(first appeared in Alimentum)
“The course of a true love never did run smooth.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1,1
Though Shakespeare often, ah, borrowed the basis for his recipes every so often he came up with something completely different. His immensely popular Midsummer Spaghetti is one of those original dishes. It’s been rumored that he got the idea after attending a wedding in Greece at which peculiar homegrown ouzo was served, but Shakespeare’s always been mute on the point. Whatever its inspiration the plate remains a delightfully bazaar harmony of lamb, saffron, infidelity, jealousy, affection and pasta that appeals both to the ruling classes and the hard working ruled. The recipe is a comic demonstration that once you get past our social roles and get down to our basic hungers, we all eat at the same table.
The Ingredients of the Dish:
Lots of lamb
A metaphorical flower with bitchin’ neuropsychadelic properties
Enough rosemary for the dish
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Pepper & salt
The Chefs of the Recipe:
Robin Goodfellow (Puck) – Maitre of Eotiatopio
Daoaki Peaseblossom – a fairy chef
Mustardseed – a fairy waiter
Oberon – head chef and co-owner of the restaurant
Titania – his wife and the other owner
Bottom – a saxophone player
Other fairy waiters and chefs and the rest of The Band
serves all social classes, royal fairies included
Act III, sc.2 Enter Robin Goodfellow, (Puck), into the Daoaki kitchen. Fairy chefs are already working, and fairy waiters are moving in and out from the dining room with drinks
Puck: Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Where’s Oberon? So late, I fear. And why did he and Titania have to pick of all nights the mayor’s pre-wedding dinner celebration to have another one of their drag-out fights?
Peaseblossom: Did you get him on the phone?
Puck: Yes, and he said ‘just keep the free booze flowing ‘till I get there,’ which is what he said 20 minutes ago.
Mustardseed: Any more Ouzo and all hell’s going to’ break loose. Everyone in there’s getting really goosed.
Puck: Has the band gotten here at least?
Oberon: Where is my ungrateful, faithless, proud wife?
A Fairy waiter: She’s, um, in the dining room, and has most of our bar drinks test- tasted. So don’t get mad if you find her, ah, a little…
Enter Titania noisily, almost falling through the kitchen door
Titania: Well kalispera, buonasera, bon nuit, good freaking’ evenin’ to you, (walking up to Oberon and pinches his cheek) my little jealous hubby-wooby- dooby-do.
Oberon: (showing her a monthly statement) How canst thou thus for shame, sauced Titania, use our mutual Amex account, with both our names, on your ‘visiting an old friend’, you said, trip. To Santorini. The 4 Seasons resort. 6,700 euros! Bite my lip, nossir, knowing I know thy hots for what’s-his-face, that Indian boy who’s young enough to be…
Titania: Your son, lord chef, and my younger brother. Kumar is his name, you remember, last month, dinner, my sorority sister, his mother? And don’t raise your tone with me. How many of your little cooking classes ‘ran late’, past 3, as one of your young blonde fairies your little ham omelet flipped. In how many of those mayonnaise sauces did you your royal eggs dip?
Puck: Lord and lady, though I would wonder over hill and dale and over widest oceans set widest sail – putting thus a girdle on the globe – so not to interrupt the tempested course of your heated marriage discourse, we do have other royal mouths to fill with more than angry words. It is well past serving time, so this maitre’d Puck asks you humbly to set aside your verbal swords.
Tatiana picks up a drink from a passing tray and gulps it down. Exits
Oberon: True. ‘Tis a late hour and we our dining party should fill with food before their happy spirits sour. Not enough time remains for slower oven dishes. We must prepare solid spirits of another, faster sort. I with traditional Italian pasta recipes have oft made a winning sport. So we will with tonight’s chunks of castrated lamb put aside their roasting, and change our plan. My loyal Puck, go down into the basement pantry and there, with a little luck, below the shelf where the wild thyme lays you’ll find a large canister in which our Apennine mountain saffron stays. Fetch me that flower, fetch me that herb, and our delayed dinner to our royal dining lovers will swiftly be served.
Exit both. Enter the band wearing ‘The Band’ tee shirts, and Tatiana. She has one arm around Bottom, an ugly-ish, chubby-ish big guy with a goatee and holding a tenor sax.
Tatiana: So, my big, lovely Bottom, you make me feel torn. I don’t know if I’d rather you blow me a song, or let me blow on your hard, long…
Bottom: Certainly, mum. We The Band aim to please. Weddings, barmitzfah’s, sweet 16 birthday parties, ‘you want it, we’ll play it’. That’s our motto.
Exit both. Enter Puck and Oberon with the saffron and lamb. Oberon makes the dish as he speaks.
Oberon: This dish is not so heavy to read or do as compounded in its form and flavor. There are three main parts to this our Wood’s pasta; the noble, ruling lamb, the royal, spirited saffron and the humble, hard-working garlic, to savor. You sauté the chunks of meat in oil, browning them well on the highest of heat. Then the flame lower and in go the sliced cloves, while the spaghetti alla guitarra softens on the stove, Cognac then pepper and salt and then finally the flower, who in but a little hot water has given forth its dreamy juice, then halt. Drain the noodles well, then toss them in the pan with the rest until the flavoring amalgamates through its starchy shell. Now plate and to the dining room, fairies, Puck, right away, not soon!
Act III, sc. 3 Enter Puck from the dining room. Dinner’s been served. Oberon is resting along with all the other fairies in the kitchen
Oberon: How’s it going’ in there?
Puck: Now the hungry guests have eaten,
And their wakefulness been beaten,
Do lie sleeping in the hall
As the trees do in the fall.
In the morning when they wake
Each will have a head that aches,
For which pain we’ll have a cure:
Large black pots of coffee sure
And some aspirin if they wish
We will hand out in a dish,
Then send them home, not the queen
Who now sober has just seen
Bottom’s not the stud she saw
Her love for you quick will thaw.
(Turns to you, the reader)
If our lamb dish has offended
Make it now, all will be mended.
The real recipe:
500 grams of spaghetti alla chitarra
Extra-Virgin olive oil
Broth (veg. or meat)
Honey, chestnut if possible
5 Spices or cinnamon
Salt & fresh pepper
250 grams of lamb in bite-sized cubes
Sear the lamb pieces in a pan with a little oil, then add about 1/4 cup of Cognac. Evaporate, then add salt and fresh black pepper and a pinch or two of diced rosemary. Add a pinch of ‘5 spices’ or high-quality cinnamon if you like. Toss, then add about a cup of broth, a teaspoon of chestnut honey, mix and turn down the heat. Put the spaghetti on to boil in salted water. Put the saffron in just a little hot water to extract the flavor, or leave whole if it’s high quality, and cascade the pistils in after. When the noodles are ready pour them into the now reduced sauce and then integrate the saffron. Mix, then plate and add some drops of fresh e.v. olive oil. Serve with a slightly structured red, Testarossa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo if you can find it. Or a Nemea Agiorgitiko, if you can find that.
for this and other Will-filled food: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1695771451
link- to mutton-saffron pie from around Will’s time: http://www.godecookery.com/goderec/grec80.html