Mulacolong, from Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife:

With a name like that, of course, I couldn't resist the recipe. "Mulacolong." What on earth did that mean? It seems that no one else knew either, thanks to a Google search and more. So I decided to split up the word, to look at components rather the whole. One tantalizing bit of information kept…

Introducing Sarah Rutledge, a Cookbook Author You’re Going to Get to Know Very Well!

I'd like to introduce you a most interesting woman, Sarah Rutledge. Call her Miss Sally, as did her kin and her friends. She wrote a cookbook, The Carolina Housewife, published in 1847, which tells a most remarkable story. Unlike Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife (1824), which tended to focus more on the victuals cooked and…

What’s That You Say??? Medieval Culinary Terminology Unmasked*

If you've ever tried to read Chaucer in the original language, you know what you're up against when you tackle a recipe dating from the poet's time period. Actually, when you read The Canterbury Tales, you have it fairly easy, for there's a multitude of resources to help you as you plunge through Chaucer's Middle…

Keep on Feasting! For Lovers of “Game of Thrones”

Fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” must be feeling bereft. And why shouldn’t they? The curtain finally fell on the last episode of that long-running megahit. Unless they love reruns, that’s it for those fans. I, on the other hand, have barely made it through the first episode so far, “Winter is…

Transcription of Medieval Documents, or, What an Online Resource!

As I mentioned, albeit briefly, in “A Hastiness of Cooks”: A Practical Handbook for Use in Deciphering the Mysteries of Historic Recipes and Cookbooks, For Living-History Reenactors, Historians, Writers, Chefs, Archaeologists, and, of Course, Cooks, transcription is one of those things that makes all the difference when you're trying to recreate historic recipes or analyzing…

Culinary Manuscripts, or, Deciphering the Code

Paleography refers to the situation in which an historic cookbook is studied,* and perhaps converted to script that a modern reader can understand. The process is highly complicated and experts spend years, even whole careers, devoted to just this subject. So the following discussion is more like a scratch on a grain of sand, small…

Pignagoscé sur chapons (Pignagoscé on Capons), Plus Some Words on Paleography

In my latest book, "A Hastiness of Cooks", I deliberately skimmed over France and her culinary heritage. Not because I thought her culinary heritage not worth acknowledging, but because I wanted to savor that heritage in a different medium or venue. With that sentiment in mind, I pulled Terence Scully's treatise - The Vivendier -…

Who was Gervase Markham? A Forgotten English Food Writer Comes Alive in a New Book

His quirky, pixy eyes belie his prolificity as a writer, one that some dub the first so-called hack writers in modern history, and possibly the first to import an Arabian horse into England.** And possibly one of William Shakespeare’s rivals? Some writers such as Robert Gittings, in his tepidly received Shakespeare’s Rival (1960), suggest that…

Many Different Faces: Bibliography’s Extended Family

Cousin Connie Atherton, or Constance as she wanted to be called - she always said it sounded more grownup,  you know - inherited Grandma's large coffee-brown eyes. Grandpa's curly black hair went to his great-grandson Jake , whose sister Mildred emerged from their mother Flora's uterus with long tapered fingers, a Doppelganger of Uncle George,…

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…

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 Fallibility of Memory, or, The Fabulists among Us

Memory is a funny thing. By "funny," I'm not thinking Woody Allen amusing or Amy Schumer hilarious. No, by "funny" I mean something akin to "strange" or "perplexing" or even "otherworldly." And indeed memory can be perplexing, making it appear as the stuff of fabulists. Trying to remember what happened last week, much less 50 or…

African Cuisines: Cookbooks for Exploration and Discovery of Superb Flavors

Only one of this year’s new releases in print cookbooks covers the cooking of Africa, unless you count books about Moroccan cooking by Fatéma Hal and Z. Guinaudeau, as well as Kittee Berns’s Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking. The rest only come in Kindle editions, a medium which is not my first choice…

Peregrinations and Pilgrimages: Egeria and the Flour Soup

Rocks tumbled down the rugged sloping ground and dust spun like little tops as Egeria, a nun from early fourth-century Galicia, climbed toward the rocky summit of Mount Sinai. From that craggy point, she gazed at a world she defined by the holy sites mentioned in the Bible. And from there we saw beneath us…

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…

And More Gifts: A Selection of Food and Culinary History Books Published in 2013

Before I list my choice of books for 2013, a caveat: I have not read all of these yet. What I attempt here is to list the food and culinary history tomes that interest me (and hopefully you!), published in 2013. The descriptions of these books come from various sources, usually the publisher. That said, if…

A New “Baby” in the House! Mushroom: A Global History, That Is

I just wanted to share with all of you an exciting moment: I just laid eyes on my new book - Mushroom: A Global History - and promptly burst into tears. I just couldn't keep a stiff upper lip when I saw the result of years of work on my part and on the part…

Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History, a Book You Simply Must Read

Today, I am happy to share something with you, a marvelous gift to the world of culinary history: Cuisine & Empire, by Rachel Laudan (University of California press, October 2013). I had the pleasure of reading some of the book while it was still in manuscript,* and that bit whetted my appetite so much 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…

The Grocery List: Color, Primates, and Food Selection

I always take a shopping list with me to the grocery store. But I rarely stick to it, because those marketing experts working for the big chains know just how to entice me into buying things not on my list. That’s probably why most people I see in the grocery store don’t shop with a…

Mushroom: A Global History – New book coming out

I am thrilled to announce that my new book about the culinary history of mushrooms is due out in September 2013. A sneak preview: Known as the meat of the vegetable world, mushrooms have their ardent supporters as well as their fierce detractors. Hobbits go crazy over them, while Diderot thought they should be “sent…

Foods for a Funeral and a Farewell

What to make of the lavish feasts that come after a funeral? When I attended my first funeral, at age 27, I cried a lot, even though I didn't know the  deceased, my sister-in-law's father. My grandparents all died before I turned 20 and lived 1250 miles away. Living as my family did on a…

* New Bibliography Available, on Southern Food & Cooking & Stuff

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I love books passionately, especially cookbooks and any books about food. Because of my current emphasis on foods and cooking and foodways of the American South - tied as all that is to social change and the influx of new population groups - I have created a…

How to Tempt the Scrooges, or, Christmas, the Cooking Season

I love Christmas. Yes, I really do. For I see Christmas as a time that allows us - in these rather sterile, rigid United States, anyway - to cut loose and string up gaudy gee-gaws all over the house. To transcend the daily. To feel the seasonal and mythic cycles of past times. To celebrate…

Paris to the Past – Traveling Through French History by Train: A Book to Love and Cherish

“If you’ve even the slightest interest in France and her history, you will enjoy this highly innovative book. If you love France, and you’re a committed Francophile, you will swoon over Paris to the Past. As Ina Caro writes in her introduction to this delicious book, ‘I charted a route you could follow.’ And indeed she does.”…

Assimilating “The Other”

Leslie Page Moch, author of Moving Europeans: Migration in Western Europe Since 1650 (1992, Indiana U. Press), has written another book, Pariahs of Yesterday: Breton Migrants in Paris (Duke University Press, 2012). Her book promises insights into the process of integration, a very useful understanding of present-day migrants in France, people from France's former colonies:…

A Few Marrons Glacés for the Season … A Gift for You

Photo credit: Robyn Lee A while ago, I promised you a short list of facsimile/translated French cookbooks. The following list represents a number of old French-language cookbooks translated into English that you’ll find freely available on the Internet, something quite helpful when you’ve dropped your last holiday dollar on the fixings for Beef Wellington and…