Elizabeth Romer’s Chronicle of Tuscan Agriculture

Contemplating the impact of Food Network's publishing juggernaut on the current food scene in America, I find myself turning backwards, to some of the "earlier" writers on food in Italy. Many of these people, like Elizabeth Romer in The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley (1985), wrote of day-to-day practices, of times…

The Hermetic Lady in the Palazzo: Marlena de Blasi

Cookbook author and memoirist Marlena de Blasi does not seek the limelight, preferring instead to write her books in the shadows. The shadows, that is, of the great stone monuments of Italy, first San Marco in Venice and now a sixteenth-century palazzo in Orvieto in Umbria. De Blasi’s body of work includes A Taste of…

Madeleine & Julia

Appearances can be deceiving.* And in the food (foodie?) world, what smells of success --- however minor --- to one person may well reek like garbage to another. Take the case of Julia Child and Madeleine Kamman, for example. All the recent reminiscing about Julia Child (one of the Holy Trinity of female food writers…

Old News: Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese

Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese (Recipes  from the Collection of Prince Don Paolo Borghese), a new cookbook published by the Ferragamo family of Italian shoe fame, sounds scrumptious. The eighteenth-century recipes come from family archives. According to the Vogue UK Website, the book will be available worldwide in September 2009…

Reveling in Books: DIY (Old) Food, Knowledge Lost and Now Found

Want to make your own cheese? How about pickles or chow-chow? Sausage and headcheese? Raise a couple of cows or keep a flock of geese? At a time when people want, no, need, to know the how-tos of old foodways, it seems that there’s a book for making just about everything. Fortunately, because this knowledge…

Reveling in Books: Fresh, Bones, Fat, and Meat

Like Susan Bourette in Meat: A Love Story My Year in Search of the Perfect Meal (did she get this subtitle from Roy Andries de Groot, a food writer popular in the sixties and seventies who wrote In Search of the Perfect Meal (1986)?), many people temporarily eschew meat at some point in their lives.…

Reveling in Books: The Garden Cottage Diaries

Most of the time, I judge food by its looks and books by their covers. Sorry, but give me a little art, a bit of color, and a mob cap any day of the week. Mob cap? Take the cartoon-like cover of The Garden Cottage Diaries for example. Like a magnet, this visual rendition of…

American Cookbooks: History 101 (II)

Continued from April 28, 2009: By the 1820s other cookbooks followed, The Virginia Housewife among them, written by Mary Randolph, a member of one of Virginia's first families. These cookbooks were different from what we know today. They failed to mention of the size of the dishes used in baking, the number of portions the…

American Cookbooks: History 101 (I)

(The following comments stem from a talk I gave to a group interested in the Peacock-Harper Culinary History collection at Virginia Tech.) A long time ago, while standing on the corner on a dusty street in Puebla, Mexico, I  experienced an epiphany. As I watched the housewives in rebozos (shawls) and young secretaries teetering on…

The Triumvirate of American Cooking

TRIUMVIRATE: Latin triumvirātus, from triumvirī, board of three [men] Americans owe a lot to the following three people --- without them our grocery stores and larders and pantries would still be filled with cans of baked beans and boxes of Jell-O.* James Beard Julia Child Craig Claiborne *David Kamp's The United States of Arugula (2006) …

Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq: The Tenth-Century’s Answer to Jamie Oliver?

Sit at dinner tables as long as you can, and converse to your hearts' desire, for these are the bonus times of your lives. (Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens, p. x) Talk about a window into the past and a mirror to the present! A thousand years plus some separate us from the author and…

African Cookbook Project

Fran Osseo-Asare deserves a big hand for all her work on raising awareness of African cooking in the United States. The author of Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Osseo-Asare, a sociologist, initiated a project aimed at collecting African cookbooks, along with TEDGLOBAL in Arusha, Tanzania in June, 2007. One interesting post (among many) on…

Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal

To paraphrase Flannery O'Connor,* a good African cookbook is hard to find. And so when such a book appears,  the bubbly comes out and the music crescendos. Senegal-born Chef Pierre Thiam wrote the first cookbook on Senegalese food, Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal,  and ended up nominated for a prestigious IACP (International Association…

Cookbook Academy Awards: IACP Winners 2009!

Brad Pitt and Angelina weren't there, but a lot of other people walked up to podium anyway. The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) held its annual meeting in Denver this year. As usual, judges perused a roster of last year's cookbooks and came up with the following winners in the traditional categories. Some of…

Cooking and Eating: Some Harsh Truths

Food thoughts for munching ... thanks to Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards, the originator of home economics, or domestic science. Nutritional psychologist Marc David states that Most nutritional assertions that originate from authoritative sources [like the home economics/domestic science movement that began in the late nineteenth century] have a brief shelf life. Our nutritional information is…

The Book of Sent Sovi­: Medieval Recipes from Catalonia (Textos B)

The discovery of "new" old cookbooks always makes my brain tingle --- so few people wrote down anything about the most basic of human activities --- eating --- that written records of any sort demand celebration and acclaim. The Book of Sent Sovi is one of those ... The Book of Sent Sovi, composed around…

Manuscript Cookbooks

Three manuscript cookbooks held in Virginia Tech's Newman Library's Special Collections promise rich material for food history scholars. Food historian Rachel Laudan says this about manuscript cookbooks in Mexico: What are not included in this list are manuscript cookbooks. Many of the great convents in Mexico still have magnificent manuscript cookbooks from the eighteenth century. …

Classic French Cookbooks from the 20th Century (Hint: NOT Julia)

Richard Olney's Simple French Food and Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Rose: Classical French Cooking from Burgundy and Lyonnais both grabbed me from the very first time I touched the covers and flipped through the pages like a Black Jack player hedging his bets by rearranging his cards Right away I knew that both of…

Carnevale Goeth: A Dip into Austerity and Cucina di Magro

"Thin" kitchen, that's what the "magro" part means here. No, not a galley kitchen. Not a New York loft kitchen. Not even a Paris apartment kitchen. Skinny food. That's cucina di magro. Vegetables. Legumes. Fish. Fruit. Shellfish. The bones of the Mediterranean diet. No meat, at least none that walks around on four legs. Or…

A Dish (or Two) for Children in British Colonial Africa

(A tribute to those women who endured the challenges of living in unfamiliar and far-flung places, raising their children without their extended families around. And cooking what they could.) Sometimes it literally WAS a dog's breakfast. And mothers couldn't do anything about it. Feeding their children properly preoccupied those mothers who followed their English husbands…

George Washington’s Family Cookbooks

Martha Washington's cookbook tells a tale, one that really needs no elaboration:  George went through life toothless. Recipes for soft puddings, quidonys (a type of fruit preserve), and jellies abound. Of course, puddings testified in part to the, well, Englishness of the Father of Our Country and his wife. But the fact of the matter…

Tavern on the Green: 125 Recipes for Good Times

On February 9, 2009 comes a new, feel-good, remember-the-booming times kind of cookbook that drops names of big stars and celebrities, along with terrific recipes, Tavern on the Green: 125 Recipes for Good Times. Written by the owners of the famous New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green, Jennifer Oz LeRoy and her mother…

Fabulous Food Blogs

The other day, a fellow food blogger awarded the Fabulous Food Blog Award to Gherkins & Tomatoes.  See the post HERE. Now that the torch has been passed, I must swing the award to five other food bloggers and list my five most serious food-related addictions. There are ever so many food blogs out there…

Sunday Suppers at Lucques: A Review in Rhapsody

Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber (Knopf/New York, 2005) Sunday suppers --- not something you associate with high-class dining. Right? Wrong. Award-winning California chef, Suzanne Goin, of Lucques and A.O.C in Los Angeles, started serving Sunday suppers at Lucques in 1998. Each Sunday supper - always a three-course extravaganza of appetizers,…

Cracking the Crock-Pot Code: One-Pot Meals

On a deeper level it [cucina povera] reflects a necessary philosophy that is common in all cultures: making do with what you've got to transform humble ingredients into dishes that are more than the sum of their parts. (Faith Hopler, "The Kitchen") No wonder I've been dreaming of Le Creuset Dutch Ovens lately. With the…

Puglia: A Culinary Memoir

Santa Claus flat out forgot me this year. I knew instantly that the jolly old elf  passed me by when I scrounged around in my Christmas stocking. No lump of coal. But no copy of Maria Pignatelli Ferrante's Puglia: A Culinary Memoir either. And this prize of a book  didn't even make it into the…

The Washington Post on Best Cookbooks (Gifts) of 2008

An interesting and REAL list (for the most part) of cookbooks for serious and not-so-serious home cooks. Some of the 18 titles anointed and blessed  by The Post include: A Platter of Figs, by David Tanis (So popular right now that it can't be had from any of the big online --- or local ---…

MILK: That Old White Magic

[Note: Ironically, I just came across this December 15, 2008 NPR interview with Anne Mendelson:  "A Culinary History of Milk Through the Ages." The NPR story includes a recipe for Apple-Onion Cream Soup.] Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, with 120 Adventurous Recipes that Explore the Riches of Our First Food, by…

Obama’s “Secretary of Food”: An Idea Whose Time has Come, Thanks to Nicholas Kristof

In the his December 10, 2008 column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof states that the name of the department responsible for food and agriculture in the United States should be called the Department of Food. His reasoning is that only 2 percent of the American population actually farms, but 100 percent eats. Good…

Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture: The Saga Continues

John Salazar? Is a potato farmer. With strong ties to corporate agriculture. The blogging world, at least those interested in who might take over the reins at the USDA (see Mark Bittman of the New York Times on this issue), think that maybe John Salazar of Colorado might be the pick. La Vida Locavore, in…