When teaching undergraduates about the postmodern novel, I give them clues what to look for. One of the easiest ways to test for postmodernism is to ask whether a novel is constantly pointing at itself, shouting ‘Hey! Look at me. I’m a work of fiction!’ So Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is postmodern, but Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land is not. Although both are in my view perfectly brilliant novels.
Thinking about attention-seeking postmodern novels with ‘novel-ness’ written all over them reminded me of that phase in food when everything was served inside itself. So cabbage was made more postmodernly cabbage-ey by being presented as soup inside a hollowed out cabbage. ‘Hi’, it drawled smugly when it got to the table. ‘Did you know that I’m 100% pure cabbage? Just look at me. I’m so damn cute.’ Mushrooms, apples, potatoes, pumpkins were made more flouncily, showily themselves by being cooked inside their own skins. I’m not really a fan of any of them — especially the cabbage. Making the hole in the cabbage both large enough for a serving of soup as well as sufficiently leak-proof, involves using such an extraordinarily large specimen that quite honestly you need to eat alone in order to have enough room at the table.
But when it comes to postmodern food, I will always make an exception. Do you remember those scooped out jelly oranges we used to have at children’s parties? Half an orange filled with orange jelly is just pure, unadulterated pleasure in my opinion. So, as a treat for postmodernists everywhere, here’s something to lift your poor, jaded spirits. But be careful — if you lift your spirits too much, you won’t be postmodern anymore.
Postmodern Lime Jelly — with stripes
I am indebted to the wonderful Bompas & Parr jelly book for advice on quantities and techniques. I would serve these jelly wedges with mojito cocktails. Why have a lime wedge when you can have a jelly wedge?
For the Clear Lime Jelly
125ml sugar syrup — make this by bringing 125mls of water to the boil, removing from the heat and then stirring in 125g of caster sugar until it dissolves
5 leaves gelatine
Half the 6 limes and squeeze the juice into a jug. You should have 225 ml of juice. Reserve the skins of 5 of the limes to pour the jelly into. Turn the skins inside out and then peel the pith away from the centre, until the skins are completely clean. Put them in the fridge to start chilling. This will help the setting process later.
Save the 6th lime shell for the cream jelly.
Add the water to the juice and the sugar syrup. Pour a little of the mixture over the 5 gelatine leaves which you have snipped into a heat-proof bowl. After ten minutes soaking, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the gelatine dissolves completely. Strain into a measuring jug.
For the Cream Lime Jelly
4 leaves gelatine
100 ml water
1 tablespoon sugar
Zest of the 6th lime
400ml full cream milk
Cut the gelatine up and place it into a heat proof bowl with the water, sugar and zest of lime. Allow it to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes and then place over a gently simmering pan until it dissolves. Add the milk and then strain it through a sieve into a measuring jug.
Here comes the slow, fiddly part. Rest the 10 chilled lime skin shells inside an egg box or the egg container in your fridge. Pour a layer of clear jelly into each shell and allow to cool for half an hour or so, or until set. Repeat the layers until the lime shells are full.
You will be left with enough of the 2 different jelly liquids to make 3 or 4 extra servings in standard moulds.
Once the jelly limes are set, slice them in half again, to reveal the stripes. Pour the mojitos, hand out the wedges and listen to Leonard Cohen.