28 August 2010

Ralph Lauren needs proper heraldic consultation--as Andrew Cusack deftly points out. I especially like their fumbling of the lions for Scotland, the Netherlands, and France...

which, oddly enough, reminds me of an old recipe I posted some years back...

Coq au Vin

The cockerel, that vain, imperious bird, stands for vigilance in the Christian tradition, and the French recently adopted it as their national symbol (by recent, I mean circa 1830). It replaced, most sadly, the fleur-de-lis, or lily, which stood for Mary, the patron saint of France. One could say the replacement had something to do with the fact that the cockerel’s Latin name, gallus, is the same as the Latin for Gaul; or that its proud strut is an apt depiction of the French national attitude; or (perhaps most accurately) that the secular powers, having overthrown l’ancien régime only a few decades earlier, felt the need to find a national emblem less steeped in Roman Catholic “myth”.

Whatever the case, the rooster, despite Napoleon’s disapproval (who said that “the cockerel has no strength; in no way can it stand as the image of an empire such as France”), has appeared on French stamps, regimental flags, national seals, gold francs, buttons on the uniforms of the National Guard, and, of all things, t-shirts. (Apparently, it’s also in danger of extinction.) And it figures in one of the most prominent French dishes of all time: coq au vin.

Coq au vin hails from the Dijon region, right in the center of Burgundy. It’s thus little surprise the dish calls for soaking the bird in rich Burgundy wine with mushrooms and shallots. Most Americans use plain chicken, but authentic coq au vin uses the Bresse cockerel--corn-fed, raised like royalty, and kept under the strict supervision of an official government board that oversees the purity of wines and other food products (known as the Appellation d’Origine Controlée--you’ll see the title stamped on certain pricier French wines). There are as many French coq au vin recipes as there are French non-practicing Catholics, ranging from l’haute cuisine to the most rustic and humble concoctions. The recipe I provide here is somewhere in between (perhaps a bit higher than the mean). If you haven’t the time or money to order corn-fed poultry from Bresse, a capon from your local grocer will do. The aged bird will take to its extended wine bath better.

It’s best to marinate the meat in wine for a full day before cooking. If you don’t have the time, you can flambé it in cognac--but having never tried that myself for fear of singing my eyebrows, I can say it’s not necessary. The dish turns out delicieux all the same.

Coq au Vin
1 capon cut into 8 or more pieces
1 bottle of full-body Burgundy wine
6 bacon slices (5 oz), diced

1/2 lb button mushrooms

A dozen shallots

2-3 cloves of garlic, mashed

2 carrots, peeled and quartered

Sunflower oil
Unsalted butter

Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the chicken pieces with oil in a skillet. Remove the chicken. Using the same skillet, add garlic and carrots and cook a few minutes.

Put the chicken, carrots, and garlic, thyme, and bay leaf in a large sauce pan. Pour the wine and add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil at moderate heat.
Cover and cook at low heat for about 2 hours.

Cook bacon, shallots, and mushrooms in skillet until brown (~10 minutes)

When the chicken is ready, add bacon, shallots, and mushrooms, and stir well.

Correct seasoning according to taste.

Serve with warm, crusty baguettes.

Bon appetit!

10 August 2010

Pet Peeve

I've posted this before, but it seems necessary to repost every once in a while. Please note this was written several years ago, so it does not refer to my current parish.

Have you had enough of grumpy traditionalists telling others how to behave? Just wait; you're about to hear more.

Now that we're back in the Midwest, we belong to a parish in a tiny little town replete with antique shops, equestrian feed stores, Victorian houses overgrown with ivy, and acres and acres of cornfields. Our parish is a theologically sound one, with two strongly pro-life priests, and many family-friendly programs. There is generally no goofiness in the liturgy, although the accompanying music leaves much to be desired (the hymnal doesn't contain a song composed before 1981). Of course, I understand that Mass is not about personal preference, so I sing along with everyone else, doing what I can to maintain, if not a good attitude, then at least a tolerant one.

I must confess, though, that I get tired of having within my line of sight (and prominently displayed) tight-fitting jeans, miniskirts, bra straps sticking out from tank tops, bare backs, bare shoulders, and flip-flops. It is even more irritating when they are worn by adolescent girls accompanied by parents who should know better.

I grew up rather clueless about such things. I didn't understand, as an awkward teenager, that my body could actually be attractive to men, and that certain clothing could accentuate my physique. I simply wore what I wore, and thought no more of it. Thus, I do understand why so many girls show up at Mass looking as if they're about to go to a nightclub, or to the beach. Girls do not necessarily instinctively know (especially in today's society) how to dress as they should--and this is why it is up to parents (especially mothers) to teach their children. Mothers, after all, are no longer naïve or ignorant of such things; having dated, married, and, naturally, had sex, they know exactly what men find attractive and what sort of clothing serves as a distraction. So the fact that so many girls are showing up to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass looking like Britney Spears clones shows that parents aren't doing their jobs. (Of course, attending the Traditional Latin Mass, one has the opposite problem: women who go too far in the other direction and equate modesty with frumpy, androgenous, utterly unfeminine clothing; but that's another post for another day.)

So, my dear parents, and especially my fellow mothers, let me list a few no-no's for attire at Mass:

--Bra straps: There's a reason they're called undergarments. They belong under your garments.

--Halter tops: If you feel the need to expose your neck, back, chest, shoulders, and armpits for the world to see, at least have the decency to wrap a pashmina around yourself.

--Cleavage: The last thing Father wants to see while offering you the Sacred Host is a bird's-eye view of your chest. Obvious.

--Tight jeans/pants: This is usually the hardest one for women to grasp. I'll be as frank as possible: the eyes of the most chaste heterosexual man in the world are still naturally drawn to (1) your behind and (2) your crotch. Most women, unaware of this fact, tend to be surprised when they discover it. Consider yourself no longer surprised or unaware. (There is a reason only "emancipated" women and lesbians wore pants in the 19th century; it was considered indecent.) Try to prefer skirts if possible, but if you must wear pants, at least cover up certain portions of your anatomy so as not to distract these poor men trying to exercise self-control over their eyes during the liturgy.

--Skirts shorter than the knee: At every parish, one always has the middle-aged mom who thinks her legs too shapely to cover up and puts them on prominent display when at the lectern doing the reading. Women, please get over yourselves; short skirts are inappropriate at Mass. For one, when you sit, they hitch up to mid-thigh. For another, they just look tacky. Knee-length or longer is far more dignified. (Oh, and even long skirts can be inappropriate if they are spandex-tight.)

--Flip-flops: This is sheer laziness.

Thus endeth the sermon.