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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

A Conundrum Wrapped in a Potsticker

Unfortunate Cooking

Come for the delicious recipes. Stay for the terrible story.

A Conundrum Wrapped in a Potsticker

Lynley Jones

Return to A Series of Unfortunate Recipes homepage.

This week we contemplate a conundrum of esoterica, and many other mysteries. Without solving any of them.

This still image shows Uncle Monty just hours before his tragic murder, and was obtained by nefarious means from the files of the Netflix corporation.

A Conundrum of Esoterica

"Life is a conundrum of esoterica." When Uncle Monty said this to Klaus Baudelaire on that fateful day in the reptile room, he meant something along the lines of "life is a mystery filled with strange things only understood by a few people who are not you."

Unfortunately, dear Reader, there are many things in life that are understood only by people who are not me. Why, for example, would it ever be in to drink acqueous martinis? Or why is the Herpetological Society filled with so many sneaky and competitive scientists? Or why would a person ever use the word "macaroon" (which is the name of an unexceptional coconut treat) to refer to a French "macaron" (which is a merenge-and-almond-flour cookie that is quite exceptional)? 

Although these mysteries are all equally maddening, the most mystifying conundrum of all is why, when Count Olaf appeared at Uncle Monty's home disguised as Stephano, Uncle Monty did not recognize him and call the authorities immediately. Rather, he not only fed Stephano Chinese food, but also insisted he accompany all of them to the movies, and then returned home, believing himself to be safe from murderous villains, when clearly, he was not. Violet, Klaus and Sunny would spend many years pondering this particular conundrum of esoterica, without answer.

If Only

If only the Incredible Deadly Viper would have been venomous and would have bitten Stephano, things might have turned out differently. If only Stephano would have tripped and fallen on his own knife as he chased the Baudelaires up and down the stairs with it, things might have turned out differently. And if only the potstickers had been filled with poison instead of a delicious mixture of pork, scallions, cabbage, garlic and ginger, things most certainly would have turned out differently.

This image, obtained by one of my associates from the Netflix corporation, shows Count Olaf disguised as Stephano, villainously shoving all of the potstickers into his own vile mouth.

As we learned last week, Uncle Monty liked to surround himself with delicious food for both scientific and culinary purposes, which is the reason that he brought Chinese take-out home with him on that particular day in the first place. And of course, the food test yet again worked perfectly, providing proof positive that Stephano was not a bearded, eyebrowless assistant sent from the Scientific Society Seeking to Soothe Stress and Suffering. Rather, he was clearly Count Olaf, a disgusting villain who would stop at nothing to cram every last potsticker into his own filthy mouth, even as he plots to steal and murder.

Which leaves us to ponder the most mystifying enigma of all: why, brilliant and renowned scientist though he was, Uncle Monty did not understand this particular conundrum of esoterica until it was too late. 


Potstickers with Two Sauces

You can use this recipe to make your own delicious potstickers for both scientific and culinary purposes, with sriracha and hoisin dipping sauces. You can also follow the instructions to make Asian meatballs from any excess filling you may have. And if you are fortunate enough to be dining without any loathsome and revolting villains, there should be enough for everyone.

If you like to ponder conundrums of esoterica, or if you like to weep silently late into the night when you should be sleeping, you might like to read this book.

The Reptile Room
By Lemony Snicket