James Joyce would have loved it -- a cookbook odyssey through the food and drink mentioned in his fiction with a title as playful as one of his own puns: "The Joyce of Cooking." This gastronomic tour, subtitled "Food and Drink from James Joyce's Dublin" (Station Hill Press, $18.95), was written by Alison Armstrong, a Joyce scholar. Thanks to her book of literary recipes, this year's Bloomsday festivities can include authentic Joycean foods.
While Tuesday will be just another day to most people, fans of James Joyce's novel "Ulysses" will be observing the 105th anniversary of what has come to be known as Bloomsday. For it was on June 16, 1904, that Leopold Bloom, the main character in this revolutionary novel, set out on his modern odyssey through Dublin, paralleling the wanderings of Homer's Odysseus. Hunger is a strong motivator for Bloom who, like the hero of "The Odyssey," knows the value of food and women and says of the body, "have to feed it like stoking an engine."
"Know me come eat with me," the cookbook's invitation to try out these and other specialties of the Irish kitchen, comes from one of Bloom's (therefore Joyce's) many observations about the role of food in daily life.
Armstrong equates "Joyce's concern with the importance of food and drink" with his extraordinary ability to bring characters to life, calling it "a concern that is related to his broader desire to be true to the existing facts of universal human experience as a means by which the unique and the individual may be revealed." He makes his characters' food choices "as individualized as personal appearance or dress, speech patterns, economic status and other social codes."
The story in "Ulysses" begins in the morning of an ordinary day made memorable by Joyce's creation of one of the most human and believable characters in literature. Joyce introduces the protagonist as Bloom moves around his kitchen preparing a hot tea with bread and butter breakfast for Molly, his unfaithful wife, though later in the book she worries that one night he might get drunk and start giving her "orders for eggs and tea Findon haddy and hot buttered toast ... "
While Bloom waits for the kettle to boil, he dashes out to the butcher's shop to pick up one of his own favorites, kidneys. For, the novel states, "Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod's roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys ... "
"The Joyce of Cooking" is a "Ulysses" for the kitchen, with recipes for all these delectables and more. It explains how to poach and fry a whole cod's roe (a popular breakfast dish in Ireland) as well as how to grill the mutton kidneys which were on Bloom's mind as he "moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray."
The cookbook is also full of recipes with fanciful names suggested by other lines in the novel, as is the one for Irish Peas and Mint, which is the result of Bloom's after-breakfast thoughts about his back garden. "Reclaim the whole place. Grow peas in that corner there." Adulter's Delight with Shamefaced Peaches, Luscious Goosebosom and Fizz and Red Bank Oysters are equally intriguing.
As Bloom walks the streets searching for the right place to eat lunch, he observes faces and draws conclusions about people based on the theory that "you are what you eat." He might well analyze his own preference for inner organs and dislike of lobster and canned fish but instead, seeing a "squad of constables," he comments on their "foodheated faces ... After their feed with a good load of fat soup under their belts" and concludes, "Policeman's lot is oft a happy one."
Later he muses that the kind of food they eat is what makes literary people poetical, which explains why policemen are what they are. "For example one of those policemen sweating Irish stew into their shirts; you couldn't squeeze a line of poetry out of him. Don't know what poetry is even." Another character, Gerty MacDowell, prefers to eat "something poetical like violets and roses," and the cookbook prints recipes for candied rose petals and marzipan violets.
Bloom sees the brother of Irish patriot Charles Stewart Parnell and says, "Look at the woebegone walk of him. Eaten a bad egg. Poached eyes on ghost." Sure enough the cookbook includes a recipe for this pun on Ei, the German word for egg. Of vegetarians he thinks they eat "only woebegoggles and fruit ... Nutarians. Fruitarians." So in the section on fruits and vegetables, the cookbook includes a recipe for Don't Eat a Beefsteak Nutsteak as well as for Quashed Quotatoes and Baked Apples of Discord.
Bloom's comment, "After all there's a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth garlic, of course, it stinks Italian organgrinders crisp of onions, mushrooms truffles," leads to a recipe for Mushrooms Saute'ed with Garlic and Onion.
At teatime Bloom remembers his embarrassment once when he was eating stewed plums and poured mayonnaise over them "thinking it was custard." The recipe for Plums in Custard, No Mayonnaise helps others avoid a similar mishap. The Devilled Crab recipe in the cookbook's fish chapter was inspired by Bloom's witty observation, "God made food, the devil the cooks. Devilled crab." And the chapter also includes such intriguing dishes as Fresh Sardines From the Sea, Stewed Cockles MacDowell, Sea-Smelt in Onion, Mackerel Bloom ("Mackerel they called me") and Filleted Lemon Sole de la Dubedat (suggested by the lines, "May I tempt you with a little more filleted lemon sole, miss Dubedat. Yes, do bedad. And she did bedad").
Joyce wrote of "the very palatable odour indeed of our daily bread, of all commodities of the public the primary and most indispensable. Bread, the staff of life, earn your bread." The cookbook tells how to bake brown or white versions of Irish Soda Bread, perhaps the most well-known of Irish foods.
Desserts, called "sugarsticky sweets" and "sweets of sin," include Queen Ann's Pudding ("of delightful creaminess") with Jaspberry Ram, Our Lady of Mount Caramel Pudding ("Sweet name too: caramel"), Proof of the Pudding with Malaga Raisin Sauce, Turko the Terrible Turkish Delight Sherbet and Molly's Melt in Your Mouth Pear.
"The Joyce of Cooking" is for lovers of Joycean language games who will be inspired to reread "Dubliners," "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake" and for people interested in exploring the reaches of Irish cuisine. Undoubtedly, many of the cookbook's fans will find themselves sharing the feelings of author Wyndham Lewis, who wrote an account of his first meeting with Joyce. He said, "I took a great fancy to him for his wit ... for his unaffected love of alcohol, and all good things to eat and drink."
IRISH WHITE SODA BREAD (Makes 1 loaf)
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups sour milk or buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon chopped onion or parsley, optional
Sift dry ingredients together, cut in butter with a knife and mix well. Stir in milk, adding onion or parsley, if desired. Turn dough into a well buttered loaf pan and bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes. Turn out to cool on a wire rack.
IRISH STEW (6 servings)
1 pound medium potatoes, half sliced thickly, half thinly
1 pound onions, sliced
2 pounds boneless lamb neck, cut up
1 sprig fresh thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large casserole arrange alternate layers of the thinly sliced potatoes, onions and meat, sprinkled with the thyme, cumin, salt and pepper, and continuing until all ingredients are used, ending with a layer of the thickly sliced potatoes.
Add 2 cups cold water, cover tightly and simmer over moderate heat or bake in a 350-degree oven for 2 hours. (The bottom layers of potatoes and onions will dissolve, absorbing meat juices to make a creamy sauce.) If a non-traditional but more colorful stew is desired, add 1/2 cup each sliced carrots and diced turnip during last 45 minutes of cooking time.
JUGGED HARE (3 to 4 servings)
"Jugged hare. First catch your hare."
1 large rabbit (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), quartered
Cider vinegar mixed with equal amount of water to cover
1 large onion, sliced
4 to 5 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
1 cup sour cream or fresh cream curdled with lemon juice
In an earthenware crock, immerse rabbit quarters in equal parts water and vinegar. Add onion, cloves, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark place at least 2 days. Reserving the marinade, remove meat from bones and shred it. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet and brown meat, turning often. Add half the reserved marinade (with the onion), cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir in sour cream.
Good with boiled new potatoes.
OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARAMEL PUDDING (4 servings)
6 unblemished seville oranges
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 drops vanilla extract
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish
Thinly slice oranges and reserve juices. Distribute slices among dessert dishes. In a stainless steel saucepan, combine butter, cream, syrup and brown sugar. Cook until smooth, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over hot fruit and decorate with spikes of slivered almonds across the tops and around the sides of each dish.
TURKO THE TERRIBLE TURKISH DELIGHT SHERBET (Makes 2 quarts)
1 very ripe pineapple, peeled and cored
1 very ripe mango, peeled and pitted
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1 teaspoon kirsch
Slice pineapple and mango and pure'e in a food processor. (Mixture should be 5 cups pure'e to 1 cup sugar; add more sugar to taste if desired.)
In a heavy saucepan, moisten sugar with just enough pure'e to wet it. Dissolve sugar over low heat, remove and stir in remaining pure'e and kirsch. Blend thoroughly and freeze in a 2-quart container. If desired, garnish with white grapes and slices of fresh mango and lemon, cut paper thin and dredged in confectioners' sugar.