My friend Michael McKinley is a father, a cook, and a crime novelist (check out his latest, “The Penalty Killing”), and, in honor of today's holiday, he sent me the following meditation on food and its various uses.
Dining with the Dead: A Ragout of Thoughts on Murder and Food
As we’re now in a week that celebrates the dead through Hallowe’en and All Souls and Saints Days, I got to thinking about food and the dead. I’m not talking about eating your way into the grave or a fatal attack of anaphylaxis, but rather the deliberate use of food as an instrument of killing. It’s a question that interests me, because I write crime novels.
I have not yet fictionally killed anyone with food, but I suspect that I will, one day, because killing with food is much more diabolical than other murders for one reason: food is the first thing that mom gives you, after giving you life. You could say that food is a motherhood issue, and as such, sacred. Of course, women have long used food to dispatch enemies—the Victorians made a cultural industry out of the female poisoner – but the idea of using food to kill, or to set up a killing, is one that plays on the bred-in-the-womb trust we have toward those who feed us.
Eating is primal, and we have an equally primal sense that mealtime should be safe, a place where the person feeding you has only your well-being at heart. Which, of course, is exactly why using food, or the idea of it, to commit murder is so bloody sinister.
One of most gruesome foodie murders in fiction actually uses food to take revenge against mom. In Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare’s dramatic anticipation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the title character is a Roman general whose pride and honor leads to a stage littered with dismembered bodies. When Titus kills the two surviving sons of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, in revenge for their rape of his daughter (he has already killed her other son), he holds a banquet. When a character inquires why the two lads aren’t at the feast, Titus, dressed as a chef, exclaims:
Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
'Tis true, 'tis true; witness my knife's sharp point.
Then he kills Tamora. Some host.
Michael has promised to write up a longer list of the use of food as a weapon in literature, and you can check that out here. In the meantime, here’s his recipe for Dead Easy Fried Chicken. According to him, “It’s sublime, and idiot proof. And so simple you think I'm missing stuff. It is also an aphrodisiac.”
Dead Easy Fried Chicken
Take your favourite pieces of chicken-- bone in or boneless, doesn't matter --and lay them out on a sheet of wax paper.
Roll them in seasoned salt and pepper-- liberally, but not so much that their skins are totally covered or you'll die of salt poisoning!
Roll them in flour so that their skins are totally covered!
Fry them in 2 cups of vegetable oil (Canola works very well) until they turn golden brown (a bit longer for bone-in).
Place on paper towel and pat dry, then serve with potato salad, coleslaw, and cold lager. If making for a beloved, expect to be most gratefully rewarded.