It would seem that Zero Mostel was a sucker for foot jelly — a veritable fiddler on the hoof. And it must be said that there’s a tremendous visceral appeal in having a trotter all a-bubble on the stovetop for the better part of a day. For goodness sakes, many a savory pie or festive aspic demands it, and heaven forfend that boeuf go sans gelée.
It’s the “pleasant gas” part of this recipe that perplexes. Sure, Sammy Davis Jr. was all peppy for petrol in this early ’60s Shell Oil ad, but it’s not especially likely that the Candy Man was tapping out “What a Gas!” in celebration of cholodetz. Seeing as I had a Styrofoam tray full of cow feet in the freezer on this past, rain-drenched Saturday, it seemed written in the stars — or by the stars assembled by Ms. Dinah Shore in her 1966 “The Celebrity Cookbook” — that I find out for myself.
“You bring the calf’s foot to a boil and skim it. Put in the bay leaf and simmer it a good three hours. Then remove all the meat and gristle from the bone. Chop it up and add to the strained liquid. Add the other ingredients and boil for a further 15 minutes. Slice the eggs and put them in the bottom of a very decorative dish. Put in the gristle and pour the liquid slowly over it. Then chill it and enjoy!” — from “The Celebrity Cookbook”
It’s not often that one encounters the directive to reintroduce extracted gristle to a recipe, but as a friend of mine pointed out, “Something tells me that what Zero Mostel didn’t know about calf’s foot jelly wasn’t worth knowing.” Back in it went.
I’ve no basis for comparison, but the gelatin set up solidly in the fridge, with the eggs and gristly bits suspended amusingly throughout and the flavor was … well it was meaty. Very meaty. Nearly unnervingly meaty and grimly nutritive — like something that would be administered by a starched Victorian nurse after a faint, or possibly the vapors. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant or even un-tasty — just a tad joyless.
Neither my husband nor I detected any of the aforementioned “gas,” either pleasant or unpleasant after consumption (come to think of this, it’d probably cure a case of consumption as well), but that might have been resultant of the insufficiently decorative dish in which I made it. Dunno — I’m all ears should anyone care to share hooves-on experience in the comments below.
It’s not so much the invocation of “garbage” as Ms. Diller’s curious notions of kitchen hygiene that gives pause.
And I’m both intrigued and alarmed by the notion of Mr. Magoo’s false morning after hunger.
So, which Celebrity Cookbook recipe ought I attempt next?
Phyllis Diller’s Garbage Soup
Jim Backus’ Chili
Bette Davis’ Red Flannel Hash
Dean Martin’s Burgers
Carolyn Jones’ “That Fish Thing”