A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a 1968 copy of the first American edition of the Larousse Gastronomique that she found at a yard sale. It’s a mixture of fascinating information and hilariously dated pictures–the color plates are printed with ghastly separation–of the ponderous, baroque platings that were the norm before nouvelle cuisine broke free. Giant roasts, birds, or hams covered in pastry, surrounded by things stuffed with more things, arranged in concentric obedience–it looks positively medieval now, and reveals how far food culture has come since then. It’s true in music, too: the other day “Crazy Train” was on the radio, and I laughed at how the once-diabolical Ozzy now sounds like teen pop, much in the same way that the Ramones practically sound like doo-wop compared to the hardcore that followed them.
It’s not just the presentation from that time that’s anachronistic; the idea of preparing a huge hunk of animal for anything other than a big party just seems silly and wasteful. I almost never buy roasts, since it’s just so damn much meat. Last night the three of us split a beautiful ribeye. Sure, I could have eaten a bit more, but it was the right amount of meat from a health and general consumption point of view. Plate-obscuring steaks for one are an apt symbol of our national eating disorder. But something about the image of a big roast surrounded by vegetables caught in my mind, and got me thinking about a super-traditional Christmas dinner. That, and the presence of a pork shoulder in the freezer, which I had originally bought to grind into sausage. Read the Post X Marks The Spot