Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wine Country Soap Opera; "For Leg Of Lamb"...

Wine can clear
The vapors of despair,
And make us light as air.
-- John Gay: "The Beggar's Opera"

There's not a lot of context given for the recipes in Adventures in Wine Cookery. But, oh, if you go hunting, you find all sorts of soap opera!
FOR LEG OF LAMB that is just a bit different, and easy to do, Mrs. Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug Winery, St. Helena, suggests this interesting treatment: Cover leg of lamb with California red table wine; add 1 onion (sliced), 2 cloves garlic (halved) and 2 bay leaves. Marinate several hours. Drain, reserving marinade. Sprinkle lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place bacon strips over lamb. Roast in moderately-slow oven (325°) about 30 to 35 minutes per pound, basting with reserved marinade.

VARIATION: Make slits in meat; insert rosemary and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; top with strips of salt pork. Roast (as above), basting with California white table wine.

At first blush, I don't see anything "interesting" in this treatment; that's pretty much the way I was taught to cook a pork roast. Tasty, sure, and nice to show that you can do it with white wine or red wine, and needn't get too fussy about amounts of anything used, but nothing much there except name recognition for the contributor.

That's where the fun comes in. Mrs. Robert Mondavi... the first Mrs. Robert Mondavi. This book came out two years before Mr. Mondavi would meet the second Mrs. Mondavi... whom he wouldn't marry until the 80s, right after divorcing our Mrs. Mondavi. (ooooo!)

I wondered why a Mondavi was working at Krug... a little Google-fu filled me in on the fact that the Mondavis (Robert, along with Dad and brother) bought Krug, and it was under that name they started making their own wine. Not very soapy, that, except for the whole Glamorous California Lifestyle setting. But, oh! Ever so shortly after this book gets published.... scandal! Arguments! Dissolution! Robert fights with his brother and storms off to start his own winery (and wine empire). (oooooo!)

It's easy to find little stories about many of the contributors to Adventures in Wine Cookery; it makes me wonder what stories there are behind the contributions to all the small community cookbooks I've got on the shelves. What tart swooped in on someone else's husband (and made a mean layered salad)? What tomato was known for more than just her generous wassail bowl?

And how many food words are also pejorative slang for loose women?

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