Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Civilizing Effects of Food

When I first blogged about food in Robinson Crusoe I promised that I would - like the eponymous protagonist - try cooking with goat, as soon as I sourced some goat meat - see  Well, goat meat has arrived at my local farmers' market, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to try it out. 

Goats provide Crusoe with his main protein source on the island.  And not only does he consume their flesh, but he also drinks their milk and uses it to make butter and cheese, all part of Crusoe's attempts to plant an area of Western civilization on this uninhabited desert island in the southern part of the Caribbean. 

The link between food and civilization is developed further when Crusoe encounters Man Friday on the island, rescuing him from his captors who are on the point of killing and eating him.  Realising that Friday himself is also a cannibal - he suggests to Crusoe that they eat his dead captors - Crusoe embarks on a mission to civilize and Christianize Friday.  He does this through teaching him how to cook, thereby persuading him of the tastiness of non-human flesh.   

Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday by Carl Offterdinger (1829-1889)

 Crusoe begins by making a goat stew and broth:  "I boiled or stewed some of the flesh, and made some very good broth."  When Friday tastes it, he likes it, though he is appalled at Crusoe's use of salt - which he considers unpalatable - and Crusoe admits that "he would never care for salt with his meat or in his broth; at least not a great while, and then but a very little." 

The following day Crusoe roasts some of the goat "by hanging it before the fire on a string".  Friday loves it, and eventually tells his new master "that he would never eat man's flesh any more."  Food: not just the way to a man's heart, but also to his morals. 

CIVILIZED GOAT STEW (for 2: you and your Man Friday)

400g diced goat meat (or 800g if on the bone which is meant to provide a better taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons grated root ginger
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic chopped finely
2 small carrots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 bayleaf
2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinammon
2 teaspoons tomato puree
250ml chicken or beef stock
125ml water
2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
4 potatoes diced
juice from half a lemon
chopped parsley

Season the goat meat and then brown it in the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan or saucepan. 
Remove the meat from the pan and put to one side. 
Cook the onions and ginger in the same pan - adding more olive oil if necessary - for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, carrot, celery, curry powder, bay leaf, allspice, cinammon and paprika and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. 
Add the tomato puree, stock and water.  Return the goat meat to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Cover with a lid and cook for 40 minutes.
Add the potatoes and tomatoes and cook for another 30 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and check the seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Serve with rice or flatbread (recipe for the latter to come in the next post).

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