03 January 2010

Memoirs & Menus

Georges Sprunt had a childhood few people could even imagine.

Born in the twenties to a family that settled in Shanghai at the turn of the twentieth century. Known as the Paris of the Orient, Shanghai’s foreign residents lived in palatial estates with a retinue of servants.

At the time of Sprunt’s birth, there were seventy social and sporting clubs for the small foreign community. The Shanghai Club had the longest bar in the world measuring 110.7 feet by 39 feet.

The city was inhabited by writers and movie stars and opera singers like Mary Pickford, Will Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, Anna Pavlova, André Malraux, Emily Hahn and Noel Coward.

Amid his eccentric family Georges Sprunt learned Chinese cooking from a stern master chef. Yiddish dishes came from his grandmother who claimed to be Polish or Russian depending on the day. Russian cooking came from his aunt and opera singer and an exiled czarist colonel. An eighty-year-old Iraqi matriarch with iodine skin and aquamarine eyes taught him to make a curry. He learned another way to make curry from an Indian princess who attended the coronation of King George VI, sold the family jewels and modeled for Balenciaga. Madame Sacati, known as the Tiger of the Japanese Gendarmerie, taught him Japanese specialties. Legendary chef, Henri Carpentier, taught him the secrets of his potage St. Germain on the condition not to divulge it until the chef’s demise.

Needless to say, Georges Sprunt’s Memoirs & Menus is a fascinating document of remembrances through recipes.

Squab Nanking Style

2 squabs quartered
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. sherry
1 clove garlic minced
2 tbsp. oil
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. five-spice seasoning
1/2 cup shredded smoked pork or ham
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 lb. fresh spinach or 1 pkg. frozen spinach (thawed)

Soak cleaned squab in soy sauce, sherry, and garlic for 30 minutes. Drain well, keeping sauce. Heat oil in skillet. Fry squab for 10 minutes. Add pork, spices, seasoning, and stock. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove squab to a heated dish. Add the well-drained spinach to the juices in the pan, adding a little more stock if necessary. Cook spinach until just tender. Place squab on top and serve.
Memoirs & Menus is a highly entertaining and fascinating romp through a unique culinary upbringing.

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