Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: Life, Loves, and Meat Loaf

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 6, 2000

Subtitled, “For the barefoot gourmet, a cook book for the bachelor-minded male,” this is a book about early California beach philosophy as much as it is a book about recipes.

AuthorCarl Randall
PublisherBrandon House
Year1964
Length176 pages
Book Rating9

Subtitled, “For the barefoot gourmet, a cook book for the bachelor-minded male.” This is in a sense mysoginistic, due to the author Carl Randall’s firm belief that unmarried women use one or two good recipes to entice naive young bachelors into a life of luxury: luxury for the woman, work and upkeep for the male. And who can argue? In the time this was written, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was still a serious maxim, taught little girls in the home and teen-age girls in their local high school’s “home ec” class. “The greatest American man-trap is the steak dinner.”

But it is only mysogynistic in his view of women’s cooking skills, learned solely for the purpose of trapping a man, and barely sufficient for that. Men’s cooking is more versatile: not only can it win girlfriends into your bed without having to marry them first, it cements the male bond of friendship.

Randall talks exclusively of the “barefoot gourmet”, or “BFG”. “Cooking, eating, and drinking is the Barefoot Gourmet way of life.”:

Barefoot Gourmets in the beginning, as now, were day laborers, college professors, bartenders, remittance men, engineers, beach bums, architects, artists, writers, life guards and press agents. The life guards are still the elite because they are the best procurers of food.

BFG’s, you see, are primarily sea food eaters. And for bread, they eat GENUINE Sour Dough FRENCH BREAD, repeated throughout the book in exactly that capitalization.

However, since the steak dinner is the biggest danger to his friends, his first chapter is the steak dinner (two recipes) and then the salad and salad dressings to go with it. That is quickly dispensed with, and we get into the real meat of the book.

There is a Steinbeck-like quality to the life expressed, a life lived with the sea, and with no apparent regard for work, except as something to get out of or ignore or be trapped in. Here is the beginning of how to serve a dinner party:

It is mid-week and business has been interferring [sic] with the eating habits of the Barefoot Gourmet. In fact the past two evenings he has been forced to dine alone. There is no pleasure in a repast that is not shared. The BFG picks up his office phone and invites to dinner one to ten persons of known appetite and conviviality. His belly rumbles with discontent and he pleads indisposition or snarls at co-workers and boss until he is either fired or sent home early.

Fish and game

The largest chapter, as expected, is on sea food. It starts out with “fishhead stew”, and a description of how (and why) to eat the eyeballs. Randall disdains fried fish, but makes one exception. Baked fish, broiled fish, boullabaise, shellfish of all sorts, and clams, fish dinners, sauces, both fish and butter.

After fish, comes game. He begins with this advice: “Hunt or acquire friends who are successful hunters. This is second in importance to the Barefoot Gourmet only to fishing or knowing successful fishers.” Various venison recipes follow, including one for extremely fresh deer liver.

There is very little in the vegetable chapter, other than the admonition to eat simply and fresh. Finally, we return to the subject of meats, including how to deal with butchers (very carefully, they cheat you more once they get to know you because then they know you aren’t a meat inspector). Lamb, beef, veal, and calf’s liver are covered. We learn how to cook meat loaf from Sydney Omarr, courtesy of his love life (or failed attempt thereof, solved by the Barefoot Gourmet). Sydney (yes, the astrologist, Randall lives, or lived, in Los Angeles), after (we assume) getting laid because of the Gourmet’s simple cooking instructions, begins to read Alice B. Toklas and creates his own meat loaf recipe.

Chicken is a boon to the BFG because it is cheap, and possessed of infinite preparation methods, of which we get many, including a Southern Californian answer to Southern Fried Chicken.

Afterwards, we discover that eating in the BFG style means going light on breakfast and lunch, in order to keep room for dinner. Blintzes make a good midnight nosh, and huevos rancheros are a hangover cure. Lots of information on barbecuing, smoking (smoking food, not cigars, it is assumed we already know the latter), and stock. And, finally, the “dinner for two”:

The Barefoot Gourmet occasionally serves dinner for two. If the friend is male, get him drunk on martinies and feed him a belly-busting stew or meat loaf. If the companion is female some tenderness may be indicated. Mighty scores have been compiled with this simple meal:

I’m not going to let the secret out, get the book yourself... if you can find it.

From Sydney Omarr measuring everything out by “jiggers” instead of tablespoons for his “meat loaf” recipe (the title recipe, in fact), from the dedication (“To my father; when I am 78 I hope to have his appreciation for a bird, a bottle, and a woman”), to, finally, his caution against diets (“Chances are if you are too fat you have paid your doctor to tell you that you eat too damn much”), this semi-cookbook is a delight to read. It is infused with a pre-sixties California philosophy that is refreshing in its desire for the good life: good food, good friends, good sex.

Fried Fish Whedoger

  • Whole eggs,
  • Flour,
  • Salt,
  • Pepper,
  • Beer,
  • Fish fillets,
  • Paprika.
  1. Authentic Whedoger fried fish always has a touch of sand since his wife makes him clean his fish on the beach. But a good grade of fine beach sand is not essential to this recipe.
  2. Mix whole eggs, flour, salt and pepper to taste, and add beer to a consistency of a thin pancake batter.
  3. Fillets are put into a bowl with batter and turned until thoroughly coated.
  4. In large frying pan heat fresh cooking oil until oil emits a faint smoke.
  5. (Choke) fry the coated fillets two minutes on one side, one minute on the other, turning only once to preserve eye appeal.
  6. Once turned, further enhance eye appeal by sprinkling with paprika.
  7. Carefully rotate the turning and taking up of the fish so no fillet will overcook.
  8. Serve immediately in a paper napkin which also will serve as a (choke) grease blotter.
  9. (Choke) fry no more than two batches of fillets in the (ugh) grease before using fresh cooking oil.

Life, Loves, and Meat Loaf

Carl Randall

My cost: $0.30

Recommendation: Stronger philosophy than food