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…

It’s the Environment, Stupid

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That's true, now more than ever. Mother Earth needs our voices, now more than ever. Yours, mine, everyone's. And so do all the creatures , great and small, the flowers, the trees, the rivers, and the seas. Now, more than ever. The fragility of the environment…

Fussy Eaters, or, The Plants in My Garden

You know how some people are fussy eaters? The ones you hesitate to invite to your table because you’ll end up making three dinners instead of one? Well, I’m learning that plants are worse, much worse. At least some are. Very picky. Very. As a neophyte gardener, for that is essentially how I must describe…

A Day of Farewell

Today, it's official. Today, I hand over the keys to a new seeker. Today is not an ending. It's a beginning. Today is really a day of thanks, thanks for a place that sheltered me, inspired me, soothed me. Today, all I have left is a memory of mountains and mist and mornings ablaze with sunlight. Today, I…

A Night of Jasmine Blooming

My cookbooks now live in a different room, 600 miles south of the mountains they called home for so many years. Their old shelves still cradle them, though. And the odor of fresh Benjamin Moore paint, christened for some reason Acadia White, permeates the air around them.  Every day for a week I've dragged the paint roller…

The Food of Florida: A Grand and Ongoing Experiment

I didn’t know it then, but when I was much – heck, I’ll be really honest here and say a lot –  younger, I began participating in a grand social experiment, one that I understand more with each passing year. Given my nature, the experiment naturally involved food. And that experiment began with a road…

Breath and Air and the Mysteries of Spring

  One day you wake up to icicles and yet another dark, distressing gray morning, powdered with snow. And then, the very next thing you know, you're marveling at the miraculous resurgence of greens and yellows and purples scattered along the sides of the road, the warm sunshine cascading through trees, their skinny bare branches…

Art, Spirit, Life: The Joys and the Sorrows of Trees

My mind fills with thoughts of trees these days. I hear of plans to destroy the landscape here and there across the planet. Greed now claims the upper hand over compassion. You might ask, "Why trees? Surely there are far greater issues around which to rally?" Perhaps. For the moment, I just ask one thing…

The Enchanted Bamboo Forest

Standing still, as would a hunter viewing its prey, I let the moment absorb me. On another day, in another time, I might say “I absorb the moment.” But not this day. A sheer green canopy sways above my head. Tiny glimmers of light shining through the laciness recall cloudless nights in the Sahara Desert,…

The Seminoles, Eli Lilly, and the Ancient Saw Palmetto of Florida

Florida's vegetation reminds me of a willful, obstinate child. You know, the one who seems to be everywhere all at once and defies  all the rules, crossing the line on limits, chocolate smeared across her face, filched from a secret and forbidden stash. Wild and ungovernable, in other words. And saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is one of the wildest…

“Nothing is More the Child of Art than a Garden”*

In the dead of a winter night, I dreamt of a green, sun-filled garden, filled with the thick fat leaves of a jade plant, the feathery tendrils of ferns. I stood in a glassed-walled room, misty with gauzy air, as many dreams are wont to be. Before me, on the other side of the glass,…

The Fallibility of Memory, or, The Fabulists among Us

Memory is a funny thing. By "funny," I'm not thinking Woody Allen amusing or Amy Schumer hilarious. No, by "funny" I mean something akin to "strange" or "perplexing" or even "otherworldly." And indeed memory can be perplexing, making it appear as the stuff of fabulists. Trying to remember what happened last week, much less 50 or…

Women and the Building of America: Reflections

Last night, I stayed awake far longer than I normally do, reading Gayle Forman's new novel, Leave Me. The hook for me was "Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train…

Cooks, Kitchens, and Places: Josephine’s Tale

Since modern photography only came into being around 1816, when Nicéphore Niépc combined camera obscura techniques and paper with photosensitive qualities, the faces of so many people will never be known to us. Those of the rich, the powerful, and the occasional peasant – thanks to artists such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder – we their…

Day 8: Apples – Celebrate American Food History

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Folk proverb Two stories convey the essence of apples to me. The first involves an almost surgical treatment of an apple tree in our front yard: One autumn day, Dad’s boss – Dr. C. S. Holton – appeared at the back door of our rambling old ex-farm house, its…

Day 1: Tuckahoe – Celebrate American Food History

It's soon to be a big, big day for Gherkins & Tomatoes - on July 28 G&T will celebrate eight (8) years (!) of writing about food and food history. Why, that's 1,181 posts. Yes, there could - and should - have been more lots more, but we must take into account the time spent writing…

Transform Your Aching Soul with Cooking

Photo credit: C. BertelsenLiving today’s hurry-up-run-run-run-faster-faster-text-text lifestyle tends to blunt contact with more earthy things, like cooking. The act of cooking offers something that the stiffest drink or most potent tranquilizer cannot. Dare I say it out loud? It’s even better than sex, in a way. Especially when chocolate is involved, but that’s another story…

African Cuisines: Cookbooks for Exploration and Discovery of Superb Flavors

Only one of this year’s new releases in print cookbooks covers the cooking of Africa, unless you count books about Moroccan cooking by Fatéma Hal and Z. Guinaudeau, as well as Kittee Berns’s Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking. The rest only come in Kindle editions, a medium which is not my first choice…

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…

One of Mother Nature’s Leading Lights

Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall, And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all; ~ James Whitcomb Riley,* "The Old Swimmin' Hole'   Bulrush. Reedmace. Punks. Corn Dog Grass. Raupō. Cattails, to me. One of nature's leading lights. [Note:Today’s word/photo prompt is  “Nature,” and leading lines.  I am doing a sort of photo…

Bigness, Vastness, Immenseness

There is something bigger than fact: the underlying spirit, all it stands for, the mood, the vastness, the wildness. ~ Emily Carr There's something about mountains, their mammoth proportions diminishing all life on earth. Mountains figure prominently in literature and song, as both awe-inspiring giants or cold-blooded killers, either sending souls into rapture or clutching…

Connection: The Ties that Bind

You're walkin' tough baby, but you're walkin' blind to the ties that bind, The ties that bind , Now you can't break the ties that bind. ~ Bruce Springsteen, "The Ties that Bind" Quilts symbolize connection in many ways. There's the mere piecing of the quilt, connecting to create a pattern. Then there's the quilt…

Solitude, or, Behind the Mask

The thoughtful soul to solitude retires. ~ Omar Khayyam   Solitude is the time when the mask falls off, when the soul reveals itself. What's behind the mask emerges, free to fly, free to be.   [Note:Today’s word/photo prompt is  “Solitude.”  I am doing a sort of photo challenge at WordPress.com to get back into photography, which…