emeliorations

"Hunger is good discipline." -Ernest Hemingway

Duel of the Dual

This week’s ghoulishly gastronomic installment brings you the inspirations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the classic tale of man’s struggle against his evil within. The novella, as I’m sure you’re well aware, has taken countless incarnations in pop culture, from the big screen to children’s cartoons, and from rock to hip hop.

Though The Nutty Professor might be the most recognizable film adaptation, the award for my favorite would have to go to Abbott and Costello

The entire time I was reading the story, this little number from Arthur played in my head on repeat:

For some reason, that song stuck with me more than any other scene or skit from that cartoon. (An amusing note: the Brain uses the song to teach kids what an allegory is, but he calls the Librarian “The Book Lady.”)

The Who also released a catchy little number called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” about their drummer’s problems with alcohol

But as far as musical references go, I’m personally rather partial to the hip-hop duo who dubbed themselves Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and purported to have the freshest rhymes in the world. (And really, what’s fresher than a rap about Star Wars?)

In the same Vladimir Nabokov lecture that I quoted in my post on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Nabokov contests that “the story of Jekyll and Hyde is beautifully constructed, but it is an old one,” and “that there is a flaw in the artistic realization of the story.” He goes on to argue that “in The Metamorphosis there is a central figure endowed with a certain amount of human pathos among grotesque, heartless characters, figures of fun or figures of horror, asses parading as zebras, or hybrids between rabbits and rats. In “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” there is no such human pathos, no throb in the throat of the story, none of that intonation of “‘I cannot get out, I cannot get out,’ said the starling. True, Stevenson devotes many pages to the horror of Jekyll’s plight, but the thing, after all, is only a superb Punch-and-Judy show. The beauty of Kafka’s private nightmare is that their central human characters belong to the same private fantastic world as the inhuman characters around them, but the central one tries to get out of that world, to cast off the mask, to transcend the cloak or the carapace. But in Stevenson’s story there is none of that unity and none of that contrast… There is really nothing especially pathetic or tragic about Jekyll. We enjoy every detail of the marvelous juggling, of the beautiful trick, but there is no artistic emotional throb involved, and whether it is Jekyll or Hyde who gets the upper hand remains of supreme indifference to the good reader.”

To complete his comparison of the two works, Nabokov asserts, “I do not at all mean that Stevenson’s story is a failure. No, it is a minor masterpiece in its own conventional terms, but it has only two dimensions, whereas Kafka’s story has five or six.” (It should be noted that an entire lecture on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was delivered by Nabokov during his time at Cornell, and it is included in its entirety in Lectures on Literature.  I was most unfortunately unable to get my hands on a copy in time to write this post, and after a thorough scouring of the Internet, I can confidently conclude that it has not been transcribed to the Information Highway.)

I must say that I agree with Nabokov – I didn’t find myself necessarily pulling for Jekyll or Hyde. I got the feeling that I was supposed to be in Jekyll’s corner, but in truth, I may have polarized slightly toward his Hydian tendencies, save the murdering. Though many analyses conclude that this story is an allegory about man’s struggle against evil, I’m more apt to argue that it’s about the consequences of the inability to strike a balance between your socially acceptable “pretty” desires and your socially unacceptable “ugly” desires. The extent of this possibility – striking a happy balance between the two – is debatable. In my meditations on Dr. Jekyll’s plight, I couldn’t form an argument without the following line from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged  feeling its way through the cracks: “In this world, either you’re virtuous or you enjoy yourself. Not both, lady, not both.”

Anyway, my first recipe inspired from Stevenson’s story captures the other characters’ surprise in learning that Hyde is the embodiment of Jekyll’s “impatient gaiety of disposition,” as he so eloquently puts it. It’s a riff on Dr.Jekyll’s butler’s description of Mr. Hyde.

                “Then you must know, as well as the rest of us, that there was something queer about that gentleman – something that gave a man a turn – I don’t know rightly how to say it, sir, beyond this: that you felt it in your marrow kind of cold and thin.”

“Then you must know, as well as the rest of us, that there was something queer about that gentleman – something that gave a man a turn – I don’t know rightly how to say it, sir, beyond this: that you felt it in your marrow kind of cold and thin.”

It’s a bone marrow brulee: a sweet custard incorporating beef marrow, which I baked first and spooned back into the roasted marrow bones. The thought of eating bone marrow makes some people shudder, but it’s utterly delicious. Just like avocado is butter for vegans, bone marrow is butter for carnivores. (Or meat enthusiasts.) I’ve never seen a sweet preparation of bone marrow – the surprise element – and this dish tastes every bit as decadently sinful as Jekyll’s indulgences during his duplicitous experiments. It’s best served on a sweet, crunchy cracker, with sugared berries and a drizzle of a citrusy simple syrup. I used the Blood Orange Simple Syrup that I made for the cocktail below.

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And the second recipe is a cocktail based on the potion that turns Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use dry ice in the kitchen.

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“The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion, to brighten in color, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly, at the same moment, the ebullition ceased, and the compound changed to a dark purple.”

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“I compounded the elements, watched them boil and smoke together in the glass, and when the ebullition had subsided, with a strong glow of courage, drank off the potion.”

I’m going to call it a Mimosa Driver. Or maybe a Jekyll Driver. That’s catchier.  It’s a mimosa/screwdriver hybrid, basically meaning it’s a mimosa with a shot of vodka on top. Or a screwdriver mixed with some champagne, however you want to look at it. To spook it up a little, I used blood orange juice and blood orange simple syrup to sweeten it. And I used Blavod, a black vodka that comes out around Halloween that’s good for layering and making multi-colored cocktails. The blood orange mimosa is sweet like Dr. Jekyll, and the vodka on top is the insidious Hydian influence. Perhaps if Dr. Jekyll would’ve indulged in a couple of potions more similar to mine every now and then, he wouldn’t have met such a miserable demise. If The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is to be viewed as an allegory, the moral that I like to draw is one of my personal favorite philosophies: Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Bone Marrow Brulee

  • 1/3 c. rendered bone marrow (from ~2lbs. bones)
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 scraped vanilla bean
  • 3 T honey
  • 1 cardamom pod (I used black)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 3 in. cinnamon stick
  • Sugar in the raw, or other coarse sugar for bruleeing

If you want to draw the blood out of your marrow (to make it whiter), soak them in salt water over night, changing the water 2-3 times.

Preheat oven to 450F, and arrange marrow bones on a cookie sheet or roasting dish lined with parchment paper. Roast bones 15-20 minutes, depending on size. you don’t want too much of the marrow to melt out. Remove bones from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.

Meanwhile, add milk, vanilla bean, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs and honey.

Once bones are cool enough to handle, use a knife, spoon, or combination of the two to scrape as much of the marrow out of the bones as possible into a small bowl. Some melted marrow will settle at the bottom of the bowl; you want to keep the solid pieces for your brulee. Gather 1/3 cup of marrow (using more will sacrifice a pleasant mouthfeel), cut into small pieces, and add to a food processor.

Strain your milk into a bowl to remove spices. Return to saucepan, and return saucepan to heat. Remove milk from heat just as it begins to boil. Turn on food processor, and pour hot milk over the bone marrow in the processor. (Heating the milk first is very important – otherwise the marrow will not emulsify properly.)

Once marrow and milk are well incorporated, slowly add to the eggs and honey. (Temper if the marrow milk isn’t cool enough. You don’t want to scramble your eggs.)

Pour mixture into greased ramekins (I used leftover marrow. You could also use butter.) Place ramekins in a roasting pan, and pour boiling water halfway up the ramekins. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your ramekin. My smaller ones only took 20. The middle should look set, and a knife inserted in the middle should come out mostly clean.

To serve, spoon marrow into roasted bones (I returned mine to the oven for longer roasting for extra color) and spread the tops with sugar. Brulee the sugar with a kitchen torch, or place under broiler until sugar browns and caramelizes.

Jekyll Driver

  • 4 oz. champagne
  • 1/2 oz. Campari
  • 1/2 oz. blood orange simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 oz. blood orange juice
  • 1 oz Blavod black vodka

Add orange juice, Campari, and simple syrup to glass of choice and stir well. Add champagne, stir gently to incorporate. Measure out vodka and pour gently and slowly into glass so it floats on top of the cocktail.

Blood Orange Simple Syrup

  • 1 c. blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, if possible.)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • Blood orange rinds if using fresh

Add all ingredients to a saucepan, stir well. Place over high heat to bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and allow to boil 15-20 minutes, until reduced in volume by about 3/4. Set aside to cool.

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