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August, 2013 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - August, 2013

Toe Jam

Well, that’s how you know you have too god damn much money: when you go into a bar in the Yukon, ask for the infamous Sourtoe cocktail, the one with the actual preserved human toe in it, swallow the thing whole including the toe, slam the $500 fine down on the counter, and walk out.

As one does.

The Sourtoe cocktail is a real thing, and has been a real thing in Dawson City since the Seventies, 1973 to be exact, when a severed human toe turned up in a boat. You know, as they do. It’s even inspired a book: The Sourtoe Cocktail Club: The Yukon Odyssey of a Father and Son in Search of a Mummified Human Toe … and Everything Else!

sourtoe cocktail book

Well, being Northerners, it occurred to the locals that the best thing they could do with their toe booty would be to preserve it in salt, then charge tourists outrageous prices to drink a cocktail with this most Goth of all garnishes in it. In the beginning, the cocktail was a beer mug full of Champagne, but soon enough they realized that using expensive ingredients cut into the margin and besides, they wanted to cater to the Bacardi and Coke crowd too, so they allowed people to order whatever they liked, “Sourtoe style” and charged them premium rates.

Sourtoe Cocktail in the flesh

Sourtoe Cocktail in the flesh

The rule was, the toe had to touch the lips, and many a toetippler would pose for commemorative photos brandishing the brown and shriveled appendage like a stubby cigar. Naturally, when tourists are paying $20 a shot for Canadian Club with a toe in it, and $5 a shot for CC without, it behooves one to take care with one’s toes, and to put exorbitant fines on anyone who would masticate or otherwise abscond with or damage said tootsie-section. In the Seventies, $500 was a big fine. Not so much today, as one American tourist reportedly knew. He was the (hero? No. Protagonist? No.) nouveau riche or at least nouveau flush in the first paragraph, who apparently had done his homework (there’s a website whose design apparently dates from the 90’s. The 1890’s) and thought the boasting rights were worth the money.

Hell, any fool can get bottle service, but how many can talk about the time they committed cannibalism legally?

French Trim Rib Roast of Beef

French Trim Rib Roast of Beef

Few people hold French cuisine in higher esteem than I do, and yet I have to confess that I’ve never really understood the purpose of French trimming a beef rib roast. I think it’s supposed to be about presentation, a line of thinking that says that having the rib bones exposed makes it look better. (Image above courtesy of Country Valley Foods.)

I don’t see it. To my mind, few things look as good as a traditional English, standing rib roast, brought to the table, browned and dripping juices, looking like the most delicious and primal food imaginable. The rib roast is like a roast turkey, it’s one of those festive, presentation dishes that needs little to make it work other than a sure hand in the kitchen, someone who knows how to season properly, and how to get the timing right.

The point of roast meat, be it a leg of lamb, a turkey, a suckling pig, or a rib roast, is that simple, honest presentation reflects good-tasting, wholesome food.. Good meat is one of those things that speaks for itself, in terms of deliciousness and looks. Don’t tart your roast pig like a fancy lad, just Score his skin, put an apple in the mouth, and roast him to golden brown perfection.

This is one area where English butchers have it all over their French counterparts. No fancy French tricks can compare to the Roast Beef of England.