The things I do for you

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 céleri 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?


  1. ace says

    It is just barely possible that you may become the first author to be done in by your own book.

    Obviously, the publishers need to add scarlet banners across the cover warning the reader NOT to make the recipes contained therein; the contents are for entertainment purposes only.

    Next time, try that hotdog fountain thingie…. a sure fire audience pleaser.

  2. says

    On a scale of one to revolting how awful is it that the phrase “boozy-scented beef water” made my stomach gurgle ravenously with X-TREME hunger at 9:30 in the god damned morning?

    I don’t really need an answer.

  3. says

    Oh gads. That sounds just like the kind of horrifying cooking-shortcut discovery I might make. If I ever made anything, that is.

    You handled the cold-beef-fat-beverage situation with aplomb, sounds like :-)

  4. Jenn says

    Oh. My. God. How in the name of all that is holy did WW ever think “Oh, this would be just a fabulous diet item… boozy-scented beef water with fat floating in it.” Probably they thought it might just put you off food for a few days. Yeah, if you have to go weigh in on Wednesday, drink a “Slender Quencher” about Sunday or so… it could almost be guaranteed that you won’t eat anything bigger than a saltine for at least two days. Yeah, good plan.

  5. Ali says

    First-time reader, already a fan. I’ve had my share of kitchen mishaps (a.k.a. stove top stuffing that resembled oatmeal) but boozy-scented beef water takes the cake. Thanks for a great mid-morning laugh! :)

  6. Molly says

    I gotta tell ya–love the book, but was a little disappointed the actual recipies weren’t in there too for extra hilarity!

  7. Terry says

    Yeah, if memory serves from (one of) the times mom went into WW overdrive, the point of the slow chilling was so that you could scoop the dried fat right off the top, thus leaving you a beef-flavored low fat drink. It was gross then… and dude it still sounds gross. Though, I think the sherry extract made it more fruity and less smelly.

  8. says

    It sounds absolutely DIVINE!!! I’m dying to pick up this wonderful recipe book, dahling! I simply must experience the boozy-scented beef water, but I think I’ll prepare it as you have except just leave the winter wonderland fat for my total enjoyment.

    Dee LISH!!

  9. says

    Oh, my goodness. It never occurred to me that there would be fat hidden in the boullion that comes out only when reconstituted. It’s like evil in hiding!

    I was cracking up so hard I snorted while reading this — which leads me to a tip for your readers: do NOT snort while eating a sweet potato. I’m not sure I’ll ever recover, but I guess the upside is I’ll die with a good dose of vitamin A in my sinuses.

    You really did drink it? Truly, you are a martyr for the cause.

  10. Satya says

    Maybe “sherry extract” was WW code for actual sherry, which would have the dual benefit of dissolving the beef-fat and helping the dieter to endure her sad, meaningless existence.

  11. Kayte says

    “How do you think it tastes?”
    About as bad as an onion and peanut butter sandwich, beef jerky with marshmellow spread, s’mores made with hamburger patties or a lattte sprinkled with tuna…?

  12. says

    “recipies were left out for copyright purposes” — because God knows how much money Weight Watchers is going to make on these secret concoctions. This and the Nieman-Marcus cookie recipe…

  13. Hope says

    Oh, man. LOVE the idea of a twisted big book. You must do this!

    I am very excited to meet you at Michigan’s SCBWI conference next weekend. I will be the one trying very hard not to look like a stalker.

  14. says

    You are a trouper. I think I would have given up and mixed up some brown food coloring and vodka and called it a win.

  15. says

    ::still dabbing eyes::

    Christ, that was funny.

    I’m betting you ran out of stalks of celery long before you ran out of Slender Quencher, angeline.

  16. says

    Oh. Dear. God.

    I’m glad to hear you survived the boozy scented beef water. I think I might have added actual sherry, too.

    At least then I’d have had a buzz.

    I suppose it’s better than having eaten one of Marcy’s concoctions.

    Oh, and when are you doing a reading in Los Angeles?