Monday, November 11, 2013

The Trencher Solution

Most people that like messy sandwiches and other food usually handle the leftover mess one of a couple different ways (note: by "mess", I refer here to the delicious innards of your sandwich that are exposed to the world through your voraciousness or I refer to the goopy remains of whatever sauces and condiments made up your meal):
  1. If there are breadsticks or other bread accompaniments, then you mop up the mess with the bread. 
  2. Eating the mess à la carte. 
  3. Throwing the mess away.
Now, clearly #3 is not only a sin, but is also heart-breaking after a good meal. It's akin to throwing away extra body parts after making a new human (...wait, that's not how new humans are made? Sorry, I missed that day in 5th grade when they explained it. I only have sci-fi and horror stories to go off of now).

Similarly, #2 can frequently be a disappointment after the climax of a meal that is more than the sum of its component parts, although rarely the remaining parts are worthwhile.

#1 then is clearly the best solution, and is also wonderful in that it awards additional breads, but it is not always appropriate. I wager that it is most appropriate when you are eating a gravy of some sort (whether that's turkey gravy, spaghetti sauce, or other). What then can we do in situations where only #2 or #3 seem to apply?

I recommend what I call, "The Trencher Solution".

If you're unaware, trenchers are one of the coolest things about medieval living that we really should have kept around. Even better than sliced bread, trenchers were pieces of bread that served as plates.

Let me say that again: a bread-plate.

Just the juxtaposition of those two words cries out for modern-day existence!

Usually, the bread was a hardened bread (or stale according to Wikipedia; I like to think that it was purposefully designed to be hard), but it would become softened as it soaked up the juices throughout the courses of dinner and you could eat it at the end.

The ambrosia that was the bread-plate soaked up the juices AND YOU COULD EAT IT.

WHY do we no longer use this?

Granted, the medieval trencher was not a particularly appetizing thing. It was designed to be a plate first and food second. I've read that they gave them away to dogs and poor people instead of eating the bread-plate themselves...but I think that we could manage to have trenchers that all could use!

I first encountered the idea of a trencher way back when I read The Dragon, the Earl, and the Troll by Gordon Dickson; by the way, a fantastic book in a fantastic series. I wish we could have seen a conclusion to the series before Dickson-sama's death, but each book is self-contained (more-or-less). Still, especially by the end of the series, you could tell Dickson was moving towards something more and more momentous. Link below:
This is the book that also turned me on to the Christmas carol, "Good King Wenceslas", which in my world goes down as one of the greatest Christmas carols in the world, both for ease of singing without accompaniment and how much fun it is to sing all the parts (not to mention that it's actually a second day of Christmas song, which doesn't get anywhere near as much credit as it should). GAH, BACK ON TOPIC:

So the Trencher Solution is to take a hardy piece of bread, preferably toasted, and put it under whatever you eat.

Yeah I know, simple. Did you think I was going to have yins bake trenchers from scratch? I like this because after you finish your meal, you get a nice half-sandwich from the leftover mess, and it's pretty good at catching droppings from your meal.

There is a modern-day equivalent to trenchers by the way: bread-bowls. They can be fantastic when done correctly. My all-time favorite has to be the "Ultimate Fondue" from Red Lobster, which, for some absurd reason, they discontinued (I think because it was too delicious).