Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 15, 2015
Discuss this article at the Diner Pantry inside the Diner
If you go into any fine French Restaurant that serves the Upper Class like Lutece in Manhattan, about always you will find French Onion Soup on the Menu in the Appetizers or Soups & Salad category, depending how the Menu is organized. Well, except you can’t get an overpriced bowl of FOS at Lutece anymore because Lutece is Outta Biz since 2004.
Lutece, once the top 5 Star French Restaurant in NY Shity closed in 2004. Back in the Wall Street years, we ate there regularly, and dropping $1000 on Dinner for 6-8 people was no problem at all, if you bought a few bottles of Wine anyhow. 1980s Dollars too! I guess the .01% got tired of the food there after 9/11
AFTER serving one last Valentine’s Day dinner Saturday night, Lutèce, the renowned landmark French restaurant on the East Side, will close its doors, ending a 43-year run as a pillar of French dining in the United States.
”Since 9/11 we have not had enough business to meet expenses,” said Michael Weinstein, president of Ark Restaurants, which has owned Lutèce since 1994. ”This is probably a decision that should have been made a year ago.”
My old employer Capsuto Freres in Tribeca is also now Outta Biz, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. The Fine Dining Space there has been taken over by the Chinese. Apparently Chinese Food is more popular now amongst the .01% than Nouvelle Cuisine French food. Who Cooda Node?
That’s where I parked my motorcycle when going to work at the bottom left. I can’t tell if one of the ones behind the first one is mine.
China Blue, the new sister restaurant to Midtown’s Michelin-starred Café China, is now open in Tribeca. It takes up the space that once housed Capsouto Freres, the 33-year-old neighborhood mainstay that was shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The new restaurant still has white tablecloths, but now the space, like Café China, takes its cues from 1930s Shanghai, with a menu of Shanghai cuisine to match. That means more seafood and “delicate flavors” than the intense Sichuan style of the original.
A really Classy FOS will have gobs of Melted Swiss Cheese over the top of a huge ceramic bowl, with a nice large hunk of a French Bread slice beneath it, all floating on top of a beef broth that has copious quantities of sliced up Onions nicely sauteed and caramelised in butter or oil in a skillet before adding to the soup. It’s quite a scrumptious concoction when presented this way, and you’ll likely have to cough up $10-15 for such a bowl in this type of restaurant these days to chow down on it.
In reality though, French Onion Soup is a PEASANT dish that comes from the era before Refrigeration, and all the ingredients are in there because they are conservative of the food the French Peasants had available before refrigeration became ubiquitous in Industrial culture.
Your base of the Beef Broth comes from simmering all the bones and scraps of meat that get leftover after the cow cets slaughtered and carved up into Steaks, Ribs, Roasts, Filets and finally Ground Beef for the least tender cuts, although you will find more expensive Ground Beef from the same cuts that the other beef products are carved from, just because it’s useful in many things like meatballs, hamburgers etc that are common in the western diet.
Still, you get a lot more nutrition from your dead cow by simmering up all these leftover parts, and by further boiling down and adding salt to it you can make Boullion which will last quite a while unrefrigerated. Drop the Boullion Cube into some boiling water, and you reconstitute your Broth for a nutritious soup the next week. Of course, this is Energy Intensive in the sense you need to use quite a bit of burnables usually to reduce the liquid to a semi-solid.
Onions, your Fresh Veggie in this dish are roots which keep well in a cool Root Cellar, you don’t need refrigeration for them. The French Bread slice you add ups the calorie content of your bowl of soup with carbohydrates, and you use Stale Bread that can be a few days old and no longer real moist and chewable , but soaked in the broth it becomes very edible again.
Final ingredient, the Cheese you melt over the top is a way to preserve Milk by fermentation, and when waxed over and kept cool, it also lasts a long while without refrigeration. It also adds additional calorie count to your soup dish, so by the time you are done here you have a single meal full of Protein, Carbs, Fat, Vitamins, all from stuff which can be grown or raised on a small subsistence style farm, the traditional type of farm back in France before the industrial age.
When I Backpacked and Inter-railed around Europe back in the 70s, I did it on a shoestring budget, as I recall I had $800 in American Express Travelers Checks to last me for 2 months the first time I participated in this Right of Passage common for many European teens at the time, but not that many Amerikans. No credit card in those years, and debit cards didn’t exist yet either. The roughly $100/week I had with me had to buy all my food, and hostels on nights I stayed in them. At the time, a bed in one of the hostels was usually about $10/night in the northern European countries, as cheap as $5/night in Southern Europe. If you stayed in a Hostel every night, you weren’t left with much to buy food. The way around that was to take night trains or sleep in train stations, on beaches, wherever.
So for obvious reasons, most interrailers cruised around Spain, Portugal and Greece because it was cheaper. However, I wanted to see France and Switzerland and Sweden, but in those places I ate on the cheap. I would buy a Baguette and wedge of Brie and a Salami and that would last in my backpack for 2-3 days while checking out these neighborhoods. All old fashioned foods that keep for a while with no refrigeration.
I almost actually made it to the end of the two months with enough money to still eat, although for the last week or so the first time there I was sleeping by the Thames River in the “Big Queue”, waiting for a cheap ticket home on Freddie Laker’s “Better Laker than Never”, “Sooner or Laker” discount airline of the era. Interestingly, it is impossible to find any pics on the web from the Big Queue. It was quite a hilarious scene overall.
There’s Freddie with the young Richard Branson. These guys got Knighted for their contributions to Aviation. Laker went bust in 1982. Branson is still flying Virgin Atlantic. He has better access to more debt.
Why did Skytrain suddenly fail? Laker had received an $86 million mortgage on his aircraft from the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank. As airlines like Pan Am and TWA were floundering in the face of Laker’s competition, they pressured the Reagan administration to have Ex-Im call in Laker’s debt. In addition, the Thatcher government in Britain was worried that Laker might eventually eclipse the parastatal British Airways. Taking away Laker’s capital, paradoxically enough, was a way of saving the airline industry in both the U.S. and Britain.
Laker Doesn’t Leave
Freddie Laker was understandably more than a tad pissed off at the majors, and in January 1985, he filed suit against twelve major airlines from around the world, who had allegedly conspired to drive Skytrain into the ground. At first, they offered him a $50 million settlement, but as Laker dug his heels in, the value of the settlement grew progressively smaller. By August, Laker finally gave up and accepted a $20 million settlement from British Airways.
Since I am obsessed with eating cheaply and with food that last a long time, I recently started experimenting with recipes for the many bags of Bear Creek Soups I have in my Prep Arsenal, ready for TEOTWAWKI. They are fine just by themselves, and one bag will get you through the day by itself if necessary, but as long as there are other ingredients to pitch into said soup, you can make much heartier meals that will last for 2 or 3 days. This weeks concoction was a Broccoli-Cheese-Beef soup I wrote about Inside the Diner
NEW BEAR CREEK SOUP CONCOCTION!
This one is just SCRUMPTIOUS! Currently still brewing in the Slow Cooker but I have been Taste Testing over the last couple of hours and it is AWESOME!
Base was some leftover Rib Bones I BBQed, then stewed in beef broth, soy sauce and water to get all the remaining meat to fall off the bones. Then I added half a package of Bear Creek Broccoli Cheese soup, Fresh Broccoli (actually in the fridge for over a week already) and some shaved parmesan romano cheese, a couple of tablespoons of this.
This is a fucking AWESOME soup!
I think I could improve on it still more with the addition of some fresh Garlic and Onions and some Parsley for garnish, with some crusty day old bread to dip in as well. Maybe a little Paprika also to make it more tart and lip smacking good.
I’ll be writing up a new Recipe post for the Sunday brunch article this week. I’ll include this in that article. At least I am still eating like a King here as the world spins down! This soup would have sold for $10/bowl in 1980s Dollars at my old job at Capsuto Freres! About $4 in ingredients excluding the leftover rib bones previously chewed on, and would fill about 4 bowls for $40!
At some point in the future, getting hold of many of the other ingredients to add to one of these soups probably will become difficult, depending on where you are of course. Certainly, being in a location where Cheese is produced locally is helpful, along with being in locations where there is some kind of Meat available to pitch into the soup to make your Broth, even if it is just Squirrels or even Worms. This will up the nutritional value of the soup considerably.
Far as the carbs go, even stale bread is fine, but most small farms don’t grow their own Wheat, at least not in my neighborhood, so Bread probably won’t be very available. Similar with Rice, it doesn’t grow up here in Alaska, although perhaps it could be done in Grow Domes. Rice though keeps very well once dried and vacuum sealed, so your supply of this can last a while. Main carb though likely to remain available locally is Alaska Potatoes.
Potatoes are fabulous food which go fine in soups, but there are lots of other good ways to prepare them and spruce them up, which will be the subject of the next SNAP Card Gourmet Sunday Brunch article on the Diner.