martedì 25 gennaio 2011
to a porcupine
The Scallion is burying a porcupine as I write. She was discovered this morning on the usual pup walk (that means the adult dogs; puppers can barely handle the terrace), they found her on a path in the woods. Lulu managed to get to her, and the Scallion had to remove a quill from her mouth.
(Lulu is dumb. Just last week I had to remove a thorned twig of the recently-pruned-but-hadn’t-made-it-to-the-compost-pile Banks rose from her muzzle. We went into the woods, Lulu stopping her run to drag her head along the ground and mash her paw violently on her muzzle; I could find nothing in her mouth. We returned home, she was breathing fine, I went to the kitchen to find blood everywhere. Re-opened her mouth, saw thorned twig breaching the roof of her mouth. Taking a big, deep breath, I yanked it. She was fine, though had yogurt and pappa (in this case, reconstituted with water dried Tuscan bread for dinner that night.)
The Scallion returned the pups, took the wheelbarrow, and put the poor creature in it. Back at the house, he asked me if I wanted to see it.
She was a lovely animal (we know she was a she because we checked). Four prominent, practically fanged teeth, two on top, two on bottom. Paws that looked like they were part of a child’s stuffed toy. An ear that looked like it could belong to that child holding the stuffed toy.
Porcupines, according to Wiki, are the third largest rodents in the world (capybaras and beavers are bigger). Our porcupine was probably about two feet tall/long, with a dark coat, and white quills. We don’t know how she died. A gash on her neck, and foam at her nose (which would, of course, indicate poison) were the only indications of something gone seriously awry. We wondered if a wild boar had gotten to her, as wild boars forage in these woods (multitudinous signs of rooting appear; they are rummaging with their long, big noses for Jerusalem artichokes). Other web sources say that a type of weasel (the fisher) attacks porcupines by repeatedly having at their faces. Our porcupine’s face was mercifully undisturbed (except for that foam), and weasels don’t live in this part of the world.
Another possibility is the horned owl, of which there are many. But she was simply too large for an owl to cart away.
We discussed what to do next. The dumpster down the road was the easiest solution but, looking at her, we thought she deserved something more respectful. So the Scallion will be burying her with the remains of the Banks rose.
And then there’s a chicken head in a pot on my stove. What a lovely surprise after seeing a dead porcupine. I had forgotten this when attempting to strain the broth made last night. It’s early morning, and one of its reptilian feet had broken the surface of what will undoubtedly be a fantastic broth (thanks to the feet and head). Like the burial of the porcupine, the task of straining the broth will fall to the Scallion.
Mother Nature today somehow feels too overwhelming.
On our kitchen table are six eggs, a gift from neighbors via my mother-in-law. Straw is still attached to some of them. We got them yesterday, the day they were laid.
Dinner tonight? Zuppa pavese, a simple yet elegant dish (Elizabeth David: “.. it is a capital invention”).
The origins of this are fun, but probably not true. Waverley Root writes that a young peasant girl enriched a simple consommé with an egg before serving it to Francis I of France, who had been taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia. He liked it so much that he took the recipe back with him to France a year later when he was freed.
[This sounds like a prequel to the other culinary myth that Catherine de’Medici took her chefs with her when she married Henry, thus imparting the glories of Italian cuisine to the clueless French. But by this account, her future father-in-law beat her to it.]
You can either poach the egg in the broth, then pour it over the buttered toast. Or you can put the buttered toast in a deep soup tureen, put just the egg yolk on top, and pour the hot broth over it. This is advocated by Root, who then adds, in a parenthetical aside, “Persons inexpert at separating yolks often use the whole egg.”
Ada Boni goes for the whole egg approach, put on top of the buttered toast, the hot broth then is poured over it.
Zuppa Pavese/Soup from Pavia
4 slices of Tuscan bread
4 organic eggs
2-3 T. butter
¼ c. Parmesan, grated
3 c. chicken broth
White truffle, grated, if you’re blessed
Bring the broth to a boil.
In a saucepan, melt the butter, and brown the slices of bread (which you’ve cut in half) in said. Put the bread slices in two deep soup tureens, poach the eggs, remove with a spatula from the bubbling broth, and place carefully on top of the toast. Pour the broth over, and eat.
The possible inclusion of grated white truffle is not part of this classic recipe. But wouldn’t it taste swell?
Elizabeth David, Italian Food, Middlesex, 1954.
Waverley Root, The Food of Italy, New York, 1971,
Ada Boni, La Cucina Regionale Italiana, Roma, 1985.
From Wikipedia.org: “The Battle of Pavia, fought on the morning of February 24, 1525, was the decisive engagement of the Italian War of 1521-26. A Spanish-Imperial army under the nominal command of Charles de Lannoy (and working in conjunction with the garrison of Pavia, commanded by Antonio de Leyva) attacked the French army under the personal command of Francis I of France in the great hunting preserve of Mirabello outside the city walls. In the four-hour battle, the French army was split and defeated in detail. The French suffered massive casualties, including many of the chief nobles of France; Francis himself, captured by the Spanish troops, was imprisoned by Charles V and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Madrid, surrendering significant territory to his captor. The outcome of the battle cemented Spanish Habsburg ascendancy in Italy.”
Happy Birthday, Virginia Woolf!