In this post, we continue with our gripping West Coast saga, from inside William Randolph Hearst’s fantasy fortress.
Leaving the spacious Visitor’s Center, hubby and I, together with our ‘psychedelically sated’ travel companions, are ushered onto buses and hastily herded up the hill to the Enchanted Castle, in a scene strangely reminiscent of a famous Walt Disney movie, starring a bunch of ill-fated lemmings…
We have chosen to take the ‘Grand Rooms Tour’, which includes the Assembly Room, Refectory, Billiard Room, Theater, Gardens, Neptune Pool and Roman Pool.
Dr. Guissi and Taemour (G&T) are instantly smitten with the Greek and Roman statues, scattered around the pool areas. Are they admirers of the classics? No, they merely enjoy appraising naked male bodies, although at some point, Dr. G remarks, “marble leaves me cold”.
William Randolph Hearst, as well as being a savvy and ruthless businessman, was also extremely good at appropriating modern and ancient works of art from every corner of the globe. In most cases, he would be labeled a HOARDER, but because of his vast wealth and fame, Hearst is hailed as a COLLECTOR!
Most notable is his array of Greek vases, Spanish and Italian furniture, oriental carpets, renaissance vestments, and an extensive library filled with manuscripts, rare books, and autographs.
Helmut feels a deep connection with William Randolph Hearst, because he too, is a well-known collector of autographs, although hubby’s come courtesy of a BAILIFF, and are delivered by a uniformed police officer.
During our tour of the magnificent Baroque dining room, named the ‘Refectory’, our guide relates how, when the Castle was ready for full occupancy in 1927, WRH would show off his largesse by inviting a host of celebrities and intellectuals to stay – often for days at a time –to entertain him and fellow guests.
When distinguished guests arrived, Hearst would give them the red-carpet treatment and on their first evening at supper, would seat them on either side of him, at the center of the refectory’s ultra-long, walnut dining table.
On the second evening of their visit, these same guests might discover that their name cards had been moved one space down the table, and then the next evening, another space down, and so on, towards the very end of the table, thereby discreetly heralding the end of their visit.
Later, in our San Simeon motel, Hubby Helmut, eager to employ the ‘Hearst Method’ for getting rid of clingy guests, finishes the day by scanning the short wooden table section of our own trusty bedside ‘bible’ – the IKEA catalogue!
GETTING RID OF GUESTS: AN ALTERNATIVE
But why wait to assemble an IKEA table, when only two thousand miles north-east of California, in the US state of Wisconsin, getting rid of tenacious and undesirable guests has become a culinary art form!
Nothing says LEAVE! like an obnoxious stench, so below is a recipe for Wisconsin Lutefisk, a foul-smelling fish dish, brought to America by Norwegians, and traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So pungently shocking is the lutefisk experience, that only those with a drastically impaired sense of smell would wish to be invited to dine at a Norwegian-American home in Wisconsin, around this time of year.
To make lutefisk, skin some cod, salt it, and hang it out (or up) to dry, for several weeks until it hardens. Note that the emanating stink will ensure an entirely guest-free environment! After the fish has hardened, soak it for several days in LYE, a strong caustic alkaline solution of potassium salts, which is obtained by leaching wood ashes. When not in use poisoning Norwegian-Americans, lye plays a vital part in the soap-making process.
1 piece of dried lutefisk, sawn into 6-inch lengths
2 tablespoons lye
Soak the fish in clear water for 3 days.
Add 2 tbsp lye into a gallon of water.
Soak for 3 days in this solution.
Then soak for 4 days in clear water, changing the water every day
To cook the lutefisk
Place the well-rinsed cod in an ovenproof dish, cover with aluminum foil. Put in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Top with hot melted butter and serve with boiled potatoes and mashed peas.
Dear readers, after surviving one malodorous batch, the mere threat of preparing the offending lutefisk a second time, is guaranteed to prevent even the most die-hard of guests from ever visiting again. Success achieved!