Aspic is savory and traditionally made with some kind of animal stock, like chicken, pork, or beef. Gelatin refers to sweet or non-savory dishes, like a Jell-O salad. I came across this article in Gastro Obscura that goes into this subject in more detail with interesting and very unappetizing graphics.
How America Embraced Aspics with Threatening Auras
– From futuristic test kitchens to Under-the-Sea Salad, midcentury Jell-O took a turn for the weird. –
“The lamb ribs lie in a precisely arranged herringbone pattern, surrounded by nubs of green beans, hard-boiled eggs, and capers, all entombed in a flavorless, wobbling mass. A two-tiered tower harbors swirling clouds of mayonnaise anchored by erect stalks of asparagus. An acid-green, lime-flavored mound holds a can’s worth of tuna speckled with pimento olives. Few foods today feel as anachronistic as the gelatin “salads” (a catch-all term for dishes sweet, savory, and everything in between) of midcentury America.”
I can’t remember how old I was when I first ate spaghetti with a fork and spoon. I learned that technique because I grew up in America. If I’d have grown up in Italy, I wouldn’t have been able to use the spoon because it’s considered poor etiquette. Either way, it doesn’t matter much to me how you eat it as long as you don’t cut it with a knife.
ITALIAN CURIOSITIES: SHOULD YOU OR SHOULD YOU NOT USE A SPOON TO EAT SPAGHETTI?
You know Italians are passionate, sometimes even too much. You just need to look at them when it comes to soccer. In the kitchen, if there is something likely to start up a heated discussion around the table – besides soccer, of course – it must be the way you eat your spaghetti (and long pasta in general) . . .
A surrealist cookbook with interesting recipes and beautiful illustrations.
It comes with this disclaimer – “If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”
Here are a few of the recipes in case you’d care to try them.
Some cooking terms defined in Le Diners de Gala:
Deglaze – To pour a liquid in the cooking pan and profit from its boiling to recover and incorporate with the sauce the browned bits from the bottom.
Lute – to seal the cover of a cooker with flour dissolved in a small amount of water.
Salpicon – Composed of different sorts of aliments, diced, such as truffles, quenelles, mushrooms.
The illustrations are amazing even if you don’t intend to make any of the recipes.
If you’d like more information on Dali’s cookbook and perhaps even get a copy, go to
Place the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and toss until everything is mixed. Arrange it in a single layer in a small sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, pat the filet dry, coat with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and clear a spot in the pan for the filet. Place the pan back in the oven with the filet and tomato mixture and roast for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle the entire dish with the zest, basil, and mint and serve.
Everyone knows about the basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. There’s one you might not be familiar with – umami (oo ma me). In Japanese, that means ‘deliciousness.’ Even though it doesn’t necessarily contain meat, it’s savory and deepens the flavor of whatever you’re cooking by adding a meatiness to it. It comes in various forms and can be added to recipes in various ways. Umami occurs naturally in many different foods, including meat, fish, and vegetables.
Fish sauce, made from salted, fermented fish, comes in varied forms. There’s Vietnamese nước mắm pha and Italian coloratura di alici, which is based on the ancient Roman garum. It can be very intense but used judiciously, it adds complexity to many dishes.
Anchovies aren’t everyone’s favorite. Eating then straight can be too intense for some. But adding one or two to browning onions for beef stew or to the garlic and olive oil base for pasta sauce adds layers of flavor and no fishy taste.
Almost all cheeses are rich in umami, but Parmigiana is at the top of the list. You can grate it on a salad or various pasta and vegetable dishes, and some people even put the rind to soups, sauces, or stews to add complexity.
Beef stock has a powerful umami flavor, and it gets that flavor from bones. It’s intense and is sometimes diluted. In a milder form, beef broth is good when served cold and mixed with vodka in a Bull Shot.
Soy sauce is standard umami for Asian cooking. It’s made from fermented and aged soybeans and grain. Keep in mind that it’s not just for Asian recipes.
Lea and Perrins is the only brand of Worcestershire, and it’s been around since the 1800s. It’s made from malt vinegar, molasses, and some other secret ingredients. Worcestershire works perfectly with lots of seafood dishes, and you can’t make a Bloody Mary without it.
Olives have a meaty texture and flavor that work great in adding umami to meatless dishes like Puttanesca.
Tomatoes, in general, add savoriness to foods, so imagine what super concentrated tomato paste can do. Of course, it’s excellent in tomato sauce but try adding a tablespoon or two the next time you sauté onions.
All mushrooms contain umami, but dried mushrooms deliver a bigger punch because they’re concentrated. They can make a plain tomato sauce taste as hearty as meat sauce.
“Mallard to go, anyone? Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient thermopolium—aka the Roman equivalent of a street food vendor—at the Regio V site in Pompeii. The well-preserved stand is decorated with multiple frescoes featuring a nereid (nymphs of Greek mythology) riding a sea horse, tall jars with two-handles that commonly were used for storage, and some of the formerly available fare, like mallards and chickens. A rendering of a muscular dog adorns another side of the stand with the insult, “Nicia cineadecacator,” scribed nearby. Various food-based remnants were found, as well, including duck bones, fava beans, wine, and a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, alongside cooking dishes, flasks, and storage vessels.”
Hot chocolate season is coming up. There’s an article in L’Italo Americano that will make you want some Italian hot chocolate now.
ITALIAN CURIOSITIES: THE TRUE STORY OF ITALIAN HOT CHOCOLATE
“. . . The fall is the season of the queen of sweet delicacies, the creamiest of treats, the most decadent of the cold season’s offerings: la cioccolata calda. If you tried it, you know that Italian hot chocolate is on a different level: there is nothing else in the world that can compare to it, at least when it comes to hot cocoa drinks. You may find others that are nice, that taste delicious and that do hit the spot if you need a chocolate fix, but no Italian will in earnest say any of those are better than our beloved cioccolata calda. . .”
Illegal Coffee – Gastro-Obscura has an interesting article on coffee’s long history in the Middle East.
In Istanbul, Drinking Coffee in Public Was Once Punishable by Death
Rulers throughout Europe and the Middle East once tried to ban the black brew.
By MARK HAY
“. . . Odd though it may sound, Murad IV was neither the first nor last person to crack down on coffee drinking; he was just arguably the most brutal and successful in his efforts. Between the early 16th and late 18th centuries, a host of religious influencers and secular leaders, many but hardly all in the Ottoman Empire, took a crack at suppressing the black brew. . . “
“. . . More potato chips (and pretzels, candy, ice cream, and chocolate) are produced over these few counties than anywhere else on Earth. Pennsylvania leads the country in production of all of these products, and each individual snack has its own fairly standard story of why it came to be so successful in the Keystone State. . .”
You can read the whole article on Pennsylvania Snacks here.