Her recipe called for Madeira wine, and though I assumed that was Portuguese in origin, the dots connecting it to Port did not follow. But a Chief when given a mission, follows through. And Sunday dinner fare succeeded.
In all my years of naval service, even the best Culinary Specialists, who were once titled “Mess Specialists” when food was disrespectfully called “chow”, never prepared meals with wine as an ingredient. If there was any alcohol involved in food preparation, I would imagine it would have been more to add sauce to the cook than perhaps to the dish. Based on personal experience of several decades, I attest that a man’s heart is soothed by food. Men, left to themselves, might be soothed by a few tacos and beer; on a Sunday afternoon, a barbecue of steaks or burgers, again with a few beers, might be a comfort to prepare for the new week. But in a world increasingly based on soothing outraged feelings, it seems the Europeans – who have prepared food for hundreds of years with sauces mildly alcoholic – found the best path to enlightened dining. Add a little flavoring from marsala – or, today’s recipe item, madeira ( a type of Port) wine and a gastronome is born.
A clarification I feel is in order. These dalliances with different recipes and ingredients never appeared during the years we raised our “bilge rats”. There never was time or the appreciation (from the diner) to prepare gourmet fare for a crew that was never dining but rather grazing, microwaving, or inhaling “chow”. Once the Senior Chief and his bride, the command (home) Flag Officer, were left to themselves, chow time became dining together. And the menu became a little higher on the Michelin scale.
While I may look backward fondly to my Navy days, I can say that in my home, the Culinary Specialist in the years since my retirement, has never once used a steam vat, does not need to label the dish to identify whether a meat or a vegetable, and does not have to obtain approval from “higher authority” before adding a little wine or spirit to a dish. Oh my, I think I have become French.