How To Cook A Wolf – A Classic Culinary Compendium

How to Cook a Wolf

By Chris Veritas

A wise man always eat well. -Chinese Proverb

How To Cook A Wolf, by MFK Fisher, is a hidden gem. Written during WW2, “Wolf” deftly derides the “war machine”, and the “slick magazine[s]” that ridiculously promote “balanced meals”, at the expense of the individual; so that they are the same from “schools and prisons”, to the “Arizona Biltmore.” According to Fisher, our “Democratic Diet” is routinized, because, “What kills the least number with the most ease is the chosen way.”

Clearly, Fisher has an activist’s spirit. But the idea of the book is not so much to rail against the powers that be, as to cook the wolf at the door, and eat it (after making it taste delicious, of course).

As such, Fisher provides tips, recipes, and advice for living during times of shortages; but the recipes and tips in the book are great for any age; and the prose is so compelling and hilarious, that it makes for a great read, even if you’re not that into cooking.

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Here are a few tips I gleaned from “Wolf”.

1) Add Sherry if you see an opening.
2) Try pigeon and rabbit. On rabbit, Fisher writes, It “has always been associated with good fellowship” and “the jolly reconciliation of man and his fate”.
3) Use water sparingly while cooking vegetables, so it will not absorb the vitamins.
4) When cooking eggs, wash them in cold water first, if you wish to hard-boil them. This way they won’t crack.
5) Fish and eggs are rare in wartime, and during times of shortages, because the flesh is delicate. Fish is always best fresh, and with as little sauce added as possible (If fish is fresh it will not smell very fishy. A fishy smell tells you the fish is aging). And by the way, did you know you can use the oil from a tuna-can to make French dressing?
6) Soap can be made at home, with lye, water and fat. (This tip is from the section on how to make toiletry items at home, during a shortage. She also includes a good recipe for mouthwash).
7) Stuff your oven full of dishes to cook, and your stove-top with things to boil in pots, in order to save money. And use the by-products of your soups and vegetable-boils for bases.
8) “Liquor by the case is generally about 10% less expensive than [it is] by the bottle.” (lol)

Aren’t these wonderful tips?

Fisher’s recipes are also very provocative. Here is one of her recommendations for after-dinner fare. “If you have supped well, for instance on ham baked with apples and sweet potatoes and a green salad, you will probably agree that the best possible ending to such a savorous meal is a bowl of walnuts that have been roasted in their shells in the hot oven while you ate. Coffee is fine with them, but a glass of port is even better…”.

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Then there is “War Cake,” or “cake from nothing,” which includes such common ingredients as shortening, sugar, cinnamon, chopped raisins, and baking soda. Of this cake, Fisher writes, “I remember liking it so much that I dreamed about it at night.”

In the section, “How to Drink to the Wolf”, we are provided with this stirring recipe, which Fisher calls, the “Half-and-half cocktail”. I will relate it verbatim. “1/2 cup dry vermouth. 1/2 cup sherry. 1/2 lemon. Ice. Dash of bitters if desired.” Excuse me for a moment, while I make one of these.

Her recipe for Beef Tartare is simple, and can be accomplished without much fuss. Beyond the beef, “egg” is required, plus “olive oil, parsley, chives, basil, salt and pepper”. After the recipe (as with the dozens of others she provides), there are instructions included for cooking it.

Last of all, in the chapter titled, “How to rise like new bread”, the author gives a variety of ways of making it, even in the most difficult times. For example, her recipe for “Hot Loaf”, uses potato as a base, instead of flour. Of cooking bread, Fisher exclaims, there is nothing that will “leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony…”.

There are too many good tips and recipes, in “Wolf”, to do the book justice, here. And furthermore, how could I adequately convey the author’s sly wit, and dry sense of humor? It is really a neat thing to read her dry quotes on war; as they pop up in such unexpected places as her post-war recipe edits. For instance, “Quote now that the war is over hahaha unquote, I would add three times that much fat to the pot”. (The joke being that the war never really ends.) And then there are the references to her grandmother, who constantly chides her ancient friends to get over their war-rationing mentalities. (This makes me think of 1984.)

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And even though she writes, “my mind says “next” [now, rather] than “last””, when looking for an adjective to modify “war” (in her less innocent, post-war edits), Fisher’s “Wolf” is primarily concerned with serving said wolf up with delicious verve, rather than lamenting that he first knocked and growled. In this way, it is a hearty reminder to focus on the good that we have, rather than on the evils of the age.

Do yourself a favor and get “How to cook a wolf”; it might just save your life one day. But it will certainly serve your palate, and enliven your culinary sensibilities.

Bon Appetit!

Check out more from Chris Veritas

This piece was featured on Natural Blaze with permission from the author. Chris Veritas writes informative pieces like this at Veritas Gazetteat his blog, and humorous satire news at Some Cry Wolf

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