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.…

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Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part I: Tomatoes Breathing Fire: A Universal Sauce

I am of the unpopular opinion that no one owns cuisine. In spite of UNESCO decrees and loud cries from the lecture stand or pages of popular books, the fact remains: Food and ingredients travel with people. People share food. People love food. People want the recipes. Or at least the basic facts about how…

Madhur Jaffrey’s “Vegetarian India”: My Review on the”Modern Salt” Site

I love food from India, I mean, I really, really do. And  so when I had a chance to review Madhur Jaffrey's latest, well, what could I say??? Heck, YES! Here's my review, of a marvelous book, on that wonderful new magazine from the U.K. - Modern Salt: MADHUR JAFFREY’S “VEGETARIAN INDIA: A JOURNEY THROUGH…

The Poetry of Curry, or, a Traveler’s Tale

For numerous reasons, lately I've been indulging in one of my passions - cooking the food of the Indian sub-continent. I just ran across again William Makepeace Thackeray's "A Poem to Curry," quoted by nearly everyone who takes a stab at writing about the mystery of curry, and how it traveled to the nooks and crannies…

Thinking About Rice in America: The Black Rice Theory – Mysteries, Myths, and Misconceptions

Note: My point here, and elsewhere, on my blog and in my work, is to present information in as truthful a manner as I can, in order to raise questions and, hence, awareness. The truth is that there are more than ways than one to look at issues. Blindly accepting points of view only serves…

Food, the Dog Days of Summer, and a Few Other Shocking Facts

The dog days of summer arrive, as they always do, abruptly and relentless with a seemingly never-ending swelter.  Visions of panting tongues and listless tails crowd my thoughts. But what does that phrase have to do with summer heat? A quick glance at an etymological source informs me that real, breathing dogs played no role in the…

Hey, Wait a Minute: Glimpsing What’s Really Behind Words like “Ethnic”

NOTE: Today marks SEVEN years since I first started writing this blog. It's been an interesting journey, with many bends and curves along the way. It's fascinating to observe the increasing awareness of how language defines so many cultural attitudes and reveals long-held biases. Take a recent article, "Why Everyone Should Stop Calling Immigrant Food 'Ethnic,'" by Lavanya Ramanathan, a Washington…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Monster of a Stove and Tolokno

You can't cook porridge with a fool. ~~ Russian Proverb ~~ An example of Russian Lenten food, tolokno or oat flour with liquid, demonstrates the use of the astonishing Russian stove. Streamlined in the 15th century, the Russian stove incarnates the old adage, “The kitchen is the heart of the home.” Much of Russian peasant…

From Mother Russia with Love: The Domostroi

Cabbage soup and gruel are our food. (Shchi da kasha, pishche nashe.) ~~Russian peasant proverb Trying to ferret out tidbits about Russian food history can be tough going. Aside from the language barrier, anyone interested in Russian culinary history suffers from a major weakness: there is a terrible lack of written material contemporaneous with Forme…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Fish in Every Pie

The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin. ~~ Anton Chekov, "The Siren" Fish dishes abound in Russian cuisine, in large part because of the Russian Orthodox Church’s strict rules on fasting during Lent other times of the year. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that fish thrive in…

From Mother Russia with Love: Kulich and Paskha and Easter

Because Russian Orthodox Easter falls on the same day this year (2010) as the Western Easter, it seems appropriate to include recipes for Russia's most well-known Easter sweets: Kulich, a tall puffy "baba" or sweet-bread cousin to Italian Panettone (maybe with phallic overtones and fertility in mind?) and Paskha, a cheesecake-like dairy-rich concoction eaten with…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

From Mother Russia with Love: Great Lent, the Beginning

Many years ago, a high school history teacher of mine asked our class to write down everything we knew about Russia within the space of about 30 minutes. Most people wrote a brief paragraph, describing the red Communist flag with its hammer and sickle. Some delved a little into the cruelty of the tsars and…

Vestiges of European Colonialism

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I harbor a certain fascination for the colonial period of world history (1492 to 1961+), because the antics of the colonizers - mostly European -  provide endless examples of how our world to this day still bears the scars of that tumultuous and turbulent time. Few regions of…

A Case of Culinary Illiteracy

It wasn’t just the Thai language and its lacy script that rendered me illiterate. So also did the sheer variety of ingredients, the creatures – crawling, swimming, splayed, and grilled – and the vast range of vegetables and fruits on display in the Warorot market in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My adrenaline levels soared as if…

The Wonder Spice: A Review of Turmeric, a Cookbook by Colleen Taylor Sen and Helen Saberi

Several years ago, I set up an informal experiment with an observation of two: in my tiny two-person household, I cooked and ate only Indian food for one month, relying heavily on cookbooks by Julie Sahni and Madhur Jaffrey. I felt terrific, with more energy and alertness than I knew what to do with. Of…

Pears – an Exploration of Ancient Food Preservation

The soft, beguiling fragrance permeates the air, rising above the aroma of the Jonagolds and the Galas, even over the sweet perfume of the Golden Delicious apples piled in baskets, resembling yellow baseballs. The knobby Bartlett pears (Pyrus communis), also known as the Williams pear, still slightly green but with a small and promising pink…

Exploring the Delicacies of Indonesia, in the Shadows of the Volcanoes

CYNTHIA D. BERTELSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times Sunday, September 29, 2013   At the fish market, the man in black hoisted a bucket of fish to his well-muscled shoulders and strained to keep from slipping on the algae-covered steps. Picking his way out of the churning water, he plunked the bucket down and grabbed…

Why Do We Cook?

What does it mean to cook? Some - Harold McGee for example - would say that cooking means to prepare food by heating, while others, such as historian Rachel Laudan, extend the definition to include modes of preparation beyond heating. I tend to agree with the latter and not the former. So, with that sticking point…

Julie Sahni -Talk About Great Indian Food!

Like most of you (I hope), I have been cooking from Julie Sahni's cookbooks for years.  I learned to feel utterly confident that Ms. Sahni's recipes really work and come close to what people from India know about good food. One weekend my husband's office held a pot-luck at a colleague's house. Feeling assured that…

Mushrooms on My Mind, Naturally

It’s hard to imagine another form of earthly life that has affected human beings as much as the kingdom Fungi. Seeking the taste and perceived medicinal benefits of mushrooms,human beings followed a path from superstition to science: from foraging to farming, from medieval old wives’ tales to modern clinical trials, and from food eaten to…

Journeys versus Destinations: Homesick for My Food

I’d never experienced it before. Amoebas, yes. Worms, yes. Dengue, yes.  Broken bones, yes. Malaria dreams, yes. But not cravings for thick juicy hamburgers or plump buttermilk pancakes swimming in melted butter and golden maple syrup or crispy fried chicken with cream gravy. In spite of all the years of traveling and living among cultures…

Journeys versus Destinations: Adventures in Indonesia

 Adventures in Indonesia: Copy and paste this link for a direct line to the Power Point presentation:  https://cbertel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/mike-and-cindy_s-most-excellent-adventures1.pptx This is a Power Point file that I have been working on. If you do not have Power Point, you will not be able to see the post. If you do have Power Point, be sure to…

Journeys versus Destinations: Initial Comments on a Sojourn in Indonesia

I too for years have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming. ~ Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to Oku I cannot forget his face. Soaked with sea water and sweat, grimacing with the physical effort of his daily labor, the lines telling of…

In My Grandfather’s Garden, or, a Long Apothegm on Apricots

I don’t really remember my grandfather very well, for he died just a month before I turned 14. Yet he left a legacy that lies hidden deep in my brain, a usually dormant place where I apparently shelve all my food memories. But in the right circumstances, and with the right stimulus, that place –…

Keep Calm and Carry On: Cows as Zen Masters

The cow stood there, stoically it seemed to me, chewing with lazy abandon, while I fumbled with the focus on my camera. She rolled her big weepy eyes, as cows are wont to do when confronted with something new. Coincidence or not? I pressed the shutter and peered at the tiny LCD screen, the sun's…

Cheese + Flour + Yeast + Salt + Eggs = The Ancient Mystery of Bread

To contemplate bread even more, please go my previous post, Panis Gravis, or, Bread, Endless Nurturer. I’ve baked bread for years and years. In fact, except for the odd hamburger bun, my family never eats “boughten bread,” as my mother-in-law called it. In a time when “carbohydrate” evokes images reminiscent of horror films, singing the…

From Russia with Love: Cooking Utensils

The theme of next year's Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery centers around "Food and Material Culture." The spoons captured my interest and so I decided to take a quick peek at other utensils. I never get tired of looking at the tools that people created for cooking their food, food that gave them the…

The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

Just a reminder that you will be able to see some 10 of the 28 sessions live and for free on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 2012. See schedule of free sessions below. To brighten up a dreary February in 2011, a group of food scholars and cookbook writers started a cookbook conference.…