“To Fry Tomatoes”: Sarah Rutledge Mixes Up a Few New World Foods

Sarah Rutledge's cookbook, The Carolina Housewife, surprised me the other day. Try as I might, I could only find one recipe for pork in the whole book! "Ham Toast," on page 75. I kid you not. "Meat" seems to be beef or veal. That's it. Ms. Rutledge's book did include a number of vegetable recipes,…

Mulacolong, from Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife:

With a name like that, of course, I couldn't resist the recipe. "Mulacolong." What on earth did that mean? It seems that no one else knew either, thanks to a Google search and more. So I decided to split up the word, to look at components rather the whole. One tantalizing bit of information kept…

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.…

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…

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…

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…

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…