I begin to ask myself what it could have been, this powerful taste that brought no proof, but the overwhelming experience of wretchedness, of the degradation of the human soul in this age of unreality, of the putrefaction of good sense and beauty and harmony.
And then I dip the pumpkin spice madeleine in the coffee again, and it all unfolds before me. The flavour, haunting in its stupid familiarity, calls into the recesses of my soul. It reeks of burnt beans and misspelled names and lascivious squirts of vanilla syrup from moldy tubs. Suddenly, just as a cup sleeve of corrugated cardboard that seems flat, given a tiny amount of pressure from the fingers, pops into a round window, an effigy of protection from a boiling beverage, the memory takes shape before my eyes.
I am a teenager, in a suburb with no identifying marks whatsoever, its relentless blandness a war against beauty or sensual experience. I do not really like coffee, but I fill a cup with six packets of sugar to make the bitter liquor somewhat palatable. Soon I discover a way to burn even the last trace of flavour away, a corporate solution for any stubborn flashes of creativity that may remain in our hearts, a final goodbye to subtlety and variation and natural goodness, a toddler-like piefication of the world, and the cheerios and the pasta sauce and the Oreos and the egg nog and the low fat yoghurt rise up from my cup of coffee.
(Thank you, Ben, for the photo.)
Friends, 2016 has been a miserable year. We need a little magic for 2017. Hannukah and Christmas coinciding is a good start. The bakeries of the Marais have a little extra help planned as well. So, in the twin spirits of food gone wrong and food gone right (sometimes a bit hard to tell apart), I wish you all a magique holiday season!
(And many thanks to my friend who took this photo!)
It’s almost Hallowe’en, and I am out of words. What cannot be pumpkin spiced? What has not been pumpkin spiced? Next October, I predict, supermarkets will replace all the food with one big vat of orange fluid flavoured with pumpkin spice. Customers will come by, take jugs of the stuff home to eat, or simply stick their faces right in it. The truly devoted will jump into the vat and stay there, orange and fragrant till their last breaths.
(Thanks to Sonja for this!)
Ah yes. I remember this part of Dante’s Inferno. Not the third circle — gluttony — but the sixth, heresy. It’s a little known fact that Farinata degli Uberti was condemned to eternal, fiery punishment due to his perverse use of pumpkin flour. You’ve been warned.
Thanks to Elan, for documenting his purgatorial shopping trip.
I’m not sure what’s worst about this box of pumpkin spice Cheerios. Is it that all foods in America are adulterated with pumpkin spice starting in August these days? The Starbucksification of every meal of the day? Or is it the fact that it would be really easy to make your own pumpkin spice breakfast cereal by just sprinkling some cinnamon and nutmeg on it before pouring the milk?
Oh, the humanity.
(Thank you, Christopher, for the photo.)
I hosted a belated Thanskgiving yesterday, my very first, and the first one in Germany. I had never made any of the basics before — cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, even gravy were all new to me. Some of the guests helped cook, and I allayed their worries by telling them that anything that didn’t turn out right could go on this blog.
They protested: but this dish wasn’t so bad, but that one was burnt but still good.
But that’s the point of foodgonewrong — mistakes are not disasters. They’re just part of cooking, and experimenting, and trying. And just about anything can be made palatable with gravy or ketchup. Or caramel sauce.
Today’s contribution comes from Jenny, who like me, celebrated Thanksgiving abroad. She and her husband made an American pie, but in a German oven. As you can tell, the edges got a bit… crisp.
But I would still totally eat that pie. And I’m betting you would too. It’s almost more beautiful for being ruined. You know that this pie was made at home, in a real home oven. The wrong oven, but you get the idea. It’s a pie made with love, and love sometimes comes burnt at the edges.
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You know that psych-test image where you look at it one way, and it’s a young woman with a slender neck, and you look at it another way, and it’s an old hag? And it’s supposed to tell you if you’re disturbed?
Do I really need to say anything more here?
Thanks to Bridget Lucas (and her genius husband) for this horrifying, but memorable, festive treat. And happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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