Day 2: Oysters – Celebrate American Food History

Jonathan Swift once quipped, “It was a brave man who first ate an oyster.” And an even braver one who pried open the shell without special gloves and knives. Actually, it’s more likely that our hero (or heroine)  used a rock to smash into the mollusk. Oysters kept people alive in the early days of colonial North America,…

Pemmican, and Other Sundry Treats from Jas. Townsend

Of the three  influences on early American cooking – Native American, European, and African – Native Americans deserve far more credit, for one thing, than just for their expertise on corn.  Thanks to that knowledge, Europeans and others became rather adept at manipulating corn and cornmeal, and other ingredients, in order to stay alive in the New…

What is “American” Food?

Jean Hewitt, author of The New York Times Heritage Cookbook (1980),  stated that “It is unfortunate that a foreign visitor can travel on our superhighways from coast to coast [about 1544 miles], Maine to Florida, and go away with the impression that Americans subsist largely on a diet of hot dogs, hamburgers and soggy French fries.” (p….

The Culture of Food in England 1200 -1500

And along comes another new book about the history of English food! My cup runneth over! This one – The Culture of Food in England 1200 – 1500, by C. M. Woolgar – looks promising, for he begins Chapter One by referencing a word game from late medieval England: A carve of pantlers (those ‘who looked after…

Peanuts and the Cooking of West Africa

Writers throw out the words “African cooking” all the time. I know. I have written same words, to my great embarrassment. But stop and think about something for a moment. The term “African cooking” is just as ridiculous as calling the cooking of Europe “European cooking,” lumping together the cuisine of France with that of…

Farming is NOT a Romantic Occupation

Farming is not a romantic occupation. In spite of pastoral memoirs like Tim Stark’s Heirloom and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, the reality of farming means backbreaking work and early mornings, poor harvests and lots of worry as Mother Nature hurls hail at a field of ripe corn. But it’s…

Hoppin’ John, or Dashing Myths Galore

(Due to a foul up with WordPress and dates, this post appeared on December 30. I was not finished with it yet!  But now I am!) Black-eyed peas, a gift to the New World from Africa. These beans were there as early as 1659 at St. Louis, now present-day Senegal, but they actually originated in North Africa, in…

With Roots in Africa: Okra, a Veritable World Traveler

Yesterday, while driving across the vast expanse of South Carolina, I noticed dueling billboards, advertising Margaret Holmes canned goods and the Glory line of fresh chopped collards and Bruce’s Candied Yams. So I decided to repost this while I look more deeply into the foods eaten in Africa prior to the tragedy of the African…