Ordered by: Ernest Hemingway
Papa knew how to wear a sweater.
Date of Meal: Presumably 7/1/1961
Meal: New York Strip Loin with Garlic Herb Crust, Baked Potato, Caesar Salad, Bordeaux
Participants: Grace and Crystal
Clockwise from left: lettuce (2 heads), Chatham Village croutons, Bordeaux (2 bottles), olive oil, Ortiz anchovies, sour cream, lemon (1), Pure Irish butter (that’s a thing, I guess), egg (1), chives, NY strip steaks (3), garlic (1 head), Colman’s mustard powder, potatoes (3)
The three of them entered the small apartment. He took the brown bag of groceries he cradled in his arms and set it on the counter.
“We should begin,” he said.
“Yes,” Crystal said. A cat came out of the open room at the end of the apartment and cautiously watched them.
Grace peeled each clove of garlic and chopped them on the cutting board. At the first thud, the cat started, but soon he settled on a chair, lazily watching.
“What are you doing now,” he said, taking out his phone and setting it on the counter.
“I mixed the chopped garlic with salt, and now I’m adding lemon juice.”
“I want to do that too.”
The package of anchovies leaked oil as he pulled them out, one fish at a time, and placed them in a bowl. Crystal took the bowl up and began to mash the fish together into a paste.
“These anchovies are delicious,” he said, taking a filet from the package. “I could eat these all day.” He took another. His fingers glistened with the packing oil.
In the shadow of the porcelain bowl, the anchovies rested. They were mashed.
Grace took a second clove of garlic and mashed it together with a half of a stick of butter.
“We should grease the potatoes,” Grace said.
“Then why don’t you do that,” he said. “Remember to stab them with the fork.”
She rubbed oil onto the skin of the potatoes. Their eyes shone glossy in the light. She pushed the fork into each potato, turning it over and stabbing it.
The cat watched the man take another anchovy and dangle it above his mouth.
“I can’t believe I’ve never eaten these before. Do all anchovies taste like these?”
Grace took the container of mustard seed. “A teaspoon of dry mustard.” She held the page of the cookbook down with her pinkie.
The mustard powder was dry.
“Add it to the mixture,” Crystal said.
“I had no idea all these things went into Caesar dressing.”
“We haven’t even added the egg yet.”
“This is classy.”
“We have to boil an egg for 60 seconds,” Grace said. “I don’t think this is really necessary.”
“To cook the egg? Of course you should cook the egg.”
Crystal combined the anchovies with the mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, and oil in the bowl.
“This tastes lemony,” he said.
Grace added the egg and whisked it together with the mixture. “This is supposed to emulsify,” she said.
The yolk floated in the mixture. It did not emulsify.
They prepared the salad with the lettuce and croutons.
“We should check the baked potato in 10 minutes.”
The man went to the bottle and poured another glass of wine.
“I’m going to rub butter on the steaks now,” Grace said.
“That’s ok. I’ll do it,” the man said.
“Remember to rub the garlic and salt onto the meat as well,” Crystal said.
“Too many cooks,” the man said.
“You’ll put Jasper into the blog, won’t you?” Grace said. The man continued to rub the steaks. “Jasper has his own blog, you know.”
“Jasper has a blog?”
“Of course he does.” They looked at the cat. “He’s giving sulky eyes now.”
The man walked over to the computer. “This is what I was telling you about before. These ads are ridiculous.” He read aloud from the screen.
“Hook reports?” Crystal said.
“Book reports,” the man said. “What’s a hook report, and why would someone put it in a personal ad?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I asked.”
“Oh, are these Ortiz anchovies?”
“I’m in the middle of a story.”
“No, there’s a story behind them. These are extraordinary anchovies.”
“I know, I’ve been eating them. They made me like anchovies.”
“It says to break the egg over the salad.”
“Shit,” Grace said.
“We can cook the steaks the way I’ve done before,” the man said. He rubbed oil into the meat. Grace put salt and pepper on top as his hands worked the meat.
“They call me meat hands,” he said, his voice taking on a Southern twang.
He cooked each side of the steak in the pan for thirty seconds.
“These are sticking to the pan,” he said as he flipped them. Grace laughed, watching him pull at the steaks with a spatula and a fork. He put the pan with the steaks in the oven.
“Anybody need a refill?” the man said. He filled each of the three glasses.
“I think it’s go time,” Crystal said. They moved around the kitchen, walking past each other.
“I think you’ll get to break the egg over the salad,” the man said.
“Don’t talk down to her,” Grace said.
“I’m not talking down to her. I’m being enthusiastic.”
Crystal mixed the salad together. The man took the potatoes out of the oven and bisected them. He put a small pat of butter in each, spooned sour cream on, and added chives. They took the steaks out of the oven and placed them on a plate.
“The steaks need to rest before we serve them.” Grace placed large pats of butter on the steaks.
“That’s a lot of butter,” the man said.
“This is how French restaurants do it. That’s where he ate before he died.”
“Ok. Are we ready to eat?”
They sat down to eat.
Your meal is served.
[The subtext to the above story, by the way, is the Crystal was going to get an abortion and I was impotent.]
1. What do you think he did?
This question seemed a bit pointless, since we all know what he did, or did not, do. I guess if pressed, I would say the elegance of the meal probably meant that he kidnapped young twenty-something men, murdered them, and had sex with their corpses. Just on first blush, that would be my guess.
2. What are your first impressions?
Eric: Looking at how much butter we used, I’d say if the shotgun shells didn’t kill him, this would have.
Grace: This is very elegant. Simple and clean flavors. It’s like it’s classy, but working man.
Eric: Like the Old Man and the Sea. Or a French peasant.
Crystal: He didn’t mess around. Also, I’m not getting an abortion!
Eric: Creative license!
3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?
Eric: This is an important question here. We’re all pretty happy with this, but would you have picked it on your own?
Grace: This isn’t far off. It’s nice and solid, but I would have maybe gone with a roast chicken. Something satisfying and homey.
Crystal: This is really complete. Mine would be a little more eclectic.
Eric: I’d definitely take the steak. I wouldn’t complain if this were my last meal. I always had a prejudice against NY Strips. I guess they seemed like a lower class cut to me. It always used to be associated with steak and eggs or something, but this one is really good. The Caesar salad would be the only thing I would never have asked for.
4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?
Grace: I think it’s all pretty great. I don’t like the Caesar salad as much, but I don’t think we did that right. Anyway, a Caesar salad is for when you don’t really want a salad. It’s like a “boy salad”.
Eric: A “boy salad”?
Grace: Girls order salads as meals, but boys order a Caesar when they don’t really want to eat salad, and it goes with something else.
Eric: See, I think women order a Caesar when they don’t want to eat much, and that’s their meal. I’ve never been into Caesar salad, since it’s just croutons, lettuce, and dressing. How do you make a salad without tomatoes and cucumbers? I’m glad I got to try a homemade Caesar dressing, though.
As for the strong elements, everything else. The potato was great, the steak was amazing. I ate the gristle. That’s how good it was.
5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?
Very good. No surprises. This was pretty traditional.
Crystal: The man knew what he was doing.
Eric: It’s understated, like his fiction. (how clever of me!)
Crystal: I used to love Hemingway in college. I’d always write papers on him.
Eric: I always felt a lot of pressure to write like him. Hemingway and [Raymond] Carver. A bunch of stories where people are talking and no one is saying what they’re actually thinking. They speak in text message voice, with no inflection. And everyone’s trying to quit drinking, and they smoke cigarettes. I think a lot of people were writing like that for a few decades. Now they’re all writing in a new style. It’s weird.
Eric: Oh, wait! Huge surprise (though it wasn’t exactly part of the meal) were the anchovies. I LOVE these anchovies. I want to buy a package of them and sit around at home eating them.
Grace: You might just like these types of anchovies. They apparently have a perfect balance.
6. How satisfied are you after the meal?
We were all very satisfied.
Eric: I feel like because we respected him a lot (as opposed to a murderer), it made us very introspective. We thought a lot about Hemingway and what we were eating.
Grace: Not to get all foodie about it, but this meal satisfies a different class of person. It’s not like a bunch of fried foods or a hamburger or something.
Eric: Right, that’s all hangover food. This is very solid and clean. This is a meal I would eat when I’m having “me” time. I’d have a bubble bath after this, or something.
Crystal: I don’t think this meal is actually that reflective of a rich person versus a poor person, though. In Europe, the people in the countryside tend to eat very nicely because they cook for themselves, and it’s simple, but good food. This could be something a farmer would eat.
Eric: I could have this meal every day. Well, maybe not every day. That would be gross. Once a week.
Grace: Papa had it almost all the time. At Michel’s Christiana, in Ketchum, Idaho.
Eric: He ate it so often that he killed himself.
7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?
Eric: Maybe just one spoonful of dessert. This is the kind of meal where I want to eat just enough, but not to be any more full than this. This is perfect.
Crystal: A cigarette?
Eric: I crave the idea of a cigarette, but not an actual cigarette, I think.
Grace: A digestif would be really nice.
Eric: Oh, definitely. I’ll have a digestif! Also, my favorite shotgun! Juuuuuuust kidding…
8. What there anything missing that you would have liked?
Everything was awesome. Nothing was missing.
9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?
Grace: I feel great. Perfect.
Crystal: I feel really happy.
Grace: I’m full, but not too full. Fully satisfied.
Eric: Would you be surprised if I went home and killed myself?
Eric: Me too.
Grace: Let’s not play this game.
Eric: I’m just saying, if I was 65, this would be a nice way to eat before going.
10. Ready to die??
Yeah, we’re all pretty good with this meal. If this were the last one, we’d be going out in style.
Crystal: That’s the thing about Hemingway, he really did know how to live.
Eric: Well, for a limited amount of time, yes.
- Simple works. Great ingredients just being heated up or mixed together can be enough.
- Ortiz Anchovies. They don’t fuck around.
- You probably need to make the mayonnaise separately by emulsifying the egg yolk with the oil, then adding the other ingredients. Otherwise it just seems too hard to get the creaminess you want.
- My Ernest Hemingway impression is middling, at best.
And finally, the LSC has now been in existence for over a year! Thanks to all the wonderful readers and guests who have made this fun. I know there have been a few sabbaticals from time to time, but hopefully 2012 will be the year of many, many last meals and only one arterial bypass! Happy New Year!