23 (Sat) January 2021
A Nice Roasted Elephant with Onions and Brown Gravy
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (32) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)
While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book. Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread. The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
Thimble Summer (1939) by Elizabeth Enright, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush. The book is about 9-year-old Garnet Linden, who finds a silver thimble in a riverbed and believes it to be a good luck charm that leads to various fortuitous events that summer: rains that end the drought on their farm, winning a blue ribbon for her hog at the state fair, etc.
It was a pleasant, if otherwise simplistic, read. Though set during the Great Depression, the story is upbeat, owing to the ever-positive outlook of the protagonist, and well-paced in its episodic structure.
[paraphrased in part]
By and by Garnet climbed up on top of the machine to see what Mr Freebody was doing. His eyebrows and big mustache were full of chaff, and he looked like an old walrus that had got mixed up with some seaweed.
“I could eat an elephant,” he told Garnet, “a nice roasted elephant with onions and brown gravy. In fact, I think an elephant’s the only thing that would be enough of a meal to satisfy me now.”
Garnet laughed. “We aren’t having it though,” she said. “Our butcher doesn’t carry it. But we have got five different kinds of pie: apple, peach, blueberry, lemon, and butterscotch!”
Mr Freebody closed his eyes for a minute and sighed as if this was too much for him. “Next to roast elephant I like pie best of all,” he said.
Fortunately, elephant chops were on sale at our local supermarket.
First, I brined the chops in a saline solution for an hour to ensure that they would stay juicy – elephant meat can get a bit dry when roasted. To seal the juices in and add flavor, I browned the chops in butter in a pan, then broiled them in the oven for half an hour, adding onion rings in the final 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in the pan that I had used for browning, I made a gravy with beef stock – should’ve made the roux darker to achieve “brown gravy” – which I poured over the chops before serving.
It was good.
Come to think of it, this could very well have been a Swedish dish. The pan gravy is something that I initially learned as a sauce for Swedish meatballs (see most recently 12.015 Köttbullar with Tagliatelle in Beef Gravy). Elephant meat is very popular in Scandinavia, especially in southern Sweden, in cities like Uppsala, where lindebarn elefant gryta (baby elephant casserole) is a regional delicacy. Garnet might’ve had Swedish ancestry: in light of her family name Linden, which is a common Swedish surname; her home state of Wisconsin, where many Swedish immigrants settled; and her blonde hair, which is the official hair color of Sweden. I should’ve served the dish with lingonberry jam.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)