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…

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Real Mayonnaise, Real Food? Or Just Sanctimonious Snobbery?

It’s not REAL mayonnaise. You know the one I mean. Mayonnaise – made with egg yolks, an acidic liquid, a dash of mustard, salt, and oil, usually olive – feels as smooth and soft as a silk pillow, sliding like thickened cream across the tongue. There’re no startled taste buds in the presence of too much…

Mushrooms at Female & Fungi

I know, I said my last post was the last until after Christmas, but I wanted to share something with you this bright sunny day. Not long ago, some people who write the remarkable web site "Female & Fungi" contacted me about my book, Mushroom: A Global History. They wanted to know more about the…

Burnt Toast, or, What Most Food Blogs Never Mention

After waking up to yet another gray, frigid day, I read - not without little frissons of envy, to be honest - the latest crop of great food bloggers selected by The Huffington Post, which run the gamut from folksy to romantic. The photos certainly could festoon the walls of great museums, vying for space…

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends

“Rich with the flavor of words . . . a marvelous and kaleidoscopic view of Paris . . .” Gazing on Paris now from the vantage point of the Pont Neuf or the top of the Eiffel Tower or down the Champs Élysées, it’s nearly impossible to grasp the fact that in 1871 Paris lay…

The Ancient Sin of Gluttony: What’s Really Behind the Shunning of Paula Deen

We need strategies that do not drag us back to the dispositional focus of the Inquisition's witch-hunts, that propelled the notion of the "Satan Within," when much good and evil is the product of situational and systemic forces acting on the same ordinary, often good people.  ~~ Philip Zimbardo  It’s been with a great deal…

And to Think it all Started with a French Cookbook: Forty Years of Chez Panisse

Alice Waters often said that Elizabeth David's  French Provincial Cooking started the whole thing, meaning Chez Panisse the restaurant. And of course, the ensuing local foods movement. The following excerpt comes from a review I wrote, published today on the Web site of The New York Journal of Books: The many talented cooks and chefs she…

Pass the Nostalgia, and Nix the Organics

I’ll be blunt: I like my food with a heaping handful of nostalgic romanticism. Yes, there are those who claim that the present food landscape sparkles with the dreamy hue reminiscent of rose-colored glasses, that the perfume of nostalgia permeates too much of present-day “discourse” on food. And then there’s the flip side of that…

Why Cookbooks?

Why on earth so many cookbooks, when no one cooks? Or do they? Read Adam Gopnik's thoughts in the latest food issue of The New Yorker. He starts out by saying Handed-down wisdom and worked-up information remain the double piers of a cook’s life. The recipe book always contains two things: news of how something…

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…

Some Notable Food Books of 2008

There are food books and there are food books. The following list contains no whispers from FoodTV icons or other foodie celebrities. Just dedicated scholarship and authenticity (or as much authenticity as is possible when it comes to real food). The brief descriptions following each title following come from product blurbs provided by the publishers.…

LEAFING OUT: Cooking with Asian Leaves

A new (to me, anyway) cookbook always heralds further culinary adventures for armchair explorers. In Cooking with Asian Leaves, authors Devagi Sanmugam and Christopher Tan---both residents of Singapore---ladle out detailed information about 26 different leaves, many that rarely make it into mainstream American kitchens. Including scientific names, appearance, flavor, and culinary and medicinal uses, this…

*Critics’ Corner: Yum-O Gal, You’re No Fannie Farmer, or Julia Child, for That Matter

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," C. C. Colton said in 1828 in The Lacon: or, Many Things in a Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think. But what about parody, rife with derision? On September 3, Elizabeth Hilts, author of Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch, releases her big bad bash of Ray: Every Freaking!…

Out of Africa: Review of “Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa”

Say “African food” and most people visualize a cartoon with two missionaries boiling in a black iron pot in the middle of a jungle clearing. That’s the “Dark Continent” picture, deeply rooted in the West’s persistent attitude of colonialism toward Africa. Or, instead, they “see” stick-thin children sprawled out on their mothers’ laps, listless, flies swarming everywhere.