Posted tagged ‘plum pudding’

We’ve got food style

January 3, 2013

What is a cream puff made of? Why is sukiyaki called “the friendship dish”? What are those towering crepe-like desserts my grandmother used to make? If your recipe calls for a cup of tomato juice, and you’re out of it, what can you do? And a flip is a what?

More than a year ago I wrote a post that could have been called “Why I love the AP Stylebook.” Just as writing has its specialties, so style has its specialties. Writers may concentrate on, say, travel, food, parenting, technology, or essays. For food writers–and, to an extent, wine and travel writers–there’s (The New) Food Lover’s Companion.

Food writers, editors, and fact checkers keep Food Lover’s Companion close at hand. “One of the best reference tools we’ve seen, this is a must for every cook’s kitchen library,” said Bon Appetit. Not being anything close to a food expert, I had FLC open constantly when editing at Washingtonian. It’s still occasionally useful, on and off the job–and just plain interesting.

Who knew that “bard” is a verb? To bard is to tie bacon or fatback around lean meats or fowl so they don’t dry out during roasting. You remove the fat shortly before the meat is done to allow it to brown. Carpetbag steak? Not what I thought it was. It’s steak stuffed with seasoned oysters, then grilled. FLC explains how Peking duck’s skin gets that way (air is pumped between honeyed skin and flesh before drying) and that a “whiskey sour” can also be made with bourbon, gin, rum, and other liquors.

Last year I read with bemusement some early writings of Nora Ephron, who spent much of the 1960s learning to cook elaborate meals. Apparently this was quite a thing among young women of the time–fancy dishes, fancy dinner parties. Flipping through FLC reminded me of the less elaborate dinner parties and holiday meals my parents gave. The definition of “stud,” for instance, brought back an image of learning to poke cloves into a ham (unevenly) and feeling proud of having a task of my own. And “hard sauce.” The other grandparents, Irish who’d long since climbed the lace curtain, served plum pudding with hard sauce every Christmas. The description sent me right back to that heavy, gleaming table under that crystal chandelier, wearing my holiday best, trying not to grimace at the taste but licking the silver anyway because there was no place I’d rather be.

FLC tells us that Italian bread is the same as French bread except for the shape. Au contraire! Have Sharon Tyler Herbst et al. not felt or tasted the difference? The guide also doesn’t take a regional stand on crabcakes, though I guess I can’t blame it for not getting into that food fight. It’s Eurocentric at the expense of other continents. Otherwise, I don’t know enough to take issue with much within.

A cream puff is choux pastry around sweetened whipped cream or custard. Sukiyaki appeals to foreigners, so Japanese call it “the friendship dish.” Those Eastern European stacked “crepes” are palacsintas; they can be savory as well. For tomato juice, swap in half a cup of water and half a cup of tomato sauce. A flip is a cold drink made with liquor or wine mixed with sugar and egg, then shaken or stirred (Mr. Bond?) until frothy. Want it warmed? In colonial days, someone would plunge a red-hot poker into the brew before serving. That would get your attention.

Anyone says a style guide can’t possibly be fun, just tell ’em that one.

Copyright 2013 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.