My little brother took his first breath on a cold day in February, when doctors still made house visits and new mothers still spent days in the hospital. And that was good, as far as I was concerned, for during those 4 or 5 days that my mother lay exhausted in the maternity ward, I learned what Italian food could be. The wife of my father’s boss invited him and we two other children, of whom I was the unwilling […]
There’s something about tables, big, little, or bare – and those bare ones in particular – that make me want to festoon them with food I’ve cooked, like floral garlands at a grand wedding. I feel an urge, too, to seat people on the equally vacant chairs, saying, “Come on now, sit down a spell, and let your worries fade away like the mist on a hot summer morning.” Well, maybe I wouldn’t say it exactly that way, but the […]
Categories: Art, Beans, Cassava, Chile Peppers, Corn, Latin America, Photography, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Tomatoes, United States, Virginia • Tags: Beans, Cassava, Chiles, Corn, Photography, Potatoes, Squash, Tomatillos
Stirring the flour into bacon drippings, creating a blond roux, and sautéing finely chopped yellow onions in the mixture turned out to be quite an adventure. No, I didn’t burn myself – for once – on the lethal combination of hot fat and flour. No, in the seemingly simple and slow act of making tomato gravy, to serve over biscuits or fried chicken, I started thinking about the role of gravy in Southern cooking, and by extension, in American cooking […]
Categories: Cookbooks, England, Gardens, Local foods, Photography, Southern Food, Tomatoes • Tags: Colin Spencer, Cuisine of the Southern United States, Kate Burridge, Mary Randolph, Southern cooking, The Virginia House-wife, Thomas Jefferson, Tomatoes
Fall can be a bittersweet time, a time to look forward to cool-crisp nights, hearty meat-and root-vegetable stews, and the smell of burning leaves, that is, you’re allowed to burn them where you live. On the other hand, the coming of fall and frost signifies the end of the growing season, and the beginning of fallow time. The life force fades from the trees as their iridescent leaves drop. But it’s in the garden where the change in temperature registers […]
I first gazed on his ugly mug in French-influenced Morocco, more precisely at the fish market in Rabat. And like Beauty with the Beast, I fell in love. Sea devil. Crapaud. Baudroie. Lotte. Goosefish. Anglerfish. Poor Man’s Lobster. … It seems his name is Legion (Nomen mihi Legio est, quia multi sumus) … . Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius). Two-thirds of the body is just skull. Tiny triangular-shaped teeth line the rounded jaws that some call “Jaws of Hell,” looking for all the […]
A nguba is an arachide is a cacahuete. Or Gedda, French, and Spanish for “pea‑nut,” if you prefer. Arachis hypogaea looks like a nut, tastes like a nut, but is actually not a nut at all. More like a legume or bean. The name “groundnut” tries to get the thing situated correctly but even that is incorrect. Botanically, peanuts belong to the beans/legumes clan and are NOT nuts. Gastronomically, peanuts can’t compete with those culinary wunderkind, caviar or truffles. But peanuts don’t aspire to knighthood or a title. In the U.S., peanuts usually take the form of peanut butter or salty snacks. However, peanuts have both an ancient history and a tremendous potential in the cookpot, nobility or not.
My nose burned a little and an odd sensation on my forehead no doubt meant more freckles popping out. I didn’t care. I sat right where I wanted to be on that late August day, in the dirt between two rows of leafy tomato plants. Red globes of all sizes dangled like Christmas ornaments from the plants, the vines sinking into the dust from all that ripe weight.
In keeping with the whole British colonial heritage story [See HERE and HERE for more], here’s a change of continents. From Africa to the Indian subcontinent. Chutney. Etymologically, the word entered English via Urdu ( چٹنی ), Hindi ( चटनी — caṭnī ), and Bengali (চাটনী) . Chutney is chutney is Major Grey’s mango chutney. Yes and no. Chutney, introduced to Americans around 1850 by colonialists in the British Raj, is more than just mangoes. Or tomato catsup. Or ketchup. […]
Maze-like unpaved streets and red-mud brick buildings lend the aura of a rural village to the West African metropolis. Women garb themselves in vibrant and symbolic yellow and red and blue and green batik-cloth robes. Smoke and pollution from thousands of charcoal cooking fires and thousands of overloaded and under-maintained mopeds daily saturate the scorching 96º F air. Lined on either side with towering modern street lamps, each topped with a foul-smelling vulture waiting for something to die, a lone […]
I’m hardly Italian. Nowhere near it. With a family tree first planted in America in 1632, a seedling from a village not far from Norwich, England, we’ve been in the New World so long that we have no ethnic ties or traditions at all. But for some reason, Italian food and culture and history tapped something in my soul. Through my pots and pans, I’ve adopted Italy’s cooking. And dreams of idyllic Italian style. My house walls glow terra-cotta red in the morning sun. Rows of rosemary, oregano, and mint sprawl in my garden. And I collect Italian cookbooks like a money-mad King Midas wallowing in gold coins.