There are few things I love more than excruciating, obsessive, compulsive attention directed at things that the majority of the world deems trivial.
I spend many months of the year in Academia and am surrounded, most pleasantly, by, for example, economists who typify this obsession. While I have respect and admiration for them, I largely exclude them from the pantheon of those who obsess over minutiae, because economists, you know, make a living from their obsession.
No, what I’m talking about are those who get granular upon the asses of things like obscure 78s from some label in Murfreesboro that was run out of the sub-basement of a tool and dye shop.
Or, better, those who obsess over the minutiae of food and drink.
I was so delighted by, for instance, Cod when it came out, and its spawn, like, Salt (mmm, Salt Cod…Brandade… /Homer voice).
I spent a few happy late night hours the other night reading about the PiÃ±a Colada.
I can pretty much read about cheese all day.
There are a few grails in this gustatory realm that I seem to be constantly looking for clues to a riddle I don’t really want to solve. The origins, for instance, of the martini, the margarita, and … Caesar Salad.
We should not bother wondering why we quest for a deeper understanding of things like martinis and Caesar Salads, because to do so would shine an analytic light upon poetry. And who wants to do that?
Rather, we should encourage these quests. We should revel around them. We should whisper clues, sotto voce, and, depending upon the response, realize that we have found a fellow traveler, or just another who will never understand.
After domesticity fell apart tonight (my fault; shocking), and I was left home alone while M and the kids went to the beach, I determined not to wallow in my failings as a father, husband, communicator…human, and to make the best of the situation.
This meant using left over ingredients to cook for myself. Yes, there was a grilled pizza involved, but speaking of this is better left for another time (I do want to have a tweet up, meet up, pizza up at some point and grill pizzas for all of you – it is what I do).
No, this was about the Caesar.
You see, as I am the lone dissenter from all things vegetarian in our little house on the prairie, anchovies tend to remain in their tins around here.
Tonight they were liberated.
I took one and put it in a mortar with a little bit of a garlic clove and a little bit of olive oil, and bashed away. I created a paste.
I then took some good, local romaine (and this will be heretical to many in the trad Caesar world, but, I’m only getting started with my heresy as you shall see) and chopped it up and stuck it in the freezer.
I took some more anchovies, rinsed them, and stuck them in a ramekin filled with milk.
I then stirred a bit more olive oil in my mortar.
Once the lettuce was very cold, but not frozen, I took it out, put it in a wooden bowl, and lightly salted it.
I rinsed off the anchovies that were mellowing in the milk.
Applying the most ingenious technique I’ve come across in ages, I did the dressing-in-the-palm-of-my-hand trick and coated the chopped lettuce with my anchovy, garlic, olive oil mixture. I then squeezed a little lemon juice over it, and tossed with my hands again.
It was, by far, the best Caesar salad I’ve had … maybe ever. I’d say on a par with Musso and Frank’s.
No, there was no egg. No, there was no Worcestershire. No, there was no parm reg. (See…heresy.)
I know what you’re thinking: “Not a Caesar!” Perhaps you’re right, but man did it taste like what you want a Caesar to taste like.
It helped that I ate it with grilled pizza, while drinking a Bandol (even while my dear friend Tanya tells me, on the occasions when I’m stuck eating some crap in transit from one place to the next, that life can’t always be Rose and grilled pizza, I ask, why not?).
The quest continues – for the perfect Caesar/the “real” Caesar – but this was darn close.