Warts and All: Cooks as Witches, Witches as Cooks

The cauldron , symbol of cooking, food, and nourishment. And of the basest, most primal horrors imaginable, the power of the Dark Arts, magic, and blasphemy. Everyone who’s ever read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” recalls THE scene, the one with the three witches stirring the pot, chanting. FIRST WITCH: Round about the cauldron go; In the poison’d entrails throw….

No Country for Old Historians? Thinking about the Future of the Past

History is written by the victors. ~ Various I started out, you see, to revisit and reponder the works of several “old” historians – Marc Bloch, R. G. Collingwood, H. Butterfield, E. H. Carr, etc. – the “old men” of history, or better said, the “old (white) men” of the history of writing history. Or better…

Day 7: Squirrel – Celebrate American Food History

They’re puckish, furry, skittish, with tiny wiggly noses. And darn good eating, according to a chorus of voices in old, as well as modern, American cookbooks. What are they? Why, squirrels of course. Most people know of squirrel meat in traditional Brunswick Stew or Kentucky Burgoo. Many food writers have written on these two quintessential American…

Day 6: Beef – Celebrate American Food History

 War and food, a timeless tale. Unfortunately. Today’s story is about beef, the meat – as we all know – that become synonymous with Britain and went on to become a major force in the American economy in the nineteenth century, as well as providing for a rather mythological view of the American West. (Hint:…

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…