Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Art of Dessert - An Excerpt from The Decadent Cookbook

One of our favorite finds as of late is a lovely book called The Decadent Cookbook by Medlar Lucan and Dorian Gray; less cookbook per se, and more of a collection of historical and amusing recipes from bygone eras.  Peppered in the mix are delightful short stories about feasting and decadent eating.  Today, we bring you an excerpt from The Decadent Cookbook, a short story on the art of dessert.  

 Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf
by David Madsen


"Your Holiness - ah - Your Eminences, I meant to say, of course! - my dear and very special guests! I offer you now the climax, the apotheosis, the summit of this rather unusual evening." 

He clapped his hands, and four servants entered the hall, bearing on their shoulders a massive silver dish, in which was heaped what looked like half the cream in Rome; it was decorated more richly than Leo's tiara, with bright red cherries, brown pine kernels, thin green strips of angelica, all kinds of nuts and berries, and was wound about with a great length of dried leaves that had been dipped in gold. The entire assembled company (including myself, I readily admit) drew in its breath.

Strozzi went on, clearly drunk:

"Ah, but all is not what it seems to be, my very dear and special friends! No indeed. What you see before you is but the phantasm of the thing itself - the accidents which occlude and conceal the substance, as our good Tomaso d' Aquino would have said. You see, Your Eminences? I am not entirely unversed in the queen of sciences. Excuse me, I digress. Yes, invisible to your eyes, most cherished guests, is a delight more subtle, more - what shall I say, what term to employ? - more sensuous (for that must surely be the word!) than the simple sweetness which mere appearances
promise. And let me give you a small clue, a tiny hint, so to speak, of the secret which is shortly to be revealed: I provide no implements for this, my final and most exquisite offering; you must
use only your tongues." 

And with that, he collapsed back in his chair. 

The dish was placed somewhat awkwardly in the centre of the table; for some moments we all sat and stared at it. Then Cardinal Salviati stood up, leaned as far as he could across the table, stuck out a greenish, corrugated tongue, and dipped the tip of it into the great mound of cream. He closed his eyes for a moment, licked his lips, then opened his eyes again and nodded. 

"Very delicious," he pronounced. "Very delicious indeed. Flavoured with grappa and wild honey, if I am not mistaken."

 "Bravo, Eminence!" Lorenzo Strozzi cried drunkenly. 

Embolded by Salviati' s initiative, several of the gentlemen and two of the ladies did likewise; they giggled and nudged each other as they extended their tongues to taste their host's culinary 'apotheosis.' The technique, awkward though it was, was clearly catching on. It fell to Cardinal Ridolfi however, to finally expose the 'secret' of the extraordinary dolce; bending across the table and
wiggling his tongue, he pushed it into the creamy mass only to withdraw it again with a piercing and womanly shriek. 

"It moved!" he cried. "God's bones, I tell you it moved! Ah! -"

There was a general commotion as it was observed that the great mound of decorated slop was indeed moving; it shuddered and wiggled, as if suddenly endowed with an alien life of its own. Clotted lumps of cream fell away, nuts and cherries flew off and showered onto the table. It seemed to be growing. Ridolfi by now was having an attack of the vapours, wiping his lips furiously with the back of his hand as though he had ingested poison; indeed, had this been a banquet given by Pope Alexander Vl Borgia, whose memory still haunted curial slumbers, it might well have been.

Everybody was at the thing now, licking and scraping the cream off as fast as they could; people were stretched out across the table, plates were pushed aside or even fell to the floor; there was screeching and laughing and vulgar gestures. I do not think I have ever seen so many protruding tongues in my life, and it is a spectacle I care never to witness again; human beings look utterly ridiculous with their tongues sticking out. Leo should ban people doing it in all papal states. As a matter of fact, I had entirely forgotten about Leo: he was slumped in his chair, spellbound by the goings on. His eyes bulged and watered. 

There was a young woman buried under that grotesque hillock of cream; furthermore, it quickly became obvious, as first a thigh was exposed, then a foot, a wetly glistening pink nipple, ... she was a very naked young woman. The cacophony of screaming and guffawing rapidly swelled in volume as people began to applaud. And still the tongues were at work, probing and wiggling and scraping lasciviously, lingeringly, across the smooth, pale flesh. 


Published with permission from Dedalus Books, and many thanks to them!

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