Why hello there, fair travelers, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophe’s Shakespeare September. I’m your bardic baker, Jon O’Guin. Today, our recipe focuses on a show near and dear to my heart, Much Ado about Nothing. In honor of this dish, we’re making Hero’s Pity Paté, a vegan (or mostly vegan, depending on how you make it) snack dish suitable for parties wherein you want to hook people up under deceptive premises! Which…don’t do that. That’s not cool anymore. Anyway, if you just want the dish, head on over to the recipe HERE. For the rest of us, let’s unpack this sucker.
So Much to Do With Much Ado
Much Ado is one of my favorite Shakespearean shows, so much so that it’s one of only TWO Shakespearean plays that I’ve performed more than once. In the first performance, I was the director, dramaturg, and played Leonato, the father of the “female lead”. (We’ll discuss the names and the quotation marks there in a second.) In the second production, I played Antonio (Leonato’s brother) and Borachio (a minion of the villain), as well as serving as Assistant to the Fight Captain. Community Theatre: where everyone gets as many hats as they can wear!
Hats, Wigs, Masks. Tiny Jackets. Basically, you wear anything.
If you’re unaware of the show, a summary: The show takes place at the house of Leonato, a noble in an Italian city. His friend Don Pedro, a Prince, has just finished putting down a rebellion orchestrated by Don Pedro’s evil brother Don John. Don Pedro and the army are stopping by Leonato’s house on the way home to see him. A young dude named Claudio, did super-well in the battles, and has been made a Count by Don Pedro. Leonato hears all this news with his daughter Hero and his niece Beatrice, the latter of which then inquires If Signior Benedick did anything worth noting. It’s explained that Beatrice and Benedick have an ongoing “merry war”: every time they meet, they make a bunch of witty jokes at each other’s expense.
Don Pedro arrives, Beatrice and Benedick do exactly as we’ve been told, and exchange a series of snarky remarks, while Claudio notices how hot Hero is. The instant they’re alone, he tells his friends he thinks he’s in love, and they take it very differently: Benedick calls him a mushy little bitch, and declares that Claudio might be a punk, but Benedick will NEVER get married, because liking girls is GAY; Don Pedro, on the other hand, high off winning a war and wanting to have a little fun, says “Hey, we’re having a masquerade ball later, let me pretend to be you, and I’ll tell her how you feel, and you two can get hitched!” Both entirely reasonable reactions.
We cut to Don Jon, who is moping because he lost the war like a dumb-dumb. His buddy Conrade tells him he should try to be less sad because he DID just lose a treasonous war, so the fact he’s not getting executed is kind of a win. Don Jon argues that he may be an antisocial dick and a traitor but he’s not a LIAR. He’s not going to PRETEND to be happy when he’s pissed, and the only thing stopping him from ruining everyone else’s day is that he doesn’t know how. Because Shakespeare invented teenage sadbois 400 years before Livejournal. His other friend Borachio shows up, and tells him he knows how to fuck up everyone’s day: he just heard about the Claudio-Hero hook-up. Don Jon decides that, having just survived, again, ORCHESTRATING A TREASONOUS REVOLT that it’s time to fuck with people’s dating lives.
I too make my best decisions while oiled and furious.
The actual “plot”, such as it is, starts in the next scene: During the party, Beatrice and Benedick both have extended sections where they rag on each other, there’s a brief misunderstanding because Claudio, it turns out, is a gullible idiot, and immediately believes the word of a man he personally arrested for being a traitor, but it’s cleared up 3 minutes later, and he and Hero get engaged. Don Pedro, having wooed Hero super quick and therefore in need of something else fun to do, decides to get Benedick and Beatrice together, with the help of Hero, Claudio, and Leonato.
The next couple scenes are everyone tricking everyone else: the dudes convince Benedick that Beatrice is secretly in love with him by pretending to talk about how sad it is that she loves him but he’s too much of a dick to love her back where they know he’ll hear them, and then the women use the EXACT SAME TRICK to make her think he’s the one secretly in love. Meanwhile, since Don Jon’s first plan of “What if I told a single lie with no evidence that will be disproved in under 5 minutes” was miraculously foiled, Borachio comes up with a better one: he’ll hook up with Hero’s maid and convince her to dress up as Hero for some sexy role-play, and Don Jon will get Claudio and Don Pedro to see and hear it. (The Maid is not in on the deception, she’s just apparently perfectly on-board with pretending to be her boss while hooking up.)
Claudio, the gullible idiot, fully believes this, and dumps Hero AT THE ALTAR, where the PRIEST comes up with a plan to trick/punish Claudio for being a dick: they’ll pretend Hero DIED because Claudio broke her heart and that’ll make his dumb ass feel bad. The play implies this plan fails: the next time we see Claudio he’s literally laughing and joking around with Don Pedro. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice reveal their feelings to each other (because they’ve decided they DO love the other one, if the other one loves them), and Beatrice makes the ULTIMATE power move:
If You Wannabe my Lover
You gotta murder your Friend
Kill his ass forever
He pissed off my Cousin.
Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel, but everything works out okay when Borachio (whose name, apropos of nothing, is basically “Drunk” in Spanish) gets drunk and blabs the whole plan to Conrade on a public street, where the guards overhear. Hilariously, once HE hears that Hero died because of the plan, he feels SUPER bad, confesses, and straight up BEGS FOR DEATH: “My villainy they have on record, which I would rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame.” Hell, he even goes out of his way to explain that Margaret was unaware of the plan, and had no idea what he was doing, making him the ONLY person to fully come clean of his lies and tricks in the show. Everything gets worked out, and everyone lives happily ever after.
And if that sounds like a lot of time spent over trivial dumb stuff, congratulations, now you understand layer one of the Title! As I know I’ve explained before (editor’s note: Apparently, he has not.) , the title actually has quite a few layers: The play is Much Ado About Nothing, or “A lot of fuss over nothing”. The title would have also sounded like “noting” in Shakespeare’s dialect, a term used for eavesdropping which, as the synopsis shows, is like, half the communication in the play. Also, ‘nothing” was a slang term for a vagina at the time (Women have no “thing”, after all.) and the main two plot lines are both about dudes getting hitched.
So that’s the story. Can it leap that wall, if it’s so great?
What a strange place for this particular reference.
Words Words Words
So, one of the reasons I love Much Ado, and PEOPLE love Much Ado, is that it is a show about words. From a structural standpoint, Claudio and Hero are the leads, since their story is the core conflict. But since Benedick and Beatrice get the better LINES, the play, most audiences agree, is really about THEM. To the point where the Opera based on it is literally just named “Beatrice et Benedict”.
And it’s not like that language is by accident: Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite plays for studying the Elizabethan relationship with language. Language was not simply something used to convey information, but it was also a primary source of entertainment for most Elizabethans. Jokes, stories, and wit were what they had instead of books, TV, and the Internet. Indeed, the Elizabethans didn’t say “let’s go see a play”, they said “let us go HEAR a play”: the POINT of the play is the language and the story. Thus, it’s little wonder the most popular characters are the two wittiest ones.
It’s even explored by contrast in the show: There’s a character, the head constable Dogberry, whose ongoing joke is that he’s incredibly BAD at words, often using the opposite word or phrase of what he meant. (“You will be condemned to everlasting redemption for this!”) And his dumb arguments for things are an absolute delight.
But none of this is about the dish, is it? So I suppose I must pry myself away from just listing all the reasons and ways I love this show to talk about today’s dish.
Tis Pity She’s A Bore
That title is a significant improvement over the title it’s referencing, and is STILL pretty offensive. Anyway, today’s dish comes to us from “Shakespeare, Not Stirred”, a cocktail recipe with several recipes for dishes or snacks. The dish, as I noted what feels like hours ago, (Look, the show takes over 2 hours to perform, the fact that I gave you 70% of the plot in 7 paragraphs is a feat.) is titled “Hero’s Pity Paté”. (Fun fact: I misread it as Hermia’s Pity Paté, which is why those of you whose sole goal is to note my many failings have already recorded that last week’s post implied today was going to be about Midsummer Night’s Dream…but in screwing that detail up, I ALSO MADE AN ASS OF MYSELF, and filled the literal terms of my promise, so BACK TO THE ABYSS WITH THEE, FIENDS.)
It’s a very easy recipe, if you’re an idiot and misread the ingredient list. When you correct youself, it’s just an easy recipe. See, as we covered a few years back, Patés are basically just “meat pastes” that have been formed and chilled into a brick. Nowadays, almost all pates have liver in them, since foie gras was a big element in French pate for so long, but it’s not technically necessary. This recipe replaces the liver, meat, spices, and vegetables with…tofu, nuts, spices, and vegetables. Once you’ve handled your mise-en-place, the entire recipe is “Blend this shit together, chill it, and eat it.” The TRICK is that one of the elements of the mise-en-place is harder than the others: Specifically, the recipe calls for “one medium carrot, peeled and parboiled”.
I can’t think of a situation where this ISN’T a sad image.
There are no happy situations where you’re boiling two hot dogs, or one carrot.
And the first six times I read the recipe, I saw “Peeled and WORD-ENDING-IN-ED” and assumed it was “chopped”. So I added a whole 12 minutes to my cooking time, having to heat up water, add a peeled carrot, and waiting five minutes for it to be partially cooked. (That’s what Parboiled means, if you’ve forgotten our post: it refers to partially boiling vegetables to soften them.)
Once that’s done, you just take firm tofu, and a bunch of aromatics, spices, and other ingredients:
This is the most visually exciting this dish gets. I warn you now.
And blend it to a colorful paste. I do want to make a quick note before we get to the finale that today’s recipe uses our home-grown parsley, marking this recipe as one of the sadly few times we actually USE the vegetables we grow in the gardens we planted for my father.
Actually, the parsley comes from a planter on the deck, but it’s part of the overall garden in spirit.
We also slightly modified the recipe, as the original calls for Worchestershire sauce, which, if you’re unaware, DOES include anchovies in its creation, meaning that adding Worchestershire sauce to the pate renders it no longer vegetarian, a fact I’m unsure if the cookbook authors are aware of: they never CLAIM the recipe is vegetarian…but why else make a Paté recipe using tofu, carrots, and almonds? I suppose it’s moderately easier than the meat-based ones…Anyway, we used Liquid Aminos, a gluten-free soy-sauce alternative, because we had a vegan guest. Once it’s all blended up, you can move it to a bowl or loaf pan lined with cling-wrap, and chill for a couple hours to let it set. The next day, you can eat it with crackers, and it honestly LOOKS pretty interesting.
In a “Someone mixed hummus with Dorito’s Cool Ranch seasoning” sort of way.
Taste-wise, all of my family noted that it was a little weird at first, but that might have been because we had just had another somewhat weird flavor for dinner. (One you’ll be seeing before the month is over.) Due to a crazy weekend, I was the only one who really had much of it, and I thought it was perfectly adequate as a cracker-topper. The mix of citrus and salty flavors weirdly kind of cancelled out into a sort of middle ground where it didn’t taste much like anything except in little momentary flashes of “oh, there’s the cumin”, “oh, there’s the parsley”, etc. For a recipe that takes 16 minutes of effort, and serves as a gluten-free, vegan appetizer option, that’s not pitiful at all!
Whew. Man, I REALLY leaned into just straight discussing the play on this one. I’ll work on reining that in with future posts, unless you all really enjoyed my irreverent summation. I did discover that several of my copies of previous shows of Much Ado that I owned were stored on a hard-drive that unfortunately died, so if you want to help me feed my Bene-ddiction, consider supporting us on Patreon so I can re-buy the videos. If you think it best I, like Benedict, should consume myself away with sighs like a covered fire, then you can bail out of bailing me out, and instead just share my silly summation of Shakespeare, socially. You can share us on Facebook, re-tweet us on Twitter, and like our very few pictures on Instagram, because I keep taking pictures of my lunch and then not spending the additional 4 minutes to UPLOAD THEM, LIKE A TWIT. Ahem. We’re working on it.
THURSDAY: WE DISCUSS THE BOOK THAT BROUGHT US THIS LOAF, AND HOW TO WASH DOWN OUR RUE.
MONDAY: FROM ONE OF SHAKESPEARE’S MORE FRIVOLOUS COMEDIES, TO ONE OF HIS MORE MACHO TRAGEDIES, WHERE WE WILL BATHE OUR EYES AND FLESH IN SALT, AND ACID. YOU’LL NEED THE HEART OF A TIGER TO ENDURE. THE TONGUE OF ONE WOULD HELP, TOO.
Let us dawdle no longer, here's the
Hero’s Pity Paté
Makes 1 loaf.(I didn’t measure it)
7 oz firm tofu, drained
1 medium carrot, peeled and PARBOILED
1 cup raw almonds
½ cup chopped parsley
1 chopped scallion (white and light green parts only)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce/soy sauce/liquid aminos
1 ½ tsp olive oil
Chopped almonds, if desired, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a food processor. Blend until almost smooth.
Place in a small bowl or loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Remove from the vessel and unwrap to reveal shaped pate. Top, if desired, and serve with crackers.