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2 posts from September 2012

07 September 2012

Rosh Hashanah 2012

This is all feeling rather rushed.  

A week to go until Rosh Hashanah and I haven't really given what I'm going to make much thought.  I don't know which meals I'm making - lunch tends to be the biggie in our family - and there are two days of the Jewish New Year.  At the moment I may be doing just one, or both. Even if I only do one lunch, I still need to provide dinner for the family.  Light and simple will be the watchwords for dinner.

Chopped liver is certain to make an appearance - although I have to confess that last year it got binned just as people were loading it on to their forks.  It seemed I got a bit too eager, made it a day or so early and it had started to turn.  Not my kitchen memory.

The slow roast shoulder of lamb with honey and cider was popular last year.  I might reprise, but I was wondering if I can do something with pomegranates.  Figs crossed my mind as well, but perhaps they'd be just too sticky and sweet.

Rosh Hashanah this year runs from dusk on Sunday 17 September to dusk on Tuesday 19 September. That I have all day to prepare on Sunday makes me think I could use the opportunity and smoke a brisket. If I end up doing two days I could have smoked brisket on the first and use the left overs (assuming they exist) on the second for a West One Deli inspired chili.

Then again, bollito misto is easy and generous, salt beef is fun to make and I nailed the recipe last year. Oh, such decisions.  Ah, I've just remembered about Orbs of Joy.  They're a keeper.  Last year I talked about making baked beans.  I didn't.  Maybe this year.

I like to think I can be organised enough to make my apple, honey and crushed pepper sorbet again.  At the very least, I've sourced Indig's babka, the babka to end all babka's according to babka maven Dan 'Young & Foodish' Young.  

But I suppose I should bake my own.

On the baking theme, I've just started a sourdough starter and I was wondering about sourdough challa. We shall see.

I really should start planning and ordering and cooking.

Before I do, a happy and healthy new year to you all.

03 September 2012

The diplomacy of dinner

I've just read two very different but good books. Accepting the inherent risk of judging them by their covers, the WWII history and Dutch novel couldn't be more different. As it turns out, they share a central theme: the power of the table as a diplomacy tool.

The Dinner by Herman Koch is the narrator's perspective of one meal, eaten with his wife, brother and sister-in-law. The meal takes place in what is clearly a fayn dayning restaurant in Amsterdam. The narrator, Paul Lohman, is keen to be anywhere but the restaurant he is in, he longs for the ribs and fries at the cafe nearby, rather than the plates of white space he is served, but this is a meal he cannot afford to miss. The reason is that the turn of conversation at dinner will determine the future of people very close to both couples. There's an awful lot riding on the niceties of the meal, the way the wine is poured and whether anyone has dessert. 

The book is a devastating read, as a parent and brother, I found it quite disturbing. Koch beautifully unfolds the story and carefully lays out how both families ended up where they are. Whilst the situation is ultimately extreme, it drives home the fine line between madness and parenting.

I didn't find Cita Stelzer's Dinner with Churchill particularly beautiful to read, the editing was rather cack handed, but the argument is well made. Churchill was convinced of the importance of a good meal in diplomacy.  

Winston was a bit of a gourmand. He wanted the best of everything and largely got it. He was it turns out a stickler for the seating plan and was a dab hand at interior design if dining room at Chartwell is anything to go by. He clearly viewed matters of stomach as synonymous with matters of state. 

Both books make a persuasive argument that sitting down over a meal is one way try to win an argument. The formalities determine a rhythm and it takes hard work for there to be no conviviality when decent food and wine is involved. However, what The Dinner and Dinner With Churchill make clear is that however good the victuals and libations, what ultimately matters is who you are dining with. Your enemy is your enemy however many courses there are.