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The Day I Made Pâté

A couple of weeks ago wife Lynn decided she wanted some homemade pâté, a Freedom dish made from different kinds of meat, but mostly from disgusting organs that many people wouldn’t eat. I didn’t react much when she first broached the subject. However, I have discovered after 23 years of marriage that if I do things like make pâté and plan trips as a surprise I get a large number of points that I can later trade for other “favors.” So making pâté seemed like a good idea.

I dug out one of our many cookbooks by Julia Child, this one called “The Art of Freedom Cooking.” The list of ingredients for pâté was extensive, and included things like fresh pork fat, beef liver, pork liver, calves’ liver, chicken, Cognac, an imported bay leaf (from whence it was imported was not stated), and a number of other things—like herbs and spices. I wrote all these things down on a piece of paper. This was my grocery-shopping list. Off I went to Kroger. My shopping trip was typical for me. There is always something on the list that I can’t find. If it is a particularly long list there may be 2 or 3 things I can’t find.

This phenomenon also occurs at home and used to occur at the office—frequently. It is not uncommon for me to be staring into our refrigerator looking for the tea that is usually in a big blue pitcher.
Me—“Lynn, do we have any tea?”
Lynn—“It’s behind the milk.”
This is a family joke—everything is “behind the milk.” Although the big blue tea pitcher is the largest thing in our refrigerator, it has an uncanny ability to hide behind very small objects, like a radish. People who study stealth technology should consider the case of the invisible tea pitcher.

The same thing used to happen at my office, back in the old days when I went to an office every day. Important documents would lie on my desk and when I wasn’t looking would just disappear—poof. When this happened, I had no recourse but to call my faithful helper and say in a somewhat pleading voice, “Sandy, have you seen that important document?” Whereupon she would reach down and pick up the document that had suddenly reappeared right on my desktop. She would smile and try not to say anything. That was a good policy.

I couldn’t find the liver. I walked up and down in front of the meat counter several times. I was determined not to ask anyone to help me find the liver. In the first place I was embarrassed to be looking for liver. I made up a cover story about wanting it for catfish bait. Finally, after a number of other shoppers began to look at me suspiciously, I gave up and asked the nice lady in a white coat, “Do you have any liver? I want it for catfish bait.” She said, “Sure. It’s right here.” She reached right down in front of where we were standing, picked up a tub of liver, and handed it to me. I am absolutely certain that the liver was not there even 10 seconds before she stretched forth her hand. It must have been some kind of magic.

I checked out and explained to the checkout person that I was going to use all this liver for catfish bait.

The next order of business was to assemble the ingredients. First, I was to line a terrine with pork fat. I had somehow overlooked the terrine. What is a terrine anyway? If we had one, I was sure I couldn’t find it. I just used a baking dish. I lined that sucker with pork fat. My arteries cried out in horror just thinking about pork fat, liver and other artery clogging ingredients.

The next thing was to run a bunch of ingredients through the food processor—like a bunch of meat, a lot of Cognac, garlic, and herbs and spices. Then mix everything together, pour it into the baking dish and cook it at 350 degrees for a couple of hours.

When the pâté comes out of the oven, it must be weighted down to squeeze out the rendered fat and to pack the pâté firmly into a nice meatloaf shape. Julia recommends using another pan or piece of wood that will fit in the terrine and weighting that with a brick or canned goods or something heavy, weighing about 5 pounds. Not a problem for me. We’ve got heavy stuff. I selected a cast iron chicken cooker that has been in the family for more than 80 years. It weighs 8 pounds and has a 1-gallon capacity. I, who believe in mega-power tools, thought if 8 pounds is good then 16 pounds would be twice as good. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds and if it is contained in an 8-pound chicken cooker, voila, 16 pounds. I filled up the cast iron pot with water and carefully set it down on the pan on top of the pâté. It was a delicate balancing act but I finally got it just right. I stepped back to admire my handiwork.

I actually stepped back a bit prematurely and my admiration was short lived because although the pot was delicately balanced, the foundation consisted of mushy meat that did not prove to be a stable foundation for a 16-pound pot of water. As the meat collapsed and the pot of water tumped over, I just stood there and hummed, “The foolish man built his house upon the meat.”

I spent the next hour cleaning up a gallon of water mixed with rendered pork fat. It is incredible just how much counter top and shelves and drawers and floor 1-gallon of pork fat and water can cover.

All in all it was not a bad experience. I did get the anticipated points for the surprise and although I have been too tired to cash them in, there is no expiration date.