It’s our first Dinner and a Book in 2014 here in Santa Fe.  This month we read “In the Devil’s Garden:  A Sinful History of Forbidden Food.”  I loved the book but others found it disturbing or downright unreadable.  Some suggested the author, Stewart Lee Allen, needed a great deal of therapy.  He was taking the heat for recounting the unusual eating habits of other cultures and times.

We could have gotten into a whole discussion about our own prejudices about food:  why not organ meats?  Why not dog or cat or horse? Instead we had a lot of fun recounting some of the outrageous (to us) taboos and practices of yore (and not so yore, since we recounted Mitterrand’s last meal including not one but two delicate, outlawed songbirds). 

None of us were really inspired to cook anything from the book.  The Roman version of the now popular turducken, a “cow stuffed with lamb stuffed with pig stuffed with rooster stuffed with chicken stuffed with thrush” was out of the question, as were, of course, the outlawed songbirds. 

So we went back to things that we love and cherish.  There were Julia Child’s scalloped potatoes, Stilton and Triple Cream Cheeses with a tomato basil bruschetta, salmon with a wonderful herb crust, a potato casserole with onions and cream cheese, Deborah Madison’s carrots with coconut butter and lime, flourless brownies made with almond butter and a lemon farina pudding. 

I made brioche.  I was somewhat inspired by the author’s recounting of the beginning of the French Revolution – begun by the peasants not because they were starving, but because they were denied the soft, buttery French bread of the nobles.  That seems like a very French reason to begin a revolution. And what’s more French than a brioche mostly made with eggs and butter held together with some flour and takes 24 hours to make?

Here’s Ardis’ wonderful recipe for Chicken with New Orleans Red Sauce.  Another great dish on our not-at-all-inspired-by-the-book menu.  Next month: “A History of the World in Six Glasses.”

Chicken with New Orleans Red Sauce
This is a classic Creole sauce and is not at all like Cajun sauces, which are much spicier. The Creoles considered their cuisine more subtle and sophisticated than the Cajuns'!
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  1. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 4-5 stalks celery, chopped
  4. 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  5. 1 lg can tomatoes (drain juice first)
  6. a pound of boneless chicken (thighs or breasts
  1. Sweat these veggies until soft but not browned in a neutral oil - about 10 minutes. Then add the tomatoes.
  2. Continue cooking until tomatoes start to break down - about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add tomato juice, one can of tomato paste, some thyme and a couple of bay leaves plus enough water to prevent sticking. Cook for a couple of hours, adding more water as needed. You will need to keep an eye on it.
  4. While this is cooking, brown chicken and set aside.
  5. About 30-45 minutes before serving, add chicken back into sauce and simmer until cooked through. Serve with white rice. Pass the hot sauce on the side.
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