I am half in awe and half in envy of those food critics with stomachs of steel and livers of iron who chomp their way through platefuls of goodies every weekend on TV, whose life’s work consists in flitting from restaurant to bistro to café and back again, telling us enthusiastically of the gastronomic marvels they sample. I suspect, though, that beneath that epicurean façade lurk aching tummies, gas and arteriosclerosis. What follows may be nearer the mark.
Tucked away off the cobbled streets of a charming hamlet deep in the heart of Transylvania is The Way of All Flesh, the world’s best restaurant for avant-garde fusion food. It is presided over by a melancholy genius of a chef, who wanted to study astronomy, but mistakenly enrolled in a gastronomy course instead. It is there we must make our winding way, ladies and gentlemen, for our culinary feat of the week.
Let’s start with the wondrous walrus blubber soup, a hunk of lard boiled lovingly in squid ink, delicately seasoned with a pungent fungus and garnished with leeks and turnips. The fetid smell of the dank coastlines inhabited by the walrus is set off perfectly against the reek from the fungi grown deep in the bowels of the earth, nicely topped by the mushy greens. This soup is a meditation on the squelchiness of existence. And sprinkled over it are some alliterative baby bee bottoms, adding a glimmer of summer to the concoction.
I’m worried, very worried. This damn thing is concentrated cholesterol, every spoon must be depositing lumps of fat in my arteries. My last triglyceride reading was terrible. I’ve been taking atorvastatin for months, but I had this shooting pain in my chest last week, although the doc did say it was gas. Sadly, I have to earn a living. Back to work.
Friends, you should also try the Witches Brew. Among its many astounding ingredients are eye of newt and toe of frog/wool of bat and tongue of dog/adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting/lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing. It was after tasting this dish that a couple called Mac and Beth wrote in a glowing review, “The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees/is left this vault to brag of.”
Let us move on to the appetisers. You could taste the delightful giraffe masala tikka, modestly covered with banana leaves and dunked in bat blood. You may nibble on smoked morsels of zebra ham, fondly slathered with sea-urchin sauce. Or you could emulate Lear’s old person of Putney/whose food was roast spiders and chutney.
Oh hell, I forgot to take my antacids again. This stuff is bound to give me gas. I’ve had this awful dyspepsia for months and a gnawing pain in my stomach. The last time I forgot my antacids, I had to survive on idlis and buttermilk for a week. Even that didn’t stop the heartburn and acid reflux.
Onwards to the main course, folks. Please choose from the braised wombat with mascarpone cream sauce and mangelwurzels or kluski pasta with wild shrimp and domesticated buffalo nuts or a rhino rezala with adorable pickled black beetles.
I’m sure this will only make my amoebiasis worse, not to speak of my hypertension, ulcers, flatulence, bloating, giardiasis, colitis and blood sugar.
For dessert, ladies and gentlemen, I heartily recommend the treacly pineapple flavoured Aristozyme, the incredibly digestive Aqua Ptychotis syrup and the piece-de-resistance, Zantac.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. Views expressed by the author are personal.