Keep on Feasting! For Lovers of “Game of Thrones”

Fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” must be feeling bereft. And why shouldn’t they? The curtain finally fell on the last episode of that long-running megahit. Unless they love reruns, that’s it for those fans. I, on the other hand, have barely made it through the first episode so far, “Winter is…

Transcription of Medieval Documents, or, What an Online Resource!

As I mentioned, albeit briefly, in “A Hastiness of Cooks”: A Practical Handbook for Use in Deciphering the Mysteries of Historic Recipes and Cookbooks, For Living-History Reenactors, Historians, Writers, Chefs, Archaeologists, and, of Course, Cooks, transcription is one of those things that makes all the difference when you're trying to recreate historic recipes or analyzing…

12 Months of the Year, or, Medieval Liturgical Calendars

"A picture is worth a thousand words!" Yes. And no. In one image, art, like photography, can present something that could take a thousand words to describe. Or more, depending upon what's being shown. I think of the raw files that come out of my Nikon D7100 as being more like rough drafts than the…

Pignagoscé sur chapons (Pignagoscé on Capons), Plus Some Words on Paleography

In my latest book, "A Hastiness of Cooks", I deliberately skimmed over France and her culinary heritage. Not because I thought her culinary heritage not worth acknowledging, but because I wanted to savor that heritage in a different medium or venue. With that sentiment in mind, I pulled Terence Scully's treatise - The Vivendier -…

Before There was Martha S., There was Martha B.*

Martha Bradley's The British Housewife (1756) has long fascinated me, for all her detail and  precise instructions. And, most of all,  for her emphasis on local foods, long before Alice Waters or Michael Pollan were gleams in the eye of God. Of course, the other point I want to make here is this: the English were quite…

A Day on the Border: Nogales, Mexico

Yesterday, I crossed into Nogales, Mexico, and saw a bit of Nogales, Arizona, too. It's a story that repeats itself every day of the year. At Ed's Border Lot, my car fits nicely between two others - the one on the left with an Arizona plate, the one on the right with a Sonoran plate.…

“A Hastiness of Cooks”: A How-to Handbook for Lovers of Historic Cooking and Cookbooks

You're probably wondering what "A Hastiness of Cooks" means. Read the following definition and you'll see why the phrase inspired me in writing my new book, "A Hastiness of Cooks": A word game, popular in the great households of late medieval England, had at its heart the creation of collective nouns. In the lists of…

Going to the Desert

Desert. From ecclesiastical Latin. Dēsertum. "Abandoned place." The word conjures up images of vast sand dunes, blurred footsteps leading to the top. There, some poor soul lies prostrate, skin parched and blistered from the ray guns of a merciless sun. Lands of little rain, uninhabited, lifeless. That, I must admit, covered my initial definition of…

Speaking of France …

You're not supposed to begin a piece of writing with a question. Why not? No idea, except that the "experts" seem to think that it's an easy way out. "You can do better," they say. So what was my question? Oh yes. Why is traditional French food so terribly unpopular at the moment? Many authors…

Critics

“Don't bow down to critics who have not themselves written great masterpieces.” ― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology I've been assailed by several critics this last week. Never mind why and for what. Not that I've written anything resembling "great masterpieces," but I find it amusing how quickly people come running when a troll on…

Capouns In Councys, from The Forme of Cury (1390)

Just an example of the type of recipes you will be able to recreate with the help of my upcoming book, A Hastiness of Cooks.  Recipe reconstructed and recreated from archaic language. An example of what's in my upcoming book, "A Hastiness of Cooks." Chicken in a saffron-infused sauce, flavored with Poudre Forte, or "Strong Powder."…

The Threads of Time, or, Who is that Woman in the Painting?

I stood in front of her, the dim buzzing of children’s voices fading behind me. Her glowing face stared out at me, a wisp of a smile on her perfect lips, a vast verdant landscape stretching out behind her. Leaning close to the tiny sign to the right of the painting, I read “Mrs. Davies…

Lessons from “The Great British Bake Off”

I binge watch cooking shows. Instead of reading intellect-stimulating tomes such as Homer's The Iliad (who amongst you can say that you have???), lately I've been spending my precious time on earth transfixed by Paul Hollywood's piercing blue eyes, calmed by Mary Berry's soothing voice, cheering on the indomitable bakers of "The Great British Bake…

Come to Dinner: A Meditation on Judy Chicago’s Art

Artists and writers often depict society in ways that raise eyebrows and curl lips with disdain. The artist Judy Chicago and her massive installation – “The Dinner Party” – turned the tables on the art world back in 1979. She chose the powerful motif of a dinner party to make her statement. With all the…

Musings on the Road West

Driving through Texas, thinking of my 9-year-old grandmother, of the tale she told me so many years ago. Her father decreed that they would all move to Globe, AZ, along with his brothers, driving cattle, who knows, to the new ranch, from the old one in Fredericksburg, Texas, German enclave. To Globe, Arizona. How long…

A Pinch of Alchemy: Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat

"Anyone can cook anything and make it delicious." That's what chef/teacher Samin Nosrat promises, right up front, page 5, in her stunning debut - Salt Fat Acid Heat. Everybody loves an optimist. And I count Ms. Nosrat among that merry band of people, those who amble through the world with a smile on their faces, their…

THE GOURMAND AWARDS

Just a note - life's busy - to share the shortlist for The Gourmand Awards. "What is that," you might ask? Here's their take on it: "The Gourmand Awards are the major Food Culture event in the world. They started in 1995 for cookbooks and wine books, at Frankfurt Book Fair. They now include all…

Haiti is NOT a Shithole, Mr. Trump

Haiti is NOT a shithole, Mr. Trump. I should know about that. I lived in Haiti for nearly three years. And you, you've never even been there. And yet, here you are again, saying something insulting and derogatory, knowing nothing about what you're talking about. Yes, I'm talking about your woefully ignorant comments about "shithole…

The Curry Guy

Curry. I can't live without it. And thus it was only natural that I used some of my Santa Claus money to buy myself a copy of Dan Toombs's clever cookbook, The Curry Guy: Recreate Over 100 of the Best British Indian Restaurant Recipes at Home (2017). The cooking found in British Indian Restaurants. Or BIRs.…

Surviving the Whiplashes of History and American Gun-Culture Violence

There comes a day, sometimes, when it seems all that there remains to do is to sit and weep, staring out at the world through tears of salt, gazing through windows of murky glass. Seeing leaves, earth, sky, rain, even the path of the wind in tall grass. But not seeing. No, not really. Where…

William Bartram and the Nature of Florida

There's something about explorers who ventured into the New World that always grips my imagination. Maybe it's because men could leave home for years, move from place to place, free to be the souls they were born to be. As a woman, I could never have done that. Nor would it be easy today, either.…

Traces of Old Florida

I left the house this morning, seeking a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. What I found in my neighborhood proves the resilience of old houses in Florida. Battered off and on for over 65 years by hurricanes of all strengths, these gems still stand. And so does the natural setting around…

Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part III: A Tale of Guacamole

The smell of burning diesel alerted me - the bus would be there in a few seconds. With a loud burp, it came to a rubber-losing stop about 10 feet away from I stood. Exiting passengers stumbled down the worn linoleum-covered steps, clutching baskets filled with squawking chickens, small squealing piglets, and sleeping babies wrapped tightly in thread-bare rebozos. Behind…

9 Years of Writing about History … A Celebration!

Nine years ago, I decided to poke a toe into the world of food blogging. I settled on the name, "Gherkins & Tomatoes," based on a painting by Luis Meléndez, a tribute to the period of history known as "The Age of Exploration." Faced with a blank screen demanding something, anything, the first words that…

Tales of Alligator Flesh and Tails

Alligator meat is quite varied in itself The meat found in the tail is white and sweet, and can easily fried or sauteed. The leg meat is dark and less tender, with a color and texture similar to a beef shank, best used in soups and stews. The body meat is more like that of…

Seeking Food at the Crossroads of History

When it comes to the kitchen, I've always been a seeker, a pilgrim in a more modern sense of the word, "A person travelling to a place of particular personal interest."* It all began on a diesel-perfumed street corner in Puebla, Mexico. I stood in the shadow of a broken streetlight, sunshine and sweaty bodies…

Place and Food, Genius Loci and Terroir

Genius Loci* 1. The prevailing character or atmosphere of a place. 1.1 The presiding god or spirit of a place. ~ Oxford English Dictionary Years ago, psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn published a book titled Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994). He certainly had a point, and a very, very apt one. You can't shed your…

Just a Few Pictures, and a Few Words

Florida is a state where nearly everybody hails from another place. (1) And that idiosyncrasy makes the state an exciting social laboratory for curious (nosy?) people like me. One of the most intriguing questions right now, out there in the wide expanse of the world, is how people deal with "other people's food." (2) The…