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The Snapper             

Archive of Snapper Reviews

The Snapper, who serves from time to time as a correspondent at large with the Goliard, took what seemed like a harmless turn under the Staff dinner chef's hat recently only to nearly expire of smoke inhalation as he fearlessly battled a Brat fire piled dangerously high with links. "There was an unsafe amount of meat on that grill," noted a stunned Movie Man as he paused at the snack table, "and the whipping winds and peer pressure in combination may have driven the Snapper down a dangerous road of unnecessary risk. I mean, the gang is hungry, but you've got to think of safety first. Especially when that many authentic German brats are at stake."

It was touch and go for awhile that night and another staffer who found himself pacing nervously and feeling helpless, as the women clustered around tending to the fallen Snapper, grabbed a pen and began inking what he thought might have to be a eulogy. Fortuitously for the eventual reader, the beleaguered bratsman would pull through and, in the interim, the guests who were familiar with the Snapper's humble culinary origins were all too happy to discuss them candidly as their comrade was being worked on. As a result, we were able to compose what might have made a damn fine eulogy-de-cuisine had the Snapper stayed down. We include it here as a tribute to his courage and perseverance.

The Snapper's culinary career apparently began rather inauspiciously when, as a young lad, he landed a summer job wiping out the bussing tubs and ashtrays of the rich and famous at a ritzy tennis club in Seattle, WA. A visiting relative who was familiar with him noted that as an aspiring tennis player and social climber, the younger Snapper hoped to emulate the careers of some of his early movie heroes, specifically "Nate" in Cabin Boy and "Noonan" in Caddyshack, and apparently recognized early on that placing himself in close proximity to those achieving social, dining and tennis success, even if it be by schlepping their filth to the dish station, was the best chance he had to enhance his chances to excel at same. And although his tennis and social aspirations were to remain basically stagnant, The Snapper showed an immediate aptitude as a server of the rich (he now educates tomorrow's leaders at an affluent high school). 

Within a couple of summers, young Snapper was one of fifteen or twenty servers given his own station on the lawn, the club's most challenging food service arena. Never one to squander opportunity, the Snapper made the most of his good fortune and immediately separated himself from the aspiring groupies, grungers, cross dressers, gay blades, punks, boneheads, store room copulaters, narcotics dealers, alternative lifestylers, horse's asses, degenerates, stooges, cornholers, and crack whores that rounded out the staff. By summer's end the Snapper had become one of the top five or ten servers at the club. It would be during this same summer that the Snapper would encounter the mentor who was to inspire him to strive towards the gastronomic feats eventually performed for the Staff Dinner.

The Snapper first met Steve, the Sunday brunch line cook, when he arrived early one morning a little the worse for wear (having spent the night before drinking too many "Cowboys" and vomiting over the rail of a local bridge) He had stumbled through the club's back entrance in hopes of partaking in some of the "employee meal" that was routinely set out for the housemen and janitors as they punched out from the night shift. Typically the offering might consist of such fare as reheated fish in brown sauce, fin and hoof noodle medley, or bouillabaisse and corn revisited, but the Snapper was in for a treat on this day. Steve had laid out his interpretation of a grand slam breakfast and a permanent bond between the two men was formed. "I've always felt comfortable creating in the kitchen on the Lord's day ever since that morning," says an appreciative Snapper. "It's as if HE and STEVE are right there with me."

Steve wasn't much to look at (a co-worker once described him as "one of those homosexuals with stuff in their teeth) but his fanatical devotion to the piles of food he produced, his mastery of swarmy eggs, and a maniacal disregard for all spices and seasonings won the Snapper over immediately. On every ensuing Sunday, Snapper would report for his shift early and could often be found at Steve's side, or at least as close to the action as the anally obsessive saucier would allow him to get, studying the knife work and techniques and absorbing the smells and styles that literally dripped from his teacher's pores. Eventually, Steve invited the Snapper to host his first dinner party, offering the use of his studio apartment and his recipe for a "veal rub." The rest, as they say, is history.

And although the Snapper's life was to take many twists and turns and he was to spend many years away from anything resembling a pleasant kitchen in order to dip his toes in numerous vocations, vacations, and hobbies, he would never forget the teachings of Steve or his time at the Seattle Tennis Club. Whether he was milking cows for rent in the Skagit Valley, serving as color man during the broadcasts of a rural, Single-A basketball team, managing a thirteen year old girls tennis squad in the inner city, following his heart abroad to such exotic locales as Chernobyl, Liverpool, and Dresden, getting duped in some scheme to take a group of young boys to Australia that never materialized, laying barrio tile under the Tiger's tutelage in the heat of an Arizona summer, or compiling a 4 and 277 singles record on the tennis court, the Snapper has followed Steve's example and remained positive and optimistic in the face of all evidence. 

And this confidence has translated well as far as his preparing of the Staff dinner. The Snapper's meals always feature creative combinations of noodle and sauce, show a mastery of grain and fowl, and a fearless proclivity for attempting interpretations of cuisines from around the globe. His travels have served him well and as the Snapper himself has been heard to say, "Just give me your old rice and chicken and I'll produce for you an adobo, vindaloo, or some other dish that sounds ethnic."

As the gang stood around that night finishing the Snapper's beer, waiting to see if it was in bad taste to hit the buffet line, and arguing with the Movieman as to whether, if this was to be the Snapper's last meal, he would have wanted them to go ahead and eat it, the Snapper's dad attempted to sum things up. "We're glad to see our boy doing so well out here in Arizona," Snapper senior admitted, "To be quite honest we weren't too sure what he'd amount to when he was a younger man but he seems to have found his niche out here in the desert. He was floundering for awhile, you know, like any young man seeking out a place for himself, roaming the globe, blind dating, student teaching, holding forums to discuss issues, things of that nature. I will say that this bratwurst thing is typical of the learning process he's been through though. In Seattle, where he's done most of his previous grilling, it's rains so damn much that a BBQ fire will almost never rear up and bite you like that. It's a rookie mistake but he'll learn. He's been amazingly resilient I'll say that for him." 

Another staffer agreed and related a story about the Snapper's first job interview. "He was going for this teaching position in rural Washington and I went along for the ride. We get there about six hours early and of course its much warmer out there than in Seattle but the Snapper steps into the bushes to change into a full wool suit and proceeds, for some reason, to park in the principal's private spot. When this agrostologist character comes over to warn him, he rolls the window up instead of down and then attempts to lean out smacking his forehead on the glass resulting in a humongous welt. When it is finally time for him to go in before the committee he is dehydrated, still oozing blood from his pate, and is all sweat soaked and jittery. They prop him in front of a plate glass window with the sun beating down on his back and begin asking him why he is qualified to teach social studies and coach their freshman girls. Midway through his answer, as he paused to wipe the perspiration and blood from his eyes, they all are fidgeting uncomfortably at the spectacle when they notice a tow truck outside removing an offender from the principals parking spot. "Hey that's my dad's Jeep!" cries the Snapper who bolts up from his chair, knocks over a matron who was leaning to mop his brow and comes charging out, followed by the interview team. Needless to say we ended up in the nearest brew pub talking about how life wasn't all that fair sometimes. He never heard from that particular school but it was a learning experience. And now look at him, a successful and popular teacher surrounded by a bunch of friends. Who'd have thunk it?"

All heads turned to where the Snapper had been lain across a divan and was being swabbed with cloths, sprayed with a spritzer and licked by several animals. "Better check the Snapper's fridge to see if he's got more beer," someone said. "Looks like we could be here awhile."

Ingredients

2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2-3 hot, dried red chilies
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cardamom seeds (you may take the seeds out of the pods if you cannot buy them loose)
3 inch stick of cinnamon
1 ˝ tsp whole black mustard seeds
1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
5 tbs white wine vinegar
1 ˝-2 tsp salt
1 tsp light brown sugar
10 tbs vegetable oil
6-7 oz onions, peeled and sliced into fine half rings
4-6 tbs plus 8 fluid oz water
2 lb boneless pork shoulder meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 inch cub of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small whole head of garlic, with all cloves separated and peeled
1 tbs ground coriander seeds
1.2 tsp ground turmeric

Preparation

Grind cumin seeds, red chilies, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in a coffee grinder or other spice grinder. Put the ground spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar. Mix and set aside. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium flame. Put in the onions. Fry, stirring frequently, until the onions turn brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and put them into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 2-3 tbs water to the blender and puree the onions. Add this puree to the ground spices in the bowl. This is the vindaloo paste. It may be made ahead of time and frozen. Dry off the meat cubes with a paper towel and remove large pieces of fat, if any. Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 2-3 tbs water and blend until you have a smooth paste. Heat the oil remaining in the pot once again over a medium high flame. When hot, put in the pork cubes, a few at a time and brown them lightly on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl. Do all the pork this way. Now put the ginger-garlic paste into the same pot. Turn down the heat to medium. Stir the paste for a few seconds. Add the coriander and turmeric. Stir for another few seconds. Add the meat, any juices that may have accumulated as well as the vindaloo paste and 8 fluid oz water. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for an hour or until pork is tender. Stir a few times during the cooking period. Serves 6.

 

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