Jori Jayne Emde joined the Fatty Crew before it ever existed. That is to say, she was there before the beginning. As the assemblage of a Crew organically developed, Emde played various roles, from cook to designer and everything in between. In my humble opinion, and I would believe many of her former colleagues’ and mentors’ would say the same, her cooking skills, palate and attention to detail in the kitchen were admirable and perhaps the finest of her fine assets. Bitch has talent! So, as I encouraged her to follow her path, during and after her time with the Crew I always hoped that path would lead her back to the kitchen.
An old buddy called me up just over a year ago, at a time when Emde was preparing to leave the Crew and figure her shit out, a plank we all must walk every so often. Well, he let me know he was putting together a celebration commemorating the 125th anniversary of the death of Jerry Thomas (for the uninitiated, more or less the creative genius behind what we know of today as the cocktail) and would I be interested in cooking the dinner? Not just any dinner, granted, but an all meat Beefsteak dinner sans silverware in the style of a few legendary pubs as mentioned in Joseph Mitchell’s Up in The Old Hotel, a collection of his writings from his time with The New Yorker. I quickly agreed, as meat, booze and good friends was more motivation than a supermodel like me required to get out of bed.
Emde’s meandering foodie-muse had her tinkering, quite successfully, with drinking vinegars and, at the time, she tentatively planned on pursuing production of acidic elixirs as part of her new work regimen. When I mentioned the call, she asked me what kind of sauce would I serve with a meal of muscle, fat and organs? My response was the same one she probably receives from me when asking most questions: “Well, what would you do?” I won’t say that Worcestershire sauce was her first or immediate response because my memory is not that exacting — but if not first, it was a damn close second. And, then, the next thing she said was, “I have been reading about how Worcestershire sauce came together and how it was a freak accident when English chemists tried to recreate an Indian fermented fish sauce for an English woman and I’ve been wanting to recreate it, why don’t I make it for you.” I smelled something brewing, smiled and, expecting genius, quickly agreed. She made (and is still making, at least for me, for now), as well, a hand-churned mustard and a potent lemongrass gastrique–seasoned chili vinegar that had a depth unlike any vinegar I’ve ever tasted. Needless to say, it was all a huge hit at the dinner. A bigger hit, I believe, than any of the eight meat dishes barbarically consumed that evening.
It was a time amidst these experiments with vinegars, scents, sauces, hooch and condiments of all types that Lady Jayne’s Alchemy was born. A woman in self-imposed semi-exile, living in a barn in the sticks in upcountry NY, a woman of the world, a woman of ideas, a back-talking sassy chick from Texas, Lady Jayne uncovered part of her calling, to the envy of me and me standing beside her.
The Worcestershire sauce, at one time named No. 4 sauce (the back story: because she was the youngest of four girls and at parties, her Pops, by the time he got to introducing Jori, was either to tired, indifferent or forgetful to recall her name, thereby renaming her number four, and it was the fourth batch of sauce that nailed the recipe for production), a testament to the humor that underlies all that she does, but has since returned to the more commonly known Worcestershire as it does, in fact contain the standard ingredients one might find in Lea & Perrins, as it once was, but then goes a whole lot further. Next week, at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, she will unveil her rye-barrel aged version of this sauce. I just helped her bottle this aged delight, I mean my fingers are sticking to the keyboard and I’m staring at the bottles and this shit is the shit. I mean it’s good in that I-gotta-get-up-and-take-a-shot-before-I-write-another-sentence kind of way. Addictive.
In many ways, as far as I’m concerned, and granted I’m biased, this sauce far exceeds something that should be named Worcestershire, for I often considered Worcestershire an ingredient to be added to other sauces, sweet, sticky BBQ sauces, a pot roast, or something along those lines. Now, Lady Jayne’s can be used for such purposes, but this barrel aged version is more along the lines of a rarified aged Balsamic, no it hasn’t aged for as long, yet, but it is a stand alone to be sure. And give this girl, excuse me, Lady, time as I’ve no doubts (and perhaps a bit of inside information) that the uncommonly complex and startlingly flavorful products of Lady Jayne’s Alchemy will only grow richer, deeper and more dear. And, just perhaps there are other projects percolating…but, friends, that is for another AC.
For now, look for her updates here.