Until a couple of years ago, I used to make a fabulous dinner once a month, which I would serve to my high school book club. The dinner was designed to go along with the book we had read–either time period, nationality, or foods actually mentioned in the book. I would cook all day and then send the non-book-club family members out to eat while we had our dinner here. I stopped doing it because eventually the book club consisted mostly of kids who were not adventurous eaters, and who left their plates virtually untouched after I had knocked myself out cooking all day. I hated throwing away all that hard work and good food!
Meanwhile, a whole seven years ago, some of my children gave me a gift that they thought would be perfect for me, and it was. It was the Nero Wolfe Cook Book, published in 1973. Since then, I have spent hours salivating over that cook book but I have never made a meal from it. For the entire seven years, I have been promising Robin’s husband Doug (a fellow Nero Wolfe fan) that someday I would make a Nero Wolfe dinner and have him and Robin over to share it. For the entire seven years, Doug had been saying that he would pay for the food if I would cook it. So you see, I had no excuse.
I was determined to make the dinner this summer while Lina was here. And, with Lina’s time quickly running out, we decided to squeeze the Nero Wolfe dinner into this three-day interlude between road trips. Sunday evening after returning home, I looked up the recipes I had chosen and made my shopping list. Yesterday morning I got almost all the ingredients. I had to send Lina out for the final three items: 2 ducks, fresh dill, and anchovies.
The Nero Wolfe Cook Book is a real cook book. There are no convenience foods in that book. The Spanish sauce for the duck called for tomato sauce, and this required buying tomatoes, squeezing out the seeds and juice, adding spices, and simmering them for over two hours last night. The Brazilian Lobster Salad called for homemade mayonnaise, and the homemade mayonnaise called for homemade sour cream. I barely had time after I got back from the store yesterday to get the sour cream started so that I would be able to make the mayonnaise today!
We set the table with our good china, stemware, and my grandmother’s silver flatware. Lucy made a centerpiece out of candle lanterns and glass “dragon’s tears.”
All the food that Lina and I made today was food that was mentioned in various Nero Wolfe stories. We started with the Brazilian Lobster Salad:
It was very yummy. Then we had the Duck Roasted in Cider with Spanish Sauce, Savory Rice Fritters, Corn Muffins, and Squash with Sour Cream and Dill.
This was followed by Blueberry Grunt for dessert.
Why is it called Blueberry “Grunt,” you ask? I wondered that myself, until I tasted it and found myself grunting in ecstasy. It really was delicious.
While we were enjoying every bite of our special dinner, Robin’s daughter Liz took the younger kids out for pizza–just like the old Literary Society days. Lina and I worked hard at cooking almost all day to make this meal, and I found myself experiencing a great deal of doubt that Fritz Brenner, Nero Wolfe’s fictitious chef, could possibly have prepared all those gourmet meals by himself. I’m pretty sure he had help in the kitchen.
We watched an episode of Nero Wolfe between the main course and dessert, and that was very enjoyable also. It seems kind of selfish to have spent an entire day making a meal, but I think it was worth it. And, there is a little bit of duck left over and I’m fresh out of gluten-free bread, so I have a feeling that tomorrow’s lunch may involve a duck salad made with homemade mayonnaise (which was divine, by the way).
That leaves me one day to download five years of my life, plan what to wear at the conference, finish revising a manuscript, and get packed to go.