Eating for Love

Musicology grad school update: I’m writing about weird shit again. For my Early Modern Listening seminar, I’m dipping my hands into the incredibly niche field of gastromusicology, a field that combines food studies with musicology. I’m trying to investigate links between food, nutrition treatises, and early modern opera, specifically in the musical treatment of fruits and sweets in love duets.

The early moderns generally subscribed to the humoralist theory, which originated from Ancient Greece, commonly attributed to Galen (c.130 AD – c.210 AD). Humoralists believed that the body housed four humors or bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile), and thought that achieving a balance between the four was the secret to health. An excess (or lack of) any of the four humors would cause disease and bodily harm which could be mitigated through a wide range of dietary regulations and depletory regimens such as bloodletting and emesis. More insidiously, the humors could evaporate from their homes in the bodily organs and travel through the body into the brain, wreaking all sorts of havoc on your emotional stability and rational mind.

Since I’m not here to reproduce my essay and bore you with academese, I decided it might be fun to diagnose myself in a completely unscholarly way. According to this new age humoralist website, I’m of a phlegmatic temperament. This means that my moods are ruled by the water element. My constitution is feminine, and thus cold and moist. I’m overweight, sluggish, lazy, and cowardly. Sounds about right. Except for the water part, since everyone knows I’m an INTJ-A Slytherin Taurus-Sun Aquarius-Moon Leo-Rising Fire-Rat Caprisun in Gatorade, none of which are water signs.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided that I need to be a more sanguine, amorous person and increase my blood volume, in two steps. First, to make myself less phlegmy, I should avoid “cooling, moistening foods like cucumbers and melons; cold drinks and juices; milk and dairy products; sugar and sweets; and refined white sugars and starches.” No more dessert for me. And now, to make myself bloodier:

A Sanguine Valentine’s Day Chicken Katsu Curry
Serves 2 phlegmatic individuals looking to spice up their love lives, and leftovers

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, cubed
2 parsnips, cubed
4 breakable sections curry roux
~1 quart water or chicken stock
2 eggs, beaten
panko breadcrumbs

1. Cover butterflied chicken breast with plastic wrap, and pound chicken until 1 to 1.5 cm thick. I recommend drinking alcohol or black coffee before engaging in this violent activity, to promote an excess of yellow bile and activate your choleric side.
2. Pat chicken dry, season with salt and pepper, and let rest for 15 mins. For those of a phlegmatic temperament, “a little meat can be good to stimulate their metabolic heat and digestive fire.”
3. Heat oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and onion. Sweat onions until golden brown (this means truly brown! Don’t flake out! Translucence is not color!). If you have trouble gauging the color, puncture your gallbladder and let out some of that excess yellow bile for comparison.
4. Add tomatoes. Add ½ tsp salt. Turn heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the tomatoes have released their juices.
5. Set up three separate bowls in a row, starting with flour, beaten eggs and ending with panko. Dust chicken breast in flour, dip it in beaten egg, and then dredge it in panko crumbs. Repeat for other breast. Chill in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
6. To the large pot, add potatoes, parsnips and carrots. “Celery family vegetables, rich in thymogenic blood vitalizing factors. The best ones are parsnips and carrots.”
7. Add water or chicken stock. Stew for 15 mins.
8. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a wok or cast iron skillet. Drop a few panko crumbs to test oil (it should bubble and become golden brown, around 180C). Deep fry each breaded chicken breast until both sides are golden brown. Remove chicken cutlet and pat away excess oil with a paper towel.
9. Add curry roux cubes to the pot, and stir in gently. Taste and adjust salt. Stew for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. Cut chicken cutlets into bite sized strips. Serve over rice, and a generous ladle of curry. Feel your temperature rise, causing your blood to vaporize and move towards your brain. Notice that you are becoming more amorous and sing a manic aria about your love for Poppea. Make plans to dispose of Octavia.

Music Recommendation:
Swindle – What We Do (ft. Rider Shafique, P Money, D Double E & Daley)

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