Jay Gatsby’s Savoy Bratwurst

I have no idea if F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of his protagonists ever had bratwurst for dinner, leastwise the Divers should have eaten this teutonic meal at least once when staying in Zurich, the Swiss make such fine bratwurst, but since I happen to own Jay Gatsby’s personal napkin ring, discovered it some years ago in an antique store in West Egg, Long Island, I can tell you that his spirit is still with us and was with me tonight, when I had bratwurst for dinner, accompanied by some savoy cabbage. This curly leafed vegetable surely would have put a smile on Scott Fitzgerald’s face, savoy has such a nice first class hotel ring to it, doesn’t it? I think, I can say sans rougir that tonight, Jay Gatsby and I had a bratwurst as big as the Savoy.

Spaghetti alla “What?”

It just so happened that some days ago, when temperatures were still a little higher, I felt like pasta for lunch but didn’t have much time to prepare a complicated sauce, you know that kind of Bolognese that needs a day or two to develop all of its aroma or that sauce that Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls starts cooking days in advance and that therefore needs a very special occasion. This day’s lunch, however, was no special occasion at all, nor had it been a special day, I was just hungry and so I improvised and made a cold sauce from freshly cubed tomatoes, olive oil from Sicily, and lots of basil. It looked so yummy though that I thought I should immediately post it on Instagram. Now, that freshly invented sauce of mine needed a name. As it consisted of the two main ingredients of Insalata Caprese, apart from the third one, namely mozzarella, I named my dish Spaghetti Caprese. Of course, shortly after I had posted my lunch, some guy on Instagram would correct me and tell me that Italians called it Spaghetti alla Litigata. Quite humiliating, don’t you think? One is so proud of one’s pasta, done on a whim, just like that, from the hip and ever so yummy, and then one is outed as a Non-Italian!

Paris birthday dinner.

When I turned 35, I was frolicking through the food halls of La Grande Épicerie de Paris on Rue de Sèvres, in Paris’ stylish 7th arrondissement, to get some tea from Kusmi, I was in desperate need of new supplies of Prince Vladimir and St. Petersburg, my two favourite blends (and boxes, because who am I kidding, I buy it mostly for the boxes), but then I got sidetracked, sidetracked by a salami that looked so yummy as any salami ever could, the sign said “saucisson des Abruzzes”, and although I didn’t know where the Abruzzo (or is it “Abruzzi”?) are, Italy, I guess—I do have to look it up one of these days—anyway, I was sure that they produced the best salami in the whole world, it just looked so yummy—perfection, absolute perfection! I bought 500 gr of it, a baguette, a bottle of red wine, can’t remember what kind but I guess St.Émilion as I usually buy St.Émilion, and however Italian that salami was, I was still in Paris, France, wasn’t I? I made it happily to my hotel nearby to meet my parents who were waiting in their hotel room, you see, after dropping my tea in my room, I was supposed to pick them up to go to a nice place to celebrate my birthday, kind of a family tradition to dine in Paris on our birthdays, but I had just made a change of plans: I was planning on having a picnic in my hotel room! Baguette, salami and Bordeaux while looking out of the window. How swell, I thought, how very swell – but my mother’s reply was “What? Are you crazy?” – an hour later I had Bœuf Bourguignon at a nice place on Île St. Louis. Mothers! But I kept the box. I’m a romantic.

Obelix is coming to dinner.

My first comic book was Asterix, and it changed my appetite forever. From that day on in the early 1970s, before I could even read, I’ve been a huge fan of boar. They looked so very yummy and juicy, leaving me with disappointment that I was not invited to those festivities held at the end of every story. So, I give you my ragoût de sanglier, marinated for days, sautéd and browned, stewing for hours with lots of red wine, French, of course—Bordeaux is the closest wine region to Aremorica, to their little Gallic village, I guess—spiced with chillies, juniper berries, some garlic, pepper and laurel from our garden, not from Caesar’s wreath, though, I hope Getafix the druid agrees with it just the same, his potions always looked really yummy.

Something à l’orange.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a single slice of orange involved here, nor any of its juice, but the colour is what amazes me most about it. Ever since Phylicia Rashad’s faked menopausal cravings for something orange on The Cosby Show, just before she was bursting out into tears, the lust for that particular colour has been a running culinary gag in my family. Canard à l’orange, however, is a killjoy in that department, actually I find it highly overrated a meal, and if you don’t care for carrots or pumpkins on a daily basis you must come up with some gastronomic manoeuvres, cabillaud aux écailles de chorizo for instance, which I discovered in a French cookery book dealing with the South of France’s recipes, Provençal cuisine, so to speak, does the trick, for some reasons red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, black olives and olive oil form an orange alliance of exquisite taste, you need some fine bread to soak it all up, the chorizo adds some (ever so irresistable) hearty Spanish vigour to the cod, a fish that normally bores me to death, and though I’m not menopausal at all, I’m having severe cravings for that very orange meal. And they‘re not faked at all.

Dessert!

There are days when nothing goes right. Even though your favourite actress at the moment has won the Oscar for her part in The Favourite, a film that made you smile and laugh and sit in awe at the cinema, but still, that damn coffee machine keeps annoying you in the morning by spilling first water then coffee—never buy a Krups!— and the bus is late again and there’s another grey hair mocking your vanity and, well, you know what I’m getting at, don’t you? One of these days where really nothing bad happens and still you feel like life itself was a bit overrated—until you have dessert, that is. The moment you have some yummy and ever so spongy cake to be washed down with a Sauternes, bottled at a time when grey hairs were not yet an issue, then your day starts to be real’ fine. I mean, really!

I ordered sushi.

When you work in advertising, you’re used to working long hours, and when you’re used to working long hours, you’re used to somebody ordering sushi at 10:15 pm, or at 9:53 pm, sometimes, when you’re lucky, already at 8:07 pm, and you have to decide what you gonna have. I, for once, can never make my mind up, the varieties are so manifold and, truth be told, I never know what the names mean. Unagi, that I know, it’s freshwater eal, I’ve watched Rachel and Phoebe from Friends make fun of Ross’ Unagi misperception often enough, but the rest? Age Shumai? Hamachi Nigiri? Ebi Tempura? Ebi Nigiri Gunkan? Who can tell? Also, I can never remember what I ordered the last time and so I never get what I want, it’s never even close to what I had in mind. But tonight, I won the lottery, everything what I ordered blind was exactly what I wanted. And it even looks so very good! Somehow, although I’m home, I feel like I got promoted…

Becoming a fine snacker.

There are books that just won’t let you go, you find yourself turning page after page—I guess, this is why they’re called page-turners—and all of sudden you faint from hunger. You’ve had no meal since breakfast which was, wow!, ten hours ago. No reason to get alarmed though: this is why snacks were invented. You see, you just can’t eat spaghetti with a book in one of your hands. It’ll end as a disaster. Snacks, however, demand much less attention while eating them, you probably won’t miss a word of the book you’re having with them. There’s just one thing to be aware of: The more stylish the protagonist of the book, the more stylish your snacks should be.

With a little help from my crêpes.

When you’re somewhat blue, for any reason at all, or when the world seems to fall apart, or when there’s nothing really new on Netflix and you’re still angry with the producers of The Crown because that thing that happened in season 2, you know, in that episode where they had Jackie Kennedy comment disparagingly on the royal household in general and Her Majesty in particular, and then they had poor Elizabeth, as some sort of after-effect, take off all vexed to Ghana to dance away not only her marital problems but also her government’s post-colonial misconduct just to prove Jackie wrong, you do remember that, don’t you? Anyway, that thing was all made up! God bless The Guardian for their investigative journalism, it’s been a real life-saver as I had almost told anybody I know I had always known what a bitch Jackie was, and then it turned out she wasn’t a bitch at all, just the perfectly dressed, stunning little trooper she always was. In such moments of humiliation nothing presents a better cure than homemade crêpes, just spread some English orange marmalade (in honour of the Queen) and some Cointreau (in honour of Jackie’s French extraction) on it, no need to flambé the stuff, and there you go again. God save us all!

Spaghetti all’eternità.

Many, many years ago, I was still at university, my parents spent some time in Rome, they visited churches, had gelati and Campari, once settled in, they still had gelati and Campari, but visited fewer churches – dolce far niente, what can I say – and wanted to move as soon as possible, which is quite understandable, in my opinion, people who don’t want to move to Rome when in Rome are not to be trusted, or are they? Anyway, at that time, a former colleague of theirs was living in Rome as a correspondent for a German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and invited them over to his place where he changed my mother’s life forever: he made the first spaghetti my mother would not only tolerate, but would prepare in the exact same way as soon as she was back home. You have to know that my mother’s spaghetti bolognese were actually quite good, as a child I even loved them, but she would never have some herself, too boring, she’d say, Klaus’ spaghetti all’amatriciana, however, were different, they were sensational, all that bacon, the fresh sage, the chillies, the grated pecorino, all that was much more to my mother’s liking, she brought home vast amounts of DeCecco pasta, the brand Klaus used, in these days totally unknown in Germany, totally, I very much blame Klaus for that brand’s international success, and the design and colour combo of their packaging at that time, yellow and turquoise, which I loved, but that’s another story, anyway, for these last 25 years, we’ve had this dish over and over again, it’s still called The Roman Recipe, and I have absorbed it so well, one might say, it’s part of my DNA. What can I say, everything Roman seems to be eternal.