Airgliders. Designed to extract tribute from client boroughs without The Mayor sending in the Justices. Damned plastics – junk don’t die. We watched the birds die off until the gulls were all that remained. Storms of them over the mudflats. When they disappeared, these shits stole their role in the sad web of life. Never armed but they had pure rangeglass for vision.
Coogan jaked hard right to avoid a lowflying gull. Correcting course, he signaled back to Jinx and me with thumb and poker outstretched. “Shit! Over the 678 Wall!”
Corridor 678 banked due east here, a killzone where towering cement pylons forced up thirty, forty feet over the tallgrass, spilling rust hair out their tops. Old faithfuls, overlooking the 678 Wall – perfect aeries for gulls. I knew the risks of taking this route – but we stood no chance on foot after our cover was blown.
Tanks. Can’t match us in speed out here, but we know they have good numbers. A few hundred. Raised on wild pasture, old playgrounds: out in Shea and Yankee. Here, too, on the old thruways. Cannon wore black robes, like the Justices, but tin masks. How the hell they see through those little mailslots to shoot, I don’t –
Jynx bit slug hard. Red mess and mouthsteam in the air, everywhere up up. Body slinks off its mount, whup whup whup the arms against body and earth, Jynx, still as painting. Jynx Gunfinger, peace ‘pon ya’.
“Go! Burn ’em!” I brought my weight to bear on the kickplates, Cannon fire PING PING off the manifold of my chopper, must’ve deflected – I ran ungloved fingers around the belly of the fuel tank. No leaks.
Coogan kicked, kicked again.
“Empty can, Rexx!” – Nothing. No punch. A bad gamble on an empty hand.
Looked back, he shouldn’t’ve –
Buffeted by soft, rising morning air like a pillow, Coogan returned his stolen night to the Giving God. Cannon got his leg, bad, flipped out fast.
I braced my chrome savior, fed the kicker some juice, and felt a second sun rise and burn from the south. Two hundred feet, one hundred feet, closing in, I unclipped my winch grapple and lowered it to the pavement. Sparks tossed and pitched erratically – SHEEEEEF! PYYYYYYINK! – the claw missed Coogan’s rescue ring by inches at great feet per second. – felt a good tug and yaw, though.
Coogan gave a bloodythroated roar at me. My chest rocked before I heard his jackvest pop – felt the stinging spray of his mortal debris through my duster.
I looked back. Weaved between the low tat-tat-tat of cannon whiffing past. No sign of Coogan or his bike, high or low, as I crossed the Whitestone Viaduct.
Alone again, naturally.
I withdrew the winch, pulled back the grapple. Felt slick. Wet slick, warm. My technique was off – caught neatly on the hookthroat was Coogan’s dismembered ear.
“…Hook the mind and force it to mimicry and repetition.” – Nicolas Slonimsky.
That is the ultimate hook in the ear. The earworm. Exempli gratia:
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Back to the “eaters of the honey-sweet onion bulb…who cut their onions into very thin slices, fry them with butter, and after they are fried put them into a pot with water or with pease broth. After they are well sod, they put in it a crust of bread and let it boile a very little; some may put some capers in it. They dry their bread then stove it; they take up, and serve with one drop of vinegar. Be courteous ware of them, for they will not take any message back, or to go away from Bayside, but will stay there with the rest of the onion-eaters, under the overlordship of The Poorly Educated One, Ronald Grump, feeding on onion potage, and forget the way home.”
Enough of this. You’d think I have so much time on my hands, I should maybe wait for the ink on the clock to dry…
Let’s pour out a Boddington’s, get comfy, share a poem. Warm ourselves by fires, if need be.
Was schlimm ist
Wenn man kein Englisch kann,
von einem guten englischen Kriminalroman zu hören,
der nicht ins Deutsche übersetzt ist.
Bei Hitze ein Bier sehn,
das man nicht bezahlen kann.
Einen neuen Gedanken haben,
den man nicht in einem Hölderlinvers einwickeln kann,
wie es die Professoren tun.
Nachts auf Reisen Wellen schlagen hören
und sich sagen, daß sie das immer tun.
Sehr schlimm: eingeladen sein,
wenn zu Hause die Räume stiller,
der Café besser
und keine Unterhaltung nötig ist.
nicht im Sommer sterben,
wenn alles hell ist
und die Erde für Spaten leicht.Not reading English,and hearing about a new English thrillerthat hasn’t been translated.Seeing a cold beer when it’s hot out,and not being able to afford it.Having an ideathat you can’t encapsulate in a line of Hölderlin,the way the professors do.Hearing the waves beat against the shore on holiday at night,and telling yourself it’s what they always do.Very bad: being invited out,when your own room at home is quieter,the coffee is better,and you don’t have to make small talk.And worst of all:not to die in summer,when the days are longand the earth yields easily to the spade.
As I had mentioned in Part One of this two-part series, I spent quite a few formative years in Flushing, Queens (my hometown). I don’t recall quite what set this whole process off, but earlier in the week, I was feeling some pretty intense nostalgia for Donovan’s French onion soup – yes, as a twirp and adult, I detested onions – maybe it’s this late-February chill that’s seized my bones. Obviously Kellie’s pret-a-cuisiner slow cooker menu plan set me off on this path, in no small way.
cheesy, gooey, nay “floaty Gruyere cheese crouton” onion soup (best described by my friend JohnO) served in a ramekin? Let’s investigate the history of the dish. First up, from 1651 France, we have this recipe:
Potage of onion.
Cut your onions into very thin slices, fry them with butter, and after they are fried put them into a pot with water or with pease broth. After they are well sod, put in it a crust of bread and let it boile a very little; you may put some capers in it. Dry your bread then stove it; take up, and serve with one drop of vinegar.
—The French Cook, Francois Pierre La Varenne,  Englished by I.D.G. 1653, Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 130)
And from 1927 France, we have a scan (En Français) of Mme. Saint-Ange’s tome (for depth and range, consult Bettunya, who offers a lovely narrative of one warm embrace with the venerable home cooking maven), including a scrip for onion soup, for which she offers the following stern assertion about this potage which “everyone is supposed to know how to make” – that “under no circumstances should you cut the onion while holding it in the air between your fingers.”
I take that to mean “don’t be a Deryk Rexx.” Just as likely as cooking anything, hell, drinking wine, in the original French, respectfully, madame.
If this is the damage I do when I merely eat…
Here’s what I’ve got for you: the infrastructure. Take a bag of yellow onions (Epicurious tested a bunch, found Vidalias to be superior – meh), go fairly easy on them – for textural consideration, I found that larger pieces will brown and caramelize to greater effect – looks quite nice, too. Throw those and maybe a handful of garlic cloves in with two cups of sherry and some beef bouillon mix (surprisingly this ‘locally-shopped’ brand is vegetarian, though the ingredients barely scan.)
You want to dump all of these things I’ve mentioned (plus some butter and fresh thyme), dump them all in your slow cooker. Then just walk away. Go to work. Disappear for a while.
Come back, prep the bread, stick it in the oven. Don’t go too far for too long. Throw some of the crusty, blackened bread on a plate – add cheese if you are so inclined (bake it again, I hear ya’, I hear ya’). Toss some in the soup to croutonize.
…It’s in Saint-Ange…
Regarding the cheese – I had read a few different accounts of how to slow-cook the cheese, if even, none of which were particularly resounding or unique enough to ping here – I threw a bag of Trader Joe’s swiss-gruyere mix (isn’t that a bit like saying “I’m an American-American?”) in with the whole shebang at 6:23 Monday morning. The results, gave a not entirely disappointing spin on the baked cheese effect: a gnarly, chewsome kind of cheese spaetzle. The description fails, and it wouldn’t please mom to find at the bottom of her ramekin, but it was actually rather savory.
Which is the whole
Onion soup is a simple enough thing to get right the first time around – unlike whatever the hell I was doing back there poncing around with this, “hey, let’s have my inner 10-year old concoct a blog out of the boring shit that he knew all to well: painfully turgid post-apocalyptic sausage party prose.”
It’s a staple from which a kitchen commoner could benefit greatly from mastering. I hope to revisit this recipe with company over – in scale, in scope, in quality of ingredients, in presentation.
‘Twas a hit, good readers! Cy enjoyed it, Kellie enjoyed it, for me it was basically no-co-pay therapy.
Oh and…Thanks, Donovan’s, for the memories and (somewhat displaced) inspiration. It’s nice to feel a bit at home, at home. Recipe after the cut.
French onion soup
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: ~6 hours, on low, in an 8 quart slow cooker.
- 2 cups, cooking sherry (1 before, 1 to finish)
- 5 cups water
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 bag of medium-sized yellow onions (about 5), chopped lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons instant beef bouillon (optional, for added flavor)
- 1 packet Lipton’s beefy onion soup and dip mix (optional, for added flavor)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 tablespoons salted butter
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 10 springs thyme, pared
- salt to taste
- 2 cups Gruyère cheese, grated
- 1 baguette, toasted (season and/or drizzle oil to taste)