May 12, 2012

Woolf’s beef

Filed under: Uncategorized — theresaurus @ 5:09 am

I bought pieces of cow tail! I’ve always wanted to make a nice stew in the French fashion and it’s been quite chilly, good weather for something warm and rich. Oxtail is described as an inexpensive cut of meat, but even marked down a bit, this wasn’t cheap.

From Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse:

“… they were having Mildred’s masterpiece — Boeuf en Daube. Everything depended upon things being served up the precise moment they were ready. The beef, the bayleaf, and the wine — all must be done to a turn. To keep it waiting was out of the question. Yet of course tonight, of all nights, out they went, and they came in late, and things had to be sent out, things had to be kept hot; the Boeuf en Daube would be entirely spoilt. … There was the smell of burning. Could they have left the Boeuf en Daube to overboil, she wondered? … when the great clanger of the gong announced solemnly, authoritatively, that all those scattered about, in attics, in bedrooms, on little perches of their own, reading, writing, putting the last smooth to their hair, or fastening dresses, must leave all that, and the little odds and ends on the washing-tables and dressing-tables, and the novels on the bed-tables, and the diaries which were so private, and assemble in the dining-room for dinner.

“But what have I done with my life? thought Mrs Ramsey, taking her place at the head of the table, and looking at all the plates making white circles on it.

“… an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. The cook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its wine … . ‘It is a triumph,’ said Mr Bankes, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly cooked.

‘It is a French recipe of my grandmother’s’ said Mrs Ramsay, speaking with a ring of great pleasure in her voice. Of course it was French. What passes for cookery in England is an abomination (they agreed). It is putting cabbages in water. It is roasting meat till it is like leather. It is cutting off the delicious skins of vegetables. ‘In which,’ said Mr Bankes, ‘all the virtue of the vegetable is contained.’ ‘And the waste,’ said Mrs Ramsay. ‘A whole French family could live on what an English cook throws away.’

“They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilization impossible with all their ‘charm’, their silliness.

“The truth was that he did not enjoy family life. It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself; what does one live for? Why, one asked oneself, does one take all these pains for the human race to go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not so very, he thought, looking at these rather untidy boys.”



  1. The price tag explains why the Korean oxtail soup, costing 780Y, that I had I had at lunch today tasted more like hot water and chili.

    Comment by Cecilia — May 12, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    • My stew probably won’t even taste of beef. Looking at recipes, people in other countries use four or five times that many beef tail parts. It’s like during summer when I want to make a pie and have only little tiny containers of blueberries or cherries.

      Comment by theresaurus — May 12, 2012 @ 11:57 am

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