The Hungover Gourmet


The Evolution of a Resolution

I don't normally make any kind of New Year's Resolutions. I find that they almost always take the same course and by the end of January they've been thrown out the window with every other good intention with which I entered the year. Let's face it, making empty pledges to lose weight, cut back on drinking and stop smoking so many cigars have about as much chance as surviving until March as pledges like being more relaxed when I drive and spending less money on useless crap.

So, with that in mind, my "resolutions" for 1999 were far more attainable. In fact, I'm not even sure that they're resolutions at all. It's sort of like the "sacrifices" I made during Lent when I was what could conceivably be called a practicing Catholic. Instead of giving up something I liked or loved (like hockey on tv or sleazy gore flicks) I always took the easy way out and either gave up something I never liked (candy, for instance) or something that I hated doing (shaving, etc.).

But back to my resolutions. If we can call them that. Is it a resolution if you pledge to see at least one movie in a theater each week? Is it a resolution if you decide that you aren't reading enough and promise to dive into all those books sitting unread on the shelf outside your office? Is it a resolution if you desire to become more adventurous in your culinary pursuits, tracking down some rabbit every now and then, or getting around to that pheasant a friend gave you?

Resolutions or not, I've really only kept one of them, and that's the reading one. And, frankly, that isn't even true, because the book I'm reading is a new purchase, not one of the many half-read or unmolested volumes sitting within reach. But man is it a good one!

The Man Who Ate Everything Having never read an issue of Vogue -- when I want sleazy confessions or an insulting "Is Your Man Fill in the Blank" quiz I reach for the latest Cosmo -- I wasn't familiar with the writings of Jeffrey Steingarten, NYC-lawyer-turned-food-writer. But after diving into his book The Man Who Ate Everything (Random House, 1997) I'm wondering if I shouldn't get a subscription, just for his column! Ah hell, I'll just stand in Borders and read it.

Unlike most food books, Steingarten's work is infinitely enjoyable and immensely readable -- dispensing with the type of snooty chatter that dooms most collections of essays on the subject, the author lets us know right off the bat that he's one of us. In fact, his laugh-out-loud intro got me thinking right away...what are my own food phobias? Though I couldn't agree with many of Steingarten's own admissions (swordfish, Greek food, refried beans), I realized that my own proclamation of liking "everything except for beets" was a bit of a lie.

The beets thing does hold true, though I've been told that a well-prepared dish of pickled beets would likely change my tune. I simply can't get the image of a dish filled with oddly-colored canned beets glaring up at me from my mother's kitchen table. Who knows? I turned the corner on liver and onions a few years ago (just try and stop me from ordering it at the diner!), so could beets be far behind?

The Dreaded Jell-O MoldThen there's cilantro, an herb that's achieved some degree of fame recently, especially in nuevo Mexican cooking. Some cookbooks try and disguise it by calling it fresh coriander or Chinese parsley, but you can't fool me -- I can taste (and smell) those green, soapy little flakes a mile away.

And finally, while I've overcome most of my picky eating habits from childhood, there's still one thing my mother makes that simply scares the hell out of me -- The Zodiac Jello Mold Salad. If you grew up in the 60s or 70s you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. It's that round, jiggling, gelatinous mound, usually lime green in color, flecked throughout with an inexplicable melange of shredded vegetables and...raisins!? Ah hell, I'm gettin' a little quesy just thinking about it.

Liver with Bacon and Onions

1 lb. baby beef liver
Bisquick or All-Purpose Flour
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 lb. bacon
1 medium onion, sliced

Fry bacon first and remove from pan and set aside. Tent with foil to keep warm. Trim skin and membrane from liver and cut into 1" x 4" strips. Season Bisquick or flour with salt and pepper. Season liver pieces with salt and pepper. Dip liver in Bisquick or flour, then dip in milk, then in Bisquick or flour again. Heat oil in pan and fry over medium heat about 5 minutes per side or until at desired tenderness. Set liver aside and keep warm. Placed sliced onion in pan juices and cover, steaming until soft. Uncover pan and cook until golden brown. Plate the liver and top with onions and bacon. Serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 4.

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