could wish yourself lucky, but not for long. Next bite would almost certainly be full of “mole” and a taste to match. The fact that the score of 3,3 is almost entirely due to the vanilla cream does probably not come as a surprise to anyone, and while we might consider the vanilla cream again this does not under any circumstances include the rest of this dish. No more moles was the final verdict.