Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin. ~ Simone Schwarz-Bart, The Bridge of Beyond, Éditions du Seuil (1972) Cutting soft bones or soft flesh – be it animal of vegetable or fruit, the cleaver’s sharp edge become a merciless tool even in the hands of the most tender cook. A peeler, making short work of removing an outer layer, essentially flays the skin of an apple or potato or carrot or whatever. The grater […]
Remember the old shoeboxes for valentines in your grade school classroom? How you’d decorate your box with all sorts of frou-frous and hope the cute little boy (or the cute little girl) with the dimples would give you a valentine card, one of those mass-produced things? In school, at least, probaly no teacher ever told you why so much was made of Valentine’s Day. Right? In fact, the American way of celebrating St. Valentine’s day really began in the nineteenth […]
Categories: Cakes, Coconuts, Recipes, Southern Food • Tags: Cake, Claudius, Coconut Cake, Cooking, Feast Day Cookbook, Food, Geoffrey Chaucer, History of St. Valentine's Day, Juno Februata, Lupercalia, Recipes, Saint Valentine, St. Valentine's Day, Valentine Cards, Valentine's Day, Valentines
…visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. ~~Clement C. Moore~~ ” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Happy Holidays to all readers and visitors to Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons et Tomates! I will “see” you again on January 2. ‘Tis soon the season to be jolly. And to bake cookies, the sugarplums of today. I’m about to head out to the kitchen to do just that right now. For many Americans, especially those of Northern European descent, Christmas without special […]
One cold, rainy day in October, I sat in front of a fireplace in a small weinstub, or bistro, in Strasbourg, France, listening to my growling stomach. I couldn’t face another round of choucroute, that heavy Alsatian ode of love to the pig and the cabbage. On the greasy menu, fingerprints from previous guests clearly visible on the laminated plastic, one dish stood out: Flammekueche, also known as “Tarte Flambée.” I ordered it. And a bottle of Alsatian Riesling, never […]
Patron Saint of Mexico and the Americas Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that “…one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.” Apocryphal or not, the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe makes fascinating reading. And the food’s pretty good, too, like most feast-day food tends to be. But first a little history. An Aztec convert, Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin*, first saw the Virgin […]
Categories: France, French Cooking, Mexico • Tags: Atole, Cooking, Culinary History, Food, Food History, France, French Cooking, Mexico, Recipes, Saints' Days, Virgen de Guadalupe, Virgin of Guadalupe
(I wrote this several years ago and include it here as a tribute to the Moroccans I knew then and to all the people who will begin fasting for Ramadan starting on Monday, August 1. Note that while Paula Wolfert’s cookbook, Couscous and Other Good from Morocco, seems to be cited everywhere, Kitty Morse — who grew up in Morocco — has also written a number of excellent books on Moroccan cuisine.) Manage with bread and butter until God sends the […]
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 […]
Blending as they do into the green leaves of the red-flowering flamboyant trees above the crumbling mud brick wall, it’s hard to see the bottle-green chameleons. Dozens of these “ground lions,” with their red throats puffing in and out like bellows stoking a fire, perch in the crevices of the wall.
In 2011, the event takes place on March 3, thanks to a personal message from the Office of Tourism in Bazas. The day before Lent descends. With a litany of names. Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Boeuf Gras. Shrove Tuesday.* Boeuf Gras? Symbol of the fattened ox, the last meat devoured before Lenten stringency took hold. With roots in the Minotaur and Labyrinth myth. What really drove the Lenten fast? And how did Boeuf Gras begin? During the Middle Ages, and […]
As it fell on a holy-day, And vpon an holy-tide-a, Iohn Dory bought him an ambling nag, To Paris for to ride-a.* ~~ Child Ballad #284A: “John Dory” I first met John Dory at the open-air fish market in Rabat, Morocco. He’s a solitary soul. Doesn’t hang out too much with his own kind. And he goes by many names, John does: Saint-Pierre in France (also Poule de Mer, Sea-Hen, and Dorée), Gall in Catalonia, Gal in the French Midi, […]
Categories: Africa, Fish, France, French Cooking, Morocco, Recipes • Tags: Africa, Ballads, Child Ballads, Cooking, Fish, Food, France, French Cooking, John Dory, Louis Eustache Ude, Morocco, Recipes, St. Perre, The French Cook, William MacGillivray
Thomas Jefferson. President. Scientist. Writer. Man of many passions, some hidden, some not. In his writings and in his actions, food clearly revealed itself as one of those passions. Above all, Jefferson was a Francophile. From the design of his dining room in his house, Monticello, to the gardens surrounding him in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Paris to the White House — Jefferson’s obsession with food and its preparation inspired him to train his African slaves, particularly […]
Categories: American Cooking, Desserts, French Cooking, Recipes, Southern Food, White House • Tags: American Presidents, Cooks, Cuisine Francaise, Etienne Lemaire, Food, France, French Cooking, Fritters, James Hemings, Karen hess, Mary Randolph, Monticello, Southern cooking, The Virginia House-wife, Thomas Jefferson
While writing my brief “Gherkins & Tomatoes” blog post, “Cookbooks for a Desert Island, or an Autumn Afternoon,” I thumbed through de Groot’s book once more, swearing I would cook “Green Beans Sautéed in Cream” and “Potato Pancakes of the Mountains.” The price of peace and solitude has been unending struggle. ~~Roy Andries de Groot, The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth Every once in a while, a book speaks to my soul, over and over again. Roy Andries de Groot’s […]
In celebrating art, the Western world owes a tremendous debt to France. Once a mecca for Impressionist artists and others, France nurtured both their souls and their bellies. And in France, art goes back a long way, back to the time of Cro-Magnon man who left his indelible marks on the dim damp walls of the caves of Lascaux in the Dordogne area of southwestern France.
Categories: Art, Bibliographies, Food Columns, French Cooking, Mushrooms, Pies--Savory, Potatoes, Recipes • Tags: Artists, Claude Monet, Cuisine Francaise, Fish, Food, France, French Cooking, Impressionism, Luncheon of the Boating Party, Mushrooms, Potato, Quiche, Recipes, Salon des Refusés, Shrimp
Stereotypes, caricatures, clichés, symbolism, what-have-you abound in our world and cause us to essentially dehumanize others. These photos provide examples of how the others stereotype the French people and their culture: And more: That’s not to say that French companies don’t use the same tactics in their advertising … as we will see on January 31, 2011. Escargots à la Bourguignonne Serves 6 Note: This recipe comes from Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France, which boasts a whole chapter […]
Man is nostalgia and a search for communion. ~ Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude ~ “We began our lunch with a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell. I was used to bland osiers from Washington and Massachusetts, which I had never cared much for. But this platter of portugaises had a sensational briny flavor and a smooth texture that was entirely new and surprising. The oysters were served with rounds of pain de seigle, a pale rye bread, with a […]
The other day I saw another sign of autumn: a smashed pumpkin lying along the side of the road, pieces scattered like the crumbs in the forest that Hansel Gretel dropped on the way to the witch’s house. Pumpkins deserve more respect. Think about it. Remember Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman, in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, who bashed poor Ichabod Crane with a carved pumpkin? And year after year, pumpkins get to strut their stuff only in pies. […]
You may have come a long way, baby, but it’s taken a while. Food historians generally agree that Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany wrote the first cookbook penned by a woman in the West (Europe) in 1553, Kochbuch. Anna Weckerin’s Ein Küstlich new Köchbuch von allerhand Speisen (A Delicious New Cookbook) appeared in 1598 in published form. Like the English writer Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Ann Weckerin’s (later Keller) book went through many reprints. But it seems to […]
Before M. F. K. Fisher, sometimes known as plain Mrs. Fisher, there was Mrs. Abby Fisher. And Abby Fisher’s personage couldn’t be more different from M. F. K. Fisher than if a novelist like Flannery O’Connor dreamed her up. The author of what food historians long believed to be the first African-American cookbook,* Abby Fisher counted on others to actually write What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking in 1881.** As a former slave from South Carolina she went […]
HONEY FROM A WEED: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia, by Patience Gary (Harper & Row, 1987) Although Elizabeth David published the first truly popular English book on Mediterranean Food (1950), another author, the lesser- known English food writer and free-spirit, Patience Gray, wrote the more poetic works. Her Plats du Jour (1957), despite its French title, netted recipes from all the lands of the Mediterranean, mostly gleaned from books and such. Years later, she followed […]
Who was Edna Lewis? Why call her an American Idol? Before she wrote The Edna Lewis Cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, In Pursuit of Flavor, and co-authored that recent jewel of a book, The Gift of Southern Cooking with chef Scott Peacock, well, Edna Lewis did many things in her long, experience-rich life, including campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt. But she always cooked — what Southern girl from her background didn’t? After all, she was the granddaughter of freed slaves […]
Anyone who reveres food and eats oysters, who yearns for security and longs for love, and who seeks out experiences and thinks much must discover M. F. K. Fisher. Just who was M. F. K. Fisher and why did James Beard, that gentle giant of the food world, call her a national treasure? And why did John Updike refer to her as “the poet of the appetites”?
(Continued from August 23, 2010): Brillat-Savarin’s comments about the English being the worst cooks in the world drew a sniff from the proper Isabella, sure that her book would right that situation. In spite of the moralizing tone, and the plagiarism, BOHM became a runaway bestseller. Readers and critics considered the soup, fish, sauce chapters the best. Quantities of food served at dinner now seem phenomenal. But Isabella emphasized strict economy, sometimes distressingly so, especially with family meals. She tackled […]
Today in Britain, “Mrs. Beeton” is a culinary trademark not unlike “Betty Crocker,” whom General Mills created in a Frankensteinian moment to boost sales by appealing to Every Housewife.
The difference between the two ladies is that Mrs. Beeton was a real, breathing, living personage who wrote a monster of a book with a monster of a title: The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort, BOHM for short.
Sir Toby Belch: Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? Clown: Yes, by Saint Anne, and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too. Twelfth Night. Act ii. Sc. 3. If anyone ever makes a movie about ginger’s long and fascinating history, I want Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead. Imagine him sporting a multi-colored pair of hose, leaping from bow to stern on a flimsy wooden caravel … Anyway, Shakespeare described […]
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the ‘berg in the fridge, with a jar of Hellman’s on the side. That was as green as it got (and still gets) in my mom’s kitchen. Iceberg lettuce. Crisp, colorless, flavorless. Usually just a tired limp leaf garnishing a shrimp cocktail or stuck haphazardly in a sandwich, lettuce is one of those things taken for granted. A part of the landscape, so to speak. A piece of furniture. A […]
Hot weather does funny things to people, especially to cooks. Certain instincts crop up at about the same time that air conditioners crank up the juice. Primeval visions prevail, usually of smoldering coals and roasting meat, prompting the almost daily obeisance to that great American tradition, the summer barbecue grill. And summer just wouldn’t be summer without another American tradition — the barbecued hamburger sandwich. Originally a chopped beef gravy-covered patty characteristic of German cooking, the hamburger became a sandwich […]
Africa, West “…with a legion of cooks, and an army of slaves.”–Lord Byron– Five hundred and eighteen years ago, an event occurred that changed the world in more ways than its perpetrator thought possible. Christopher Columbus’s voyages caused a collision of cultures, people, and foods on a scale never before seen in the history of mankind. With Columbus’s “discovery” of America, thousands upon thousands of people yet unborn were destined to become slaves. And many millions of people around the […]
“Columbus had no idea, of course, of the almost infinite ramifications of his voyages on the way future people would eat.” ‑‑Raymond Sokolov‑‑ Why We Eat What We Eat(1991) Trying to get the meat out of a coconut is like trying to pull a tooth without Novocain, a very painful process. I know—I tried to do the locavore thing once with a casual piña colada, wrestling with a coconut from my yard and nearly decapitating myself with a machete. As […]
Once used as money instead of gold in Don Quixote’s Spain, saffron costs upwards of $1000 US per pound. Indeed, the world’s costliest spice. Most likely you will not have ever seen saffron for sale in your local grocery’s spice department. Knowledgeable customers ask the store managers for it; they keep it behind the counter, safe from pilferers. Why do cooks desire saffron? Saffron lends an indescribable flavor to food. It also imparts a tenacious yellow color to anything it touches; […]
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.
A novel thing, novels about food? Not really, not any more. It seems like every publisher, and every writer, is racing behind the food-as-novel bandwagon, grasping at the flying straws, straining to hop aboard before the cart crashes. Like all fads, trends, what-have-you crazes, some of these novels succeed, while the others appall, so frightfully bad and boring that you can only blush with embarrassment for the proud authors. If you have time to laze about this summer, here’s a […]
Mackerel scales and mares’ tails Make lofty ships carry low sails. ‑Old Sailors’ Rain Warning‑ (Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I’m posting some previous posts that I’ve dusted off and updated. ) Alas, the poor mackerel! A sky resembling its scales bodes rains. An unfriendly person is “cold as a mackerel”. “Dead as a mackerel” leaves no doubt in a listener’s mind: so‑and‑so or such‑and‑such has moved on to clearer seas. Protestants called Catholics “mackerel snappers,” a […]
(Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I’m posting some previous posts that I’ve dusted off and updated. ) Well, it’s not “National Catfish Month,” not yet. You have to wait for August for that. But there’s no time like the present for dreaming of summer. Some people hate the cloying texture of these temperamental and be-whiskered fish. Others, well, they love the crunch, and the hush puppies, that come with well-prepared catfish. This article is for them. You […]
“Secret, self-contained, and as solitary as an oyster.” ~~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I’m posting some previous posts that I’ve dusted off and updated. ) There’s something intriguing about the oyster, you know. Maybe its looks? Maybe its texture? Maybe both? Oysters frankly resemble the human female vulva. Given the ancient human tendency to believe that eating one’s enemy transfers the enemy’s strength to a warrior, well, it’s not a long shot to […]
Sweet foods haunt many childhood food memories. And usually pie stands high on any list of sweet memories. Sadly, pie-making is fast becoming a lost American art form. Too bad, really, because although the early English settlers brought basic pie-making techniques with them, the culinary skills of the colonial American housewife elevated pie-making to a rarified art form. In hundreds of log cabins, farmhouses, and mansions, women of every socio-economic class invented light flaky pastry and hundreds of fillings.
Looking at the past almost always calls up that old adage: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”* Take locavorism’s wartime antecedents … As these WWII posters from England’s “Dig for Victory!” campaign prove, the idea of local foods is not one whose time has come, but whose time has come again. Aimed at encouraging the civilian population to grow their own gardens, “Dig for Victory” freed up commercially grown food for the troops. The “Dig for Victory” program began in […]
Categories: Agriculture, American Cooking, Art, Cooking, England, English Cooking, Europe, Gardens, Hunger, Local foods, Locavores, Posters, United States • Tags: Art, Cooking, England, Food, Posters, Propaganda, United States, Victory Gardens, Wartime, World War II
To celebrate the holiday season, and the Twelve Days of Christmas as it were, I’d like to raise a glass of premium Belgian ale — Chimay to be sure — to a number of food bloggers whose work I admire. Each of the following blogs inspires me, prods me, and awes me. Each day feels like Christmas, because of the gifts these bloggers give me and other readers. Happy Holidays, everyone! Anissa’s Blog, by Anissa Helou, a food writer, teacher […]
East Africa (Mauritus, Zambia, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoros)** Except for its rather reticent use of red pepper, East Africa’s indigenous cuisine resembles that of West Africa in many ways. Starches: Millet, sorghum, corn, cassava, cocoyams, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, plantains (matoke), potatoes (because of British influence), and rice Flavoring: Chiles, peanuts, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, turmeric Fruits: Citrus, papaya, coconuts The mark of early Arab trade remains in East Africa and indigenous food patterns reflect […]
Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho)** The cooking of southern Africa reflects its complicated and evolving history. Aside from the original inhabitants of the region, the following groups affected the cooking of this region: Arabs, East Asians like the Malays, Dutch, Indians, Portuguese, British, Germans, and French. A true stew pot! Like other culinary areas in Africa, the indigenous people of the area cook with grains like corn, millet, and sorghum; meat (including bushmeat and biltong, […]
Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt)** According to Harva Hachten, in her Best of Regional African Cooking, “the North African housewife can choose from up to 200 different spices and herbs when she stops to replenish her supplies at a spice stall in the souks of the medinas.” The guiding flavor principles in northern African cuisine include intricate spicing, particularly in Morocco, similar to the Persian manner. But flavor principles applied to North African cooking don’t begin and end […]
THE COOK FOR THE INFIRMARY (p. 204-205) [Note: The Abbey paid the infirmary cook for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] For the infirmary, and especially for the use of those who had been subjected to the periodical blood-letting, there was a special cook skilled in the preparation of strengthening broths and soups. He was the chief or meat-cook of the establishment, and had under him two boys, one as a general helper, the […]
I first ran into guinea fowl in South America, little balls of feathers covered with Seurat-like pointillage. Later, in Burkina Faso, I’d see them darting like roadrunners here and there along the sides of the road. Numida meleagris, the helmeted guinea fowl, speak in rather harsh-sounding voices and prefer lots of company. A cousin to the more widely known pheasant, the guinea fowl originated in West Africa and boast rather striking markings; their pearl-dotted grayish-black feathers and general make-up resemble […]
Continued from April 28, 2009: By the 1820s other cookbooks followed, The Virginia Housewife among them, written by Mary Randolph, a member of one of Virginia’s first families. These cookbooks were different from what we know today. They failed to mention of the size of the dishes used in baking, the number of portions the recipe made, the temperature at which to cook the dish, or even details about the addition of flour. All (or nearly all) cooks at that […]
Categories: American Cooking, Bibliographies, Cookbooks • Tags: Charity Cookbooks, Cookbooks, Cooking, Eliza Leslie, Food, Mary Randolph, Miss beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, Southern cooking, The Virginia Housewife
(The following comments stem from a talk I gave to a group interested in the Peacock-Harper Culinary History collection at Virginia Tech.) A long time ago, while standing on the corner on a dusty street in Puebla, Mexico, I experienced an epiphany. As I watched the housewives in rebozos (shawls) and young secretaries teetering on the cobblestones in their spike heels — like a thunderbolt the thought hit me: everything we do ultimately ties in with our need to eat. […]
Despite the title [No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, A Perilous Climb, by Felice Benuzzi], this is a book about a series of picnics on Mount Kenya (and much more besides) – although, in that strangest of times during which Signor Benuzzi made his climb, the supplies became depressingly depleted as the atmosphere rarefied. The effect of the Second World War had rippled far beyond Europe. In East Africa, Italians were rounded up by the British and incarcerated […]