Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pheasant Under Glass

When I was a kid, pheasant under glass was the cliche for ritzy food, but often with a touch of pretension-mocking irony. There were countless references, in cartoons, TV shows, conversation. I think some restaurants served the dish at least into the seventies. Now I'm sure you'd get a blank stare if you made a pheasant under glass reference to a kid. I don't know if there's any single culinary equivalent as a cultural reference today, perhaps because the old-school stuffy dining paradigm that persisted into my childhood has been mostly jettisoned.

I decided to putter around the internet looking for references to pheasant under glass. There were surprisingly few, perhaps because the dish had completely disappeared by the digital age.

The term certainly had enough currency in 1969 for it to be used as the joke title of an episode of "Get Smart" (where a Professor Pheasant is imprisoned under a glass dome). One of the odder references I found was a quote from Aretha Franklin in 1982. "Disco," Aretha said, "is like having pheasant under glass when you really wanted ribs!" I'm assuming she was referring to the overproduction of disco and its relative lack of soul, but the analogy doesn't quite work.

As recently as 2001, The New York Times published a recipe for pheasant under glass, to accompany a nostalgic piece by playwright and food writer Jonathan Reynolds.

I've never had pheasant under glass, but now that I've attained the age of nostalgia I feel a terrible emptiness because of it. Just once before I die I'd like to eat pheasant under glass. And when it's presented to me I want the waiter to say, "Dinner is served!"

Image by Allan Bealy


Blogger Joanna said...

Pete - like the blog, love Allan's illustration!

3:38 PM  
Blogger Rogerio said...

there's a reference on the cartoon THE ANT AND THE AARDVARK episode ISLE OF CAPRICE.
My email:

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget escargot appetizer and cherries jubilee for dessert.

3:20 PM  
Blogger house of sabe said...

Tonight I had asked my husband if he knew what that OLD expression meant as we are thinking about buy pheasant chicks to add to our island home...I said I would be concerned about hunters if they strayed which they do... and this subject P-U-Glass came up I just looked at the google sites and chose yours...I love it thankyou so much! Thankyou!

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight, we heard about the expression, my soon-to-be-inlaws and I, from their grandma, and a quick search led me to this blog. Thank you! As a linguist, I find such things to be extremely interesting. I have never heard the expression before and I'm a millennial. I like it though. I think I'll use it!

11:37 PM  

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