Prelude to a Bio-Bibliography

“Let me take your coat, my dear.” I heard her voice as I stepped off the elevator, into the penthouse suite at the Chicago Hilton on a snowy day in late December. The tall, white-haired woman standing there, holding out her hands to me, drew me over the threshold, welcoming me. The color of Forget-Me-Nots,…

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The Joy of Bibliographies

Compiling bibliographies is a bit like blowing bubbles, for you never know how big the bubbles will be or how far away they’ll float through the air. Or where they’ll land. And that’s the exciting bit about bibliographies. You can’t know when you set out on the journey where you'll end up. If you compile…

Skeletons, Disease, and the Dinner Table

I don't like to get my hands dirty. Literally. And that's why I will never be an archaeologist. Grubbing around in the muck and peat and clay, no way. So how come I was in Washington D.C. for the 2018 meetings of the American Archaeological Society (AAS), along with several thousands of other people? Many…

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…

Bacopa Literary Review is Looking for a Few Good Writers

 Bacopa Literary Review Contest submissions open March 1 - May 31, 2018 with a $250 prize in each of four genres plus $25 payment for each published work. $3 submission fee (first submission free formembers of Writers Alliance of Gainesville). If accepted for publication, you agree to grant us First North American Serial Rights.  Poetry: We're…

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.…

Pumping Sunshine: Susie H. Baxter’s Rural North Florida Childhood

Memory, fickle memory. To recall the long-ago past becomes a journey into a place where truth flits behind trees or ducks into closets, an exhausting game of hide-and-seek where no player easily becomes “It.” Do you remember going to the Saturday afternoon movies when you were a kid? How you got so engrossed in the…

A Murder of Crows, An Unkindness of Ravens

They're not visible to the naked eye, but I hear their raucous cawing every day, the very second I open the door.  Crows, maybe ravens. No matter where I live, these glossy black birds congregate. The only place on earth to escape these intelligent creatures lies far south, in Antarctica. Crows and ravens eat whatever…

Muses: Cross Creek and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Although I'd read her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling (1938), in high school, I came to admire Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's work more via the great unifier - food. I bought a paperback copy of Cross Creek Cookery nearly forty years after Charles Scribner's Sons first published it. Now the spine on my cheap copy splits…

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.…

Weather, Weather, Weather

Good morning to everyone. Hurricane Irma came knocking on my door on Monday, September 11, 2017.  Her gusty breath took down a kingly live oak in my neighbor's yard and threatened to rip up my back fence. Some of my fellow citizens still wade thigh-high in the muddy alligator- and snake-infested water of Newnan's Lake.…

Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part IV: Going Green: a Riff on Salsa Verde

I, non-Italian, cook a mean roasted pork thing, slathered with ground fennel and coriander seed and white peppercorns, an Italian dish dubbed "Forever Roasted Pork" in Michael Chiarello's Travigne cookbook. And I also see definite correlations between that meltingly soft meat and Southern barbecue, between mechoui and other long-roasted meat dishes from around the world.…

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…

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…

Florida Oranges, and Other White House Desserts

Desserts and sweets served in the White House reflect the culinary history of the United States. The patterns of cooking, eating, and serving food in the White House originally relied heavily on the British heritage of the Thirteen Colonies, a pattern that generally continues until the present day.  Although wars and economic depressions plagued the…

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…

This Wild Land: Florida, Zora Neale Hurston, & Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man's spice-box seasons his own food. ― Zora Neale Hurston In my house, anyone waking to the soft, misty mornings of a searing Florida summer will be immediately drawn to the coolness of my…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Letting Go of Things that Matter Not

I have a story to tell. It's not the usual story that unfolds here. It's a story of meeting up with the inevitability of mortality. As I lay on a stretcher in an ambulance barreling down I-81, sirens blaring at 9 o'clock on an ink-black night, I wasn't thinking of literature. I wasn't thinking of…

Elinor Cooks the Christmas Goose

[Note: This is a portion of a larger work in progress.] Elinor waited until Daniel and Julian left the tavern’s kitchen. Then she tightened her apron and turned to the large wooden worktable facing the hearth. The white goose lay in the market basket, its neck tilted at a squared-off angle, its sightless eye pointing upward,…

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme … and Lavender

First, a pinch of etymology. The Greeks called lavender nardus after the Syrian city of Naardus, from which comes the word “spikenard.” (More on spikenard in a second.) As for our word, "lavender," we must once again thank the Latin language for lavare, meaning, "to wash." A member of the mint family, and cousin to…