In Valerie Stivers’s Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.
To capture the weird factor in Carrington’s work, I used a molecular-gastronomy technique to make balsamic gel beads.
Surrealism today is mostly a chapter in art history, so it’s difficult to appreciate the wildness and power it once had, or to imagine (or fear) that it might rise up from the pages of a book and possess a cook and her kitchen. But it felt like that’s what happened when I essayed to cook from the works of the English-born surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington (1917–2011). Carrington’s works are full of animal familiars, animate vegetables, and impossible foods like “pomegranates and melons stuffed with larks.” In one story, there’s “a plump, fat chicken with stuffing made of brains and the livers of thrushes, truffles, crushed sweet almonds, rose conserve with a few drops of some divine liquor. This chicken, which had been marinated—plucked but alive—for three days, had in the end been suffocated in vapours of boiling patchouli: its flesh was as creamy and tender as a fresh mushroom.”
Well then! As one might imagine, cooking that dish, or anything from what one introduction calls the “writhing, dense thicket” of “Carrington’s version of Jung’s collective unconscious,” was intimidating, and I was concerned that anything edible would be too ordinary. I didn’t have access to larks or live chickens. I had no giantess tart pan, and I don’t quite have the stomach to make truffled brains or suffocate anyone in patchouli fumes or marinate her alive. To my surprise, though, the spirit of the book seemed to rise up within me, and the mostly invented recipes were better than I knew I could dream up, brighter and more sour, weirder and more delicious. I thought they looked right and tasted even better. Read More