Untainted courage 

’Tis the season that I like to refer to as the “taint” of the year. A contraction of “it” and “ain’t,” taint is one of many names for the human body part residing between the genitalia and the anus (“taint neither one, but…”). It is a small, wrinkled patch of skin, neither here nor there, but in close proximity to both.

To me, the taint epitomizes the place where the sun doesn’t shine, and that is where we are today. Although the days are allegedly getting longer , I for one am not feeling it. It’s still dark, cold, vacuous, and getting more so. We have left behind the ceremonial indulgence of the holidays, yet the light of springtime looms hopelessly distant. Like the taint, we are neither here nor there.

The best way to get over the tainted hump is to feast it away. Marinate it, fry it, drink it, put mayo on top, and eat the pants off of whatever you can get your mouth on. Tomorrow may be too late.

Now is the time to bust out that special jar of pickles you made last summer, or that elk backstrap somebody gifted you. Eat it while you can, before the freezer burn eats it for you. Soon enough you will be able to grow, hunt, gather, and otherwise acquire more. Now is when you cash in. Now is when you turn it up a notch, all the way to 11.

If you don’t have any special stash of some’some’ tucked away somewhere, then go to your friends’ house and raid their stash. Trust me, they could use the company. Bring wine. If your friends don’t have good stashes, then go to the store and spend that extra dollar. Buy something that you haven’t bought in a while, or something you’ve always wanted. Get some chocolate-covered malt balls, or smoked salmon pate, or some fancy jar of some’some’. Take it home and have a feast, making sure that you have plenty of the following two items:
1) wine
2) something to chew while drinking wine

I will now present three alternatives for fulfilling this holiday duty. Omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike will be accommodated.

For you omnivores and carnivores, I cannot overstress the oral optimization to be achieved when meat and wine are simultaneously in your mouth. For this equation to function properly, the meat must not be lean—there must be fat to combine with the wine’s acid. Lean pieces can be fattened-up by the application of a variety of products, such as bacon grease, butter, mayo, oyster sauce…ve hov many vays, ya.

Add spices early on, then salt, and add minced garlic when you turn off the heat so it barely cooks. Quasi-vegetarians can substitute salmon.

As for the wine, make it lusty and red, like a chianti. I wouldn’t recommend going with white wine unless you really know what you are doing.

Once you’ve got a handle on things, here’s an advanced tip that is guaranteed to liven up the plate of any blood-in-the-wool carnivore: Take the leftover grease and fry up something green. Tough greens like kale you might want to par-boil first. Softer greens, like broccoli, can be added raw to the hot pan with just a little water to steam them. This would be an especially auspicious time for a little pour of oyster sauce. Cover. Check and stir often. Cook until neon green.

Vegetarians, there is no way to replicate the aforementioned experience without meat. Maybe, someday, flavor scientists in New Jersey will be able to chemically mimic the flavor, but I don’t think they could replace the texture, or the sensation of melted fat sliding in your mouth, drenched by washes of wine like ice water in the desert.

Nonetheless, there is plenty vegetarians can do. Stuff a squash with bread and cheese and maybe eggs. Chew, while partaking of a sip of some wine. Let us know what you come up with.

For those among us who wish to abstain from all animal products, including eggs and milk…well, you have fewer options. On the other hand, the bar must already be pretty low. So I recommend a different route altogether. A route with fat, to be sure, and alcohol, of course—’tis the taint, after all. But this equation is sweet, rather than savory. The acid component is replaced by sugar (not honey, dear vegan), which is juxtaposed against the fat, producing flavor.

Thus, vegans, let me recommend the Silken Crème

For one pint glass, combine 1 cup chocolate Silk (easily the best brand of chocolate soy milk on the market) with 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon chocolate extract. Stir as little or as much as you want. Serve on ice. Very good after meat and wine.

Drink. Repeat ’til springtime.
E-mail Chef Boy Ari: flash@missoulanews.com

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