Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Not exactly cuisine minceur

New mincers are still available. Not as versatile or as speedy as food processors they are built to last a thousand years, invulnerable to power-cuts, easily washed, and digest everything served into their maw. Even bones. I operated my mother’s mincer and I can hear the sinister tearing noise even now. She was always at it, but why?

Why did immediate post-war cuisine demand so much grinding destruction? We ate a lot of what we called Shepherd’s Pie (I know, I know, we were misinformed. South-easterners call it Cottage Pie.) which required mince but surely butchers supplied that. I recollect much bread passing through the mincer’s alimentary canal but did we consume bread-crumbs on an industrial scale?

She may have mashed potatoes this way, I can’t be sure. And I have an even dimmer memory of bread and meat being ground simultaneously, perhaps for rissoles or an unsatisfactory – and unwisely extended – meat patty. Speculation on this has lead to a fierce argument with Mrs BB and I am now temporarily denied her input on the matter.

Soup? My mother’s soups were not her forte and the constituents were readily, and lumpily, identifiable. Certainly unminced.

QUIETLY FLOWS THE DON Part Two of Don Quixote is less anecdotal and I have reached page 467 (out of 760). Could it be your thing? Here’s a sample:

“Whoever undertakes a long journey… (seeks) an agreeable companion. How cautious should he then be, who is to take a journey for life, whose fellow traveller must not part with him but at the grave; his companion at bed and board and sharer of all the pleasures and fatigues of his journey, as the wife must be to the husband.”


Relucent Reader said...

Interesting post, thank you for posting. Mother had one of those as well, think my brother ended up with it. Yours looks newish: if so,nice to see mostly metal.
As to Quixote: made a run on him many moons ago, undergrad, mebbe? Didna take then, not sure about now or future for Quixote, all that heft o' words. Mebbe an electronic version will work: can't see all those pages ahead.
Hope you and Mrs BB are well.

Plutarch said...

This south-easterner calls it Shepherds Pie when it is made with minced lamb, always have; and Cottage Pie when it is made with minced beef.

My Mum had one of those and she made shepherds pie with it.

Barrett Bonden said...

Welcome back. This isn't ours. Mrs BB's father was a chef and we inherited one used in his kitchen. It was made by the Swedish motorcycle manufacturer, Husqvarna, and was way, way too big. At the time we didn't have a table we could safely clamp it to, it was so heavy. After toting it here and there we finally disposed of it and took the easy twentieth-century way out with a food processor. Which, by the electrical law of things, has been replaced twice since. I was drawn to posting about mincers because of their indestructibility and - even more so - by their design which it appears hasn't changed over at least half a century.

A perfect quixotic summary - all that heft o' words. But, as I've already posted, there's a further disadvantage. The dialogue, sectioned off in quotation marks, is nevertheless simply run on as part of the paragraph. Thus each page is a solid block of text. This is very discouraging and it's remarkably easy to lose your place. Which is a shame. Part Two is far more modern in style and construction and, gradually, the relevance of having a madman knight-errant as the central character becomes apparent. Even so there are other "difficult" classics which deserve earlier attention: Moby Dick for one.

Straford seems a long time ago and I hope your marathon didn't wear you out. Our best to you and Mrs RR.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Mrs BB's Cottage and Shepherd's Pies differ in concept. The former is conventional: mash on top, mince in gravy down below. The latter is intended for absorbing the leftover meat from yesterday's joint, be it beef, lamb, pork or (in a variant I myself invented) cooked sausages. To the mash is added mashed boiled carrot, fried onion and - fearfully important - a small pinch of mixed herbs (thyme, parsley, marjoram and sage). The meat is cut into 8 mm cubes or, in the case of sausage, sliced into four, mixed into the mash and dumped into a Pyrex dish. Another vital treatment involves using a fork to create curls of mash which stand proud of the top surface. After being baked for over an hour, the curls have turned dark brown which I'm sure you could have foreseen. I have eaten at the Manoir au Quat' Saisons, the Tour d'Argent and Joel Robuchon's place in Paris but for the encouragement of barely suppressed greed there is nothing quite like this deceptively simple, robust dish and it is only Mrs BB's habitual use of a certain, comparatively small, size of Pyrex dish that has preserved me from syncope.

marja-leena said...

Oh, I have one of these mills as did my mother. She used it to grind leftover roast beef to make Shepherd's Pie or meat pies as well as grind dry bread crusts for crumbs. I used to do the same but have not for a long time. Now where have I stashed that grinder, long-forgotten but, as you say, indestructible?

The Crow said...

Meat grinder is what my Mom called hers, and she used it for grinding nuts and dried fruits (coarse plate) for conserves, pies, tea breadsand Christmas fruit cakes; coffee beans and leftover meats with the fine plate (not at the same time, of course), the latter to make meat pastes/salads. She always pushed a couple pieces of fresh bread through to help clean out the remains of the other.

The worst thing I ever saw go through her grinder was fresh beef liver. She wanted to try her hand at pate, but didn't know she needed to cook the liver first. All that blood and gore!

Julia said...

Growing up, we had a grinder in our house, but I never remember it being used - it was simply the gruesome machine bound to chew off your finger. This made it quite an attraction.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah! Oma Gretel had a Fleischhacker in the kitchen which produced a steady stream of Frikadellen. My Mamma's tasted better. That brings back memories!

Avus said...

Your description of Mrs BB's shepherd pies had me salivating!

Enjoyed the Quixote quote (or should that be "Hiote hote"). I tried him at about 17 and gave up - perhaps I should have another go. However life seemed to short at 17 and I am now 71 (coincidental inversion there).

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L: Come to think of it, grinding leftover meat may have been what my mother was doing. These days, however, we cut it into cubes for Mrs BB's version of Shepher's Pie.

The Crow: Your mum sounds to have taken advantage of the device's versatility. The great thing is it was so easy to clean, hence no risk cross-food contamination.

Julia: The worst way of discouraging children was to say: "Don't touch". Just think, you may never have played the violin again.

RW (zS): Ah Fleischhacker, a greatly superior word. So German, so animated, so precise.

Avus: Given the constituents there's no immediate reason why the pie should be slaver-worthy. But it is.

DQ: Every so often I'm forcing myself to read difficult, comparatively unpopular classic (Tristram Shandy, next - a much more bumpy ride) which require concentration and stamina. The aim is to discover for myself why they have survived. For the first half of DQ I was baffled; now I think I understand.

Lucy said...

I bought a new one since we've been here (sorry, crappy grammar) I think Tom took a notion to make a terrine which required it and I thought it would be an interesting acquisition; they're always made in the Czech republic I think. The huge amount of bread is required to get the last 50% of the meat through the thing's alimentary system, then it's all so mixed together you think you might as well just throw the bread into the mix anyway. I suppose people preferred to mince their own meat as butchers' mince was notorious for having bone and gristle in it, or else they bought cheap cuts or killed their own pigs and oxen or something.

I hardly use it, it requires muscles like iron bands just to keep it on the counter (it's not the clamp-on kind but free-standing). I fear Emmaus may be calling to it, but for some reason I'm hesitating, I'll feel I've failed, but at least it will probably have plenty of company of its own kind there.

I've just read the rest of the comments. I seem to remember the terrine, which was excellent but which has never been repeated and being enormously labour-intensive did in fact require the mincing of raw chicken livers, very gory. Fleischhacker is just fabulous.

Lucy said...

Oh yes, meant to say, Lakeland do a modern version, swish red plastic and supposed to be very easy to use and efficient. I frequently find myself tempted.

Food processors are noisy and turn everything to a uniformly ground pulp, in my experience, as well as taking up too much counter space and washing-up effort. I am averse to them and won't have anything larger than a Braun handblender.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: In the end we shall be kept apart by the respective size of our kitchens. A division worse than the class war, it seems. It's quite true a food processor takes up working surface space but I think when we bought our present house one of the criteria was just that: the ability to accommodate an FP (underscored by a then unarticulated belief that the FP would be the ne plus ultra of FPs, the Magimix at £200). I raised the point about uniform gloop with Mrs BB and her face took on a lofty look, incomprehensible to me as it may be to you: "It's a case of using the pulsing action." The FP's noise I cannot deny but as to the burden of cleaning the thing Mrs BB has the perfect answer: me.

I hope you have bypassed the need for the terribly conceived Czech Rep device and terrines still emerge from your kitchen. For me they are one of my great treats. I tried to imagine how often they appear but wasn't sure. Mrs BB tells me it depends on the weather; salad days encourage terrine creation. She adds the FP is essential, however.