Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet Boi

Last night I was foraging in my refrigerator when I came across a shrink-wrapped package of lunch meat marked B. Sweet Boi. I had no idea who Sweet Boi was, or why his lunch was in my refrigerator. Then Senior told me that one of his coworkers had given him some bear meat. I was impressed. I've never met Sweet Boi, but he must be kind of bad ass to have killed a bear.  

Turns out that Sweet Boi went on an organized bear hunt up in northern Ontario. They flew up with a guide who took them to a baited site. The 'hunters' relaxed in an old motor home in the woods and waited for the bears to come to the party. It was pretty much a guarantee that they would get a shot since there was a barrel full of tasty bear snacks - mostly expired Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies - standing outside within firing range. This strikes me as unsportsmanly, but then again I don't have a lot of sympathy for bears after hearing how destructive they can be. Friends of ours have had their cottage decimated by bears on more than one occasion, even though they take great pains to make it bear-proof. 

Since it was Sweet Boi's first hunt, the guide gave him some pointers. He told him that most newbies got excited and shot the first bear they saw. Bears are big, right? Even the little ones. So the hunters should use the treat barrel as a guide. When the bears walked by on all fours, if it was as tall as the top of the barrel then it was full grown, and that would be the one to shoot. Sweet Boi hunkered down in the motor home an' purty soon he heerd somepin' go "Wooh!" A bear ambled out of the woods, went over to the treat barrel and immediately knocked it over on its side.  Score one for the bears for figuring out the guide's system.  

So with no ruler to gauge the relative size of the critter, Sweet Boi did what any good newbie would do and shot the bear dead. Turns out it actually was a pretty good size, somewhere over 300 pounds. I'm not sure what he did with the bulk of the meat or the hide. Maybe Sweet Boi now struts his stuff in a fur coat or spends his evenings lolling around on a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace. But he had some of the meat made into sausage, and was nice enough to share it with Senior.

Now that I knew what was in the package, I had to try it. The meat was sliced thin and had the consistency of salami. It had a really nice smoky smell and looked like a well-balanced meat-to-fat ratio. I rolled up a slice and tasted it, but was surprised to find it was sweet. Really sweet, with not much other flavor. I rolled it around on my tongue trying to pick up some gaminess, but all I could taste was a Twinkie-esque flavor.  I wondered how big an impact the bear's junk food diet had on the flavor of the meat. I really did not like it. I turned to Senior and commented on how I was surprised at the strange flavor.  He, however, wasn't surprised.  "The package is labeled," he told me. "B. Sweet Bol...Bear Sweet Bologna." Ohhhhhh.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Appetizer Book

Senior and I spent a recent chilly Saturday exploring a wonderful little shop called The Great Midwestern Antique Emporium. Tucked away in a back corner, beyond the life size plaster owl mold, the Luftwaffe dagger and the glass replica of a human head, we discovered a bookshelf full of vintage cookbooks. I thumbed through a few of them before coming across this little paperback gem:

Isn't this awesome? Look at that spread! Why haven’t I ever thought of disguising an ugly pillar candle with snacks on a stick? I'm going to have to channel my inner Sandra Lee (the sober one) and replicate that tablescape. But not entirely - that steaming hot pot of goodness with the handle sticking out would definitely be a mistake over here at my house on Clumsy Street. 

For more ideas, the photo on the back cover is even better:

The directions for this went something like this: "Fill a basket with nuts, then boobytrap it with sharp pokey things. Let everyone dig in with their hands. Don't worry about germs, because all your guests are going to get food poisoning anyway from the unrefrigerated shrimp. Wash it all down with a really big glass of cocktail sauce."

Good Housekeeping's Appetizer Book was first published in 1958, the same year Elvis was inducted into the army, the first US satellite was launched into space and cocktail parties were all the rage. And after looking at the recipes in this book, I believe that if you served enough alcohol, you could get away with serving all kinds of crap to your guests. Case in point, the recipes on the first page:

Speedy Tuna Dunk
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped stuffed olives
1 cup chunk-style tuna
Cream butter with olives and tuna until well blended. To serve, arrange in bowl along with dippers (salty-rye fingers, raw turnips, pickle sticks). Let guests dunk their own. 

I’m all about a creative dip, but butter and tuna? On a raw turnip? Isn't this going to look just like cat food? I’m not even mentioning the scourge of the olives, one of those foods I put in the same category as expired milk.

Peanut Butter-Catchup Dip
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup catchup
Corn chips
Mix peanut butter with catchup until smooth. Refrigerate until served. To serve, arrange dip in bowl, surrounded with corn chips. Let guests dip their own.

So not only is this dip weird, it's phonetic. Who thinks these things up? Curiosity got the best of me, so I whipped up a partial batch. It turns orange, similar to the color of cheese in a can. It tastes a little like a peanut and butter jelly sandwich. 

If it was left in the sun. 
For six days. 

Speaking of disgusting, how about this one:

Crostini di Fegato di Pollo
3 tablesp. butter or margarine
1/4 cup very finely minced onion
4 chicken livers, finely chopped
6 crushed fresh or dried juniper berries
1/3 cup white wine
Buttered Italian-bread slices. 
An hr. before serving: In skillet, heat butter until golden in color. Add onion, saute until light golden. Add chicken livers; saute over high heat, stirring, until mixture bubbles. Add juniper berries and wine; simmer, uncovered, a few moments, or until wine evaporates. Remove from heat; cool. To serve: cut bread into bite-sized pieces. Let guests do the spreading. 

The chicken livers aren't my problem, it's the juniper. I guess that “di Fegato” is Italian for “cat pee”, because I’m pretty sure that’s what juniper berries smell like. I'm not sure where you would find dried ones. Wouldn't those be juniper raisins? And isn't it hard to crush a raisin? 

I think some of the other recipes were named after the cocktail party guests had been imbibing for a while. Want to whip up a batch of Peppery Nuts? Nosegays? Hash Mounds? Meat Frosties or, during Lent, Fish Quickies? There is even a whole page devoted entirely to balls - Cabbage Balls, Clam Balls, Blue Balls (don't worry, they're made with bleu cheese). And if you are feeling particularly crafty, you can create one of their signature garnishes. My favorite is a lily made out of rolled bologna slices and strips of pickle.

The recurring theme in all these recipes - throw it in a bowl and let the guests take it from there - is a host's dream. But this handy book also includes some clever shortcuts if your prep time is really limited. For example, challenge yourself with this recipe: 

French Fry Appetizers
Prepare frozen French fries as label directs; serve hot as is

The best part is that the previous owner of this cookbook underlined that recipe somewhere along the line. Just in case he or she forgot one of the steps and needed a quick reference point.

And finally, my favorite recipe.  This one is pure genius:

Bacon Crisps
Thin lean bacon slices
Cut each bacon slice in half, then wrap each half around 1 saltine cracker, Place on a rack in a shallow pan and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until bacon is crisp. 
Serve piping hot.

I adore the authors of this cookbook. And now I have to go plan my next cocktail party.