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…

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…