Vintage Cooking: Could Devilled Eggs Really Be Making A Come Back?

Friends came around to dinner this weekend. Since we moved to the apartment we entertain less and to be honest I was feeling out of practice when it comes to cooking for the masses from our matchbox of kitchen. IMG_2840

 

When I researched what to cook on the Internet – keywords being “easy” and “quick” – I noticed a distinct return to the sort of food we used to dish up in the eighties, and it made me feel strangely melancholic because it was towards the end of that decade that I first began hosting dinner parties; around the time I first considered myself a grown up, I suppose. Needless to say, I’ve regressed since then. In those days we didn’t worry about carbs and calories and felt no shame about chucking a vat of Lasagna, Coq au Vin or Moussaka on the middle of the table.

 

I got away with a posh Mac and Cheese once, although I did gentrify it with some bacon, leeks and a sprinkling of paprika.

 

Reinventing Coq au Vin this weekend crossed my mind, but the old man poo-pooed it, so instead I opted for a new recipe, some slow-cooked lamb shanks, which turned out to be another cooking disaster to add to my extensive list. After three hours of cooking we needed a hammer and chisel to get the meat off the bone.

 

Fortunately they were good friends and The Princess has been in bone-heaven ever since and completely forgotten about when I forgot her sixth birthday.

 

One of the recipes I spotted on the Internet that appears to be making a comeback is “Devilled Eggs”, which made me realize just how far we’ve come with food over the past thirty years.

 

IMG_2842There are obviously a lot of eighties recipes that seriously prompt the bile to rush straight to the back of my throat – “Stuffed Marrow Rings”, anyone? – but I still can’t part with this Hamlyn cookbook from that period. I dip into it for old family favourites like Refrigerator Cake – which the kids always insist on for their birthdays – and bread and butter pudding. Most of the recipes are far more conducive to the cooler UK climate rather than the one we live in now – even though we persist with turkey and gravy on Christmas Day, because I believe in maintaining your culture even if it does mean filling your belly with hot, crispy roast potatoes in a sweltering thirty-five degree heat.

 

I’m no food snob – if anything I’m more against the newfound need for small portions and perfectionism in the kitchen that we’re continually indoctrinated with, and I remain a staunch fan of the simplicity of the egg – particularly now that scientists have undone the Fatwa for eating them, which means that after my twenty-year purge I’m able to make up for lost time on scramblies and omlettes – but as with stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers, stuffed eggs do reek slightly of grandma’s bedroom.

 

Perhaps current food trends like ‘deconstruction’, smashed food, foams and smears etc will go out of fashion in the same way stuffed tomatoes and eggs did and then we’ll start heralding back to the recipes of bygone years and make it a trend to go vintage. To be fair, there’s a soft place in my heart for the stuffed tomato, because it was the first recipe with more than two ingredients that I learned to cook in my home economics class in school.

 

These days, I pimp my Bread and Butter Pudding with raspberries and white chocolate to bring it up to millennium standards, although in truth it’s because the kids gag on sultanas. I shall be cooking Shepherds Pie at my next dinner party.

Too Middle-Aged For A Deconstructed Margarita

I was reminded again of my advancing years on Saturday night, when I innocently requested a Brandy Alexander in a bar.

The waitress looked at me as if I’d just time-travelled from the eighties.

It’s been a while since we went to a cocktail bar, admittedly. The last time was probably circa 2010 on Hamilton Island and obviously things have changed in the last three years.

I realized I was out of my eighties comfort zone when the only cocktail I recognized on the menu was a good old-fashioned Margarita.

Too Middle-Aged for A Deconstructed Margarita

You can’t go wrong with a Margarita, I thought innocently.

But even the Margarita has grown up, or should I say ‘evolved’? I’m not talking about the frozen version either, which even I’ve projectile vomited on occasion after a few too many at some seedy Mexican restaurant.

No, I was served a ‘Deconstructed Margarita’ which is a kind of DIY version of the cocktail.

Apparently it’s all very ‘feng shui’ or whatever the descriptive term for ‘f*cking pretentious’ is these days.

I blame Masterchef.

Maybe I’m too cynical, but what’s with the deal with deconstructing food and drink these days? Are chefs getting that lazy that they can’t actually combine ingredients together now? Don’t we pay to eat out because we’re not very good at the ‘construction’ part of cooking?

I first noticed this technique of ‘deconstructing’ on Masterchef in the form of a ‘Deconstructed Lasagne’ and I remember being secretly appalled. It’s hardly creative to ‘not’ put something together in the first place is it? I mean EVEN I can make a Lasagne, and to be honest if I separated all the ingredients (most of which I generally try to disguise), my kids would be out of the door like a shot.

So my ‘Deconstructed Margarita’ came out on a mirrored tile, (because everything is presented on a board or a mirrored tile these days – it’s just so Millennium) in a sea of green neon. The alcohol component was reassuringly in a glass, however the salt component came in the form of salt foam (WTF – I blame Heston Blumenthal) in another glass, and pretty slices of lime and pieces of ginger made up the rest of my smorgasbord of ingredients.

The drink itself was good but I did miss the contrast of the lip-smacking salt tang around the rim of the glass. I just wasn’t sure what to do with the salt foam. Eventually I put a teaspoon of it in my mouth, but for a horrible moment it just felt like I’d been dumped in the ocean and got the mouthful of sea water to prove it. The ginger was a nice touch but getting the right quantity in my mouth without singeing my palate was tricky.

Why is everything so over-complicated now? What happened to the days where you got what you asked for and didn’t end up with a piece of art on your plate or the Chef’s interpretation of art, which as we know can be highly subjective?

Or is my dissatisfaction with my cocktail simply because in middle-age you like what you know and become highly intolerant to anything new?

I have finally accepted Sushi and oysters into my arena of ‘foreign food I will eat’, even though the thought of raw fish goo would have made me gag in the past. I suppose what I’m saying is, that while I’m not averse to change, it has to be a change for the better.

Having to assemble my own Margarita when I’m paying $18 for it is wrong on every level.

So for those of you who never had permed hair, wore Dynasty shoulder pads, baggy shirts or leg warmers, and looked ridiculous dancing to Haircut 100 or Belinda Carlisle, here is the recipe for Brandy Alexander, which is apparently classified as ‘vintage’ now. Of course, they don’t make cocktails with cream these days – it’s just not ‘heart smart’ apparently – which is probably why this iconic cocktail has become extinct.

Brandy Alexander

Too Middle-Aged for a Deconstructed Margarita 

Ingredients

 

185ml (3/4 cup) brandy

185ml (3/4 cup) dark creme de cacao

185ml (3/4 cup) thin cream

1 cup crushed ice

Ground nutmeg, to garnish

To Do

Place the brandy, creme de cacao, cream and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well combined. Strain through a sieve into serving glasses. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve immediately. (www.taste.com.au)

Get sh*tfaced.

Brandy Alexander courtesy of Chuck Olsen at http://www.flickr.com