My morning thoughts do not immediately turn to blood, but then I read an article by Katie Macleod which offers a wonderful observation of blood sausage and what we will eat when we’re young and what we will not in Blood for Breakfast is Wasted on the Young. And then, all my thoughts turn bloody.
Blood is about eighty percent water and seventeen percent protein, consisting of red cells and plasma. It thickens coq au vin, mixes with duck fat to add density to Fergus Henderson’s Blood Cake and Fried Eggs, and glues all together in this wonderful passage from Jane Grigson in her recipe for Boudins Noirs in Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery,
On pig killing day few people have time to stand and stir a small pan over a low fire. The moment blood boils, it curdles, so great care has to be taken. But apart from treats for small girls, the blood would be put aside until the intestines had been cleaned, scraped and cleaned again in the river.
Blood allows the living and the dead to communicate. Odysseus slaughters a ram and black ewe so that he may speak to Tiresias in the Robert Fagles’ translation.
And once my vows
and prayers had invoked the nations of the dead,
I took the victims, over the trench I cut their throats
and the dark blood flowed in–and up out of Erebus they came,
flocking toward me now, the ghosts of the dead and gone . . .
The signature scene of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining features waves after wave of blood crashing out of an elevator and down a hotel hallway. In a way, this is a communication from the dead to the living–you are somewhere you do not belong.
Blood abounds in the work of Francis Bacon as in the above painting Blood on the Floor (1986). The stunning orange of Bacon’s later work offers a brilliant, but flat and dimensionless background for the light bulb and switch, a floor that appears to float in this orange word and, of course, the blood stain.
When living in Detroit, on weekends I liked to drive into Hamtramck for a bowl of czernina. A whole duck is simmered for hours; celery, allspice, parsley and cloves added; meat cut up and returned to the stock with prunes, raisins and apples; then time to mix stock and blood, season to taste.
And there are all the wonderful blood dishes of Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Norway and Sweden: Bread Baked with Blood and Dried, Black Pudding, Blood Pancakes, and Blood Sausage which Magnus Nilsson details in The Nordic Cookbook.
All this writing about blood has made me hungry, so I went out and bought pig’s blood at Viet Hoa. I have bloody plans, and until those come to fruition I offer you Shakespeare and blood. Bon Appétit!
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood . . . . (Hamlet, 1.5)
And till she come, as truly as to heaven
I do confess the vices of my blood . . . . (Othello. 1.3)
Yet here’s a spot.
Out, damned spot! out, I say!
One; two; why, then ’tis time to do’t;
Hell is murky!
Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier and afeard?
What need we fear who knows it,
when non can call our power to account?
Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? (Macbeth 5.3)