Brain Food

Sitting in the shelves of everyone of my first cousin’s homes is a copy of the cookbook, “Have Fun with Herbs,” self-published by my grandmother in the late 1950s.  So I thought it would a fitting family unity exercise to dedicate a weekend when all of us, spread across the country, would concoct one of the recipes and then share our  experiences in remembrance of my grandmother on her 110th birthday. 

As I perused the book, I realized that while being a cherished family item, “Have Fun with Herbs” was seriously flawed as a cookbook.  There were many instances where the temperature of the oven was omitted, and that maddening phrase, “cook until done,” was frequently used.  Its dated quality was charming; it seemed that many recipes focused on the novelty of frozen vegetables.  For example, the recipe for “String Beans and Mushrooms” called for a package of Birdseye French Style frozen beans and a can of mushroom soup.  Other expressions included eggs that were “high and scarce,”  presumably describing the high price and scarcity of eggs during World War II, or “an egg of butter,” referring to an estimated quantity of butter in the era before quarter pound sticks were wrapped with tablespoons conveniently marked.  My cousin Susie thought that the theme of the recipes was to add wine early and often, while I detected that many of the recipes included the unhealthy trifecta of butter, cream and eggs.

I was hosting a smattering of local relatives and had considered a variety of unique menu items for our memorial meal.  A buffet of tripe and tongue seemed to fit the bill, but this proposed menu was greeted with outright hostility by the senior members of the group.  When asked which he preferred, Uncle Frank said that he would prefer not to come, and my father begged to have something different.  I got the message and was secretly relieved, since wrestling with a big slab of a tongue, or working with slitherly tripe was a little off-putting.

I then focused on my fond memories of the desserts served at  Sunday lunches at my Grandmother’s house.  My usual seat was at Granny’s right, and she would give me the initials to dessert and let us guess.  There was some sort of homemade strawberry ice cream that was somehow held together with melted marshmallows, and Junket with chocolate shavings served in little Pyrex dishes.  But HM, good ol’ honey mousse was one of the favorites and I decided to make this for the dessert.  As I reviewed the recipe I was not surprised to see that it consisted of honey, eggs and cream and gelatin.  The amount of cream in the recipe seemed overwhelming for this health conscious age, so based on Susie’s observation, I made the executive decision to substitute a cup of sherry for one cup of cream. 

Then the recipe called for placing the sweet creamy concoction in a mold – and I found just the thing.  At Christmas time, I had gotten a catalog from the Anatomical Supply Company (1-800-ANATOMY) which primarily sold posters and models of body parts -i.e. the circulatory system, the ankle, etc – for doctors’ offices.  But I also discovered that they sold molds of body parts as a novelty, and I purchased molds of the left hand and a brain.  Buloop, bloop, bahloop, the honey mousse was poured into the brain and allowed to set.  Working with gelatin can be a little dicey, as too much or too little will result in pure rubber or bloop, respectively.  But as lunch time approached, I was pleased to note that a slight jiggle of the mold revealed a good consistency.  The next challenge was to get the mousse out of the mold in one piece.  My young niece Della and I secretly went into the kitchen and sort of vibrated the thing and then used a little knife around the edges.  Holding our breath, we tipped the mold on to a plate. With a whoosh, the brain plopped on the plate in one glorious and glistening piece.   The Anatomical Supply Company had helpfully provided recipes with their molds, and the brain mold suggested that watermelon jello would produce a most life like brain.  They obviously never considered the attributes of honey mousse – the ecru colored honey mousse shimmied and shimmered on the plate – if this mousse was any brainier it would have been Einstein’s.  We gave Uncle Frank the honors of serving dessert – and told him that since he rejected other organ meats for the entrees, we had found a suitable substitute for dessert.  The poor man was initially panic-stricken at the sight of the life like human brain, but then he erupted in peals of laughter.  As predicted this mousse packed a wallop – the diluted creaminess was more than compensated by the alcohol content – and our group of 10 could barely polish off the frontal lobes.

The missing words in the following poem are all anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the previous or following line.  Your job is to solve for the missing words based on the above rules and context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

******* are meant to be broken is my basic cooking strategy and scheme,

 So I when I made honey mousse I added liquor instead of cream

And then I put it a mold of a brain that was anatomically correct and *******,

So that when it was served, it looked like a perfect human sacrifice.

Picture Uncle Franks’s anguished scream as it ******* the room

The poor man thinks he has to eat what only cannibals consume.







Answers:  recipes, precise, pierces

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