A Question of Degrees: Boiling or Roasting?

Dear Mr. Gold:

Boiling versus roasting. I’m too embarrassed to ask this out loud ... but technically, they’re not opposites, right? That’s like saying frying is the opposite of boiling. And why would one be quicker to roast one’s enemies rather than boil them? The more satisfying crunch of defeat? I’m not going to ask the ultimate question – I’m assuming even you haven’t eaten that particular dish.

—Elizabeth, Montrose

Dear Elizabeth:

Boiling and roasting are indeed technical opposites, at least in the SAT sense, which is to say one method surrounds food with wet heat, and the other with dry heat. Roasting is the most primitive form of cooking — tossing a haunch of meat into a fire — but if you want to boil that haunch, you have to fashion a rather sturdy vessel, a device for holding the vessel, and a way of moderating the heat. Boiling is one of the markers of civilization, although I wouldn’t recommend that you cook your turkey that way.

Roasting one’s enemies is rather primitive and satisfying — an ungodly number of fairy tales end with the witch or evil stepsister dispatched in a roaring fire — but the current president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, is rather fond of boiling his enemies. And boiling in oil was once a favored method of execution — the apostle John, for one, was subjected to this, although I think he was supposed to have survived. Miracles were his stock in trade.

And as to the human flesh — not even a hangnail. Not even if it tasted exactly like, say, the Hunan-style smoked pig’s tongue at Dong Ting Chun, 140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel.

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Dong Ting Spring

140 W. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776


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