What Philosophers Talk About When They Talk About Food

I can’t believe I didn’t know about…the Incompatible Food Triad. “Can you think of three foods where any two of those foods taste good together, but all three combined taste disgusting?”

Wilfrid Sellars, a philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh (hired, the story goes, because the dean was willing to give him his own office overlooking Forbes Field, where the Pirates then played), came up with the puzzle. I was a grad student at Pitt a decade and a half after Sellars retired (though I did take logic from Neul Belnap, mentioned in the article), but I never heard of it before now.

Now I have something to ponder during my frequent bouts of insomnia. And people wonder about the relevance of philosophy to life in the modern world…

Belated birthday post for the boy

My son’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and he wanted to do a blog post about the dinner.

Oven fries, ready for baking…

Burgers, his second-favorite food (pizza takes #1), ready for smashing on the griddle…

And at the end of the meal, the Roman-numeraled (because of the classicist mama) gingerbread cake…

Let’s hope this next year is as much fun as the last! Birthday IX will be here before we know it.

Offal – the punniest food

I won’t make the puns myself, but I did make three delicious dishes involving various internal bits of bird and beast last night: hearts of goat and turkey confitted in goose and bacon fat along with the gizzard of the turkey, all sliced thin, briefly sauteed, then served over greens and sauteed fennel with a mustard-wine reduction; goat and turkey liver pate, smeared on crusty bread with a bacon-onion-balsamic jammy sauce; and goat kidneys cooked in sherry served over rice — with lots of parsley for everything, the key balance, I and my offal friends found, to the organy richness. I’ve had heart, gizzard, and poultry-liver pate before, but goat liver was new — and the thing was huge! that goat knew how to live! — and I’d never eaten kidneys of any kind. These won’t, I hope, be my last. Unlike the monstrous liver, the goat kidneys were the cutest little heart-shaped things you ever saw, and, after a soak in milk, surprising tasty. No pee flavor at all!

Above: the hearts and gizzards in their overnight bath of shallot, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Shouldering On

Saturday was salami day. My co-curer and I seasoned, ground, and stuffed 6 lbs of pork shoulder and back fat into beef “middles,” following fairly closely a Polcyn and Ruhlman recipe for an orange and walnut wonder that we made last year in both fresh and dry-cured forms. Two to three weeks from now, though probably not quite in time for Christmas, these pale and unbecoming cylinders will be fermented marvels, ready to slice thin and eat with a bit of onion or tomato jam on crusty bread.

I had to cut the pork off the bone prior to salamizing it, and, not being one to let bones go to waste, and also being now bereft of my beloved turkey broth, I broiled them brown, sucked out the marrow, then put them in water to simmer for the rest of the morning while we made the salami. When I came home it was but the work of a moment to throw in some noodles and broccoli for a perfect lunchtime soup, topped with crispy pea shoots from Blue Dog and sliced Cinzori red onion.

No morsel was left behind, only a bare bowl and well cleaned bones.

They gave their all

The bones from the Thanksgiving turkey generated many a bowl of delicious stock. Here they make their final contribution, to a lunchtime soup, before being sent to rest in the rubbish. Nary a morsel of meat was left on them. As Julia Child would have said, they gave their all.

(The slight soft focus is from the steam rising from the bowl. O lunch, how I love thee.)

Light memory

Traffic lights dot vertically, pulsing color against a burnished grey sky backlit by the first sun of the day. Faux-Victorian streetlamps still round their glow outwards, while headlights press into the new day’s emerging light. Windshields, windows, storefronts, puddles, slicks of oil or tar, smooth surfaces of poles and posts, metal of all kinds in unpredictable places — all mirror, and, as they do, reduce yet somehow amplify the dawn sky and our human contributions to it. The sun first thing in the morning gives all these little lights a precise place, and they all simultaneously stand out and blend together, like instruments in a virtuosic ensemble. Today the horizon is sky and buildings of a small midwestern city. A few days ago the morning light was no less stunning but it was all sun: spreading and arcing and flowing across the corn stubble, catching the dried leaves of bushes and trees and the stripe of road that led straight through it all, clouds almost an afterthought, but the few there were pushed downwards some of the stray light that had escaped earth’s gravity. It’s maybe what I love most about these short days of late fall, that I get to see these moments of cusp early in the day when the sun is tamed a little by the angle of the planet, plants dead and dormant catch some of the warmth lost during the night and show it to anyone paying attention, and the bulbs and surfaces we’ve made in our attempt to throw the sun back at itself sit comfortably at least for a time with the light that will always outshine them. A picture would be natural here, I suppose, but I didn’t take one. I didn’t want to frame the scenes as I was in them. Words, memory, will have to do.