So last week I had to do a reading at Barnes & Noble. Or I mean, a “reading,” since this crazy mackerel book of mine is all pictures and captions and there isn’t exactly a yarn you can spin. I considered doing a slide show or having a special big book made so I could pretend I was some kind of deranged Montessori teacher. But it soon became painfully clear that I just didn’t have time to put together anything elaborate like that, because I’m in the middle of packing, and lately my apartment looks like Aunt Sylvie’s place from the book Housekeeping. So I decided instead that I’d prepare and bring one of the 1974 recipes, and I know, that sounds elaborate, too, but I decided to make the EASY one, the Slender Quencher. Specifically, the “Skinny Devil,” the clear brown beverage garnished with celery and abject sadness.
So I went to the supermarket and found beef boullion cubes and celery and even a fancy glass that looked exactly like the one on the recipe card. But I couldn’t find sherry extract. Do they even make sherry extract anymore? I went with rum extract instead. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to subsitute one kind of fake hootch for another, as I’m told they all smell a little like diluted Night Train. About an hour or so before I had to head to B&N, I found my Slender Quencher card and got started. It was going to be simple: dissolve two cubes boullion in some boiling water; add extract; chill; add celery. I’d bring a container of it to the reading, pour it in the fancy glass, and present it avec cÃ©leri to the audience. I mean, it wouldn’t be gross. The Slender Quencher, after all, is the most innocuous of all the recipe cards. Who could be afraid of a little beef water?
I dissolved the boullion. I added the extract. But when it came to the “chill” part, I worried I wouldn’t have enough time to let it cool before the reading. Plus, it looked like it needed more water. Why not add ice? So I added ice.
Okay, I didn’t think about what is actually in those bouillion cubes. I mean, obviously, it’s powdered beef, right. But I didn’t follow that line of thinking long enough to consider what is actually in beef. Oh, God. I don’t know if things would’ve been different had I let the stuff chill slowly. All I know is that when I poured in the ice, there was suddenly something new in the broth. And it formed a waxy yellow layer so that the whole concoction looked like a gel candle, except not even as classy.
Slowly it dawned on me that the Slender Quencher was full of BEEF FAT, which floated around in horrifying little loogies. I held up the container in disbelief. Really, you’d only have to install a 20-watt bulb underneath the whole thing to make the most fucked up lava lamp ever. I shook the container, and then the waxy bits whirled about in tiny flakes like a snow globe, like a snow globe souvenir from the fatty winter wonderland inside us all. Oh, no. People, it’s not just a cute name: the “Skinny Devil” is a verifiably evil drink; it’s some kind of ritual Satanic fat-letting in beverage form. Far from being the harmless cold weak soup we’d imagined it to be, the common brown Slender Quencher turns out to be one of the most shit-awful gruesome recipes in the whole collection.
I didn’t think I could bring a plastic pitcher full of full-fat Slender Quencher to show to an audience at Barnes & Noble. No, it was too disgusting. So I strained the stuff. I poured it through a mesh strainer and a coffee filter to get out as much of the yellow crud as possible. By this time the ice had melted, and you could even call the stuff “chilled.” I scraped out the ring of fat that had collected around the sides of the container (yes: a ring of fat; I wish I was kidding) and poured the Skim Quencher back in. Then Chris and I drove to the bookstore, where I proudly brought out the damn stuff, poured it into the fancy glass, and YES I DRANK SOME OF IT. FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT.
It’s boozy-scented beef water. How do you think it tastes?