The Death of Anthony Bourdain

I forget where exactly I was when I read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. But I'll never forget the writing, the cool depiction of the parade of characters - chefs, waitresses, line cooks, dopers, and so on. Tony, I think he liked being called that, could tramp through the Chaco of Paraguay with the same ease he…

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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…

A Juneteenth Commentary: Edna Lewis and the Myths Behind Southern Cooking

Powered by the mythology that has grown up around Southern food over the last several years, many voices claim ownership, hurling harsh accusations of cultural appropriation, and silencing and shaming contrary opinions. The argument is not easy to prove, as it remains hampered by a lack of statistics, contemporary documentation, and clear evidence of outright…

The Power and the Glories of Eating Alone

King Louis XIV did it. M. F. K. Fisher did it. The faceless man in Edward Hopper’s painting, “Nighthawks,” did it. Mr. Bean did it, too. And so did I. Daring to eat a proper meal alone in public probably ranks as one of the few acts that cause normally confident people to quiver a…

France and America: Why Paris Haunts Us So

It's been several days now, the media stream moves onward, darting here and there to other news, other disasters. And yet I remain static, stuck, still mulling over the attacks on Paris, mourning the loss of all those lives, as well as the so-very-French joie de vivre. Why does Paris haunt me, and others, so? In the hours and…

Who is a Chef? Who is a Cook?

There's a lot of confusion out there about just what constitutes a "chef" versus a "cook." Oh yes, and it's a question that many writers have tried to answer. Nothing new there. I'm a big believer in defining terms, realizing of course that terminology and words change meanings over the years. But, that said, and…

Vivre en l’Outre-Mer, or, The Trials of Living in French Congo ca. 1923: Part III

Once settled into their bungalow overlooking Stanley Pool in Brazzaville, the Vassals faced the problem of hiring household help, especially a cook. Unlike many Europeans, they found a cook who knew his business, of whom Gabrielle wrote: I am glad, too, to have a change from German cooking.* Our primitive black Matamba is far superior…

Science: The Missing Ingredient in the So-Called Art of Cooking

Every chef should be a scientist too. How so? Cooking changes the chemical and structure of food. Therefore, understanding these changes would help a lot when perched in front of the stove, whisk or wooden spoon in hand. Over the last several weeks, I’ve watched more episodes of the popular American TV program, “Chopped,” than I…

Les Rêves de Julia (Julia’s Dreams): Meditations and Memories

Food and cooking serve as metaphors for life and love. Each plays a huge role in the way I see and photograph the world. I seek to nourish both eye and soul with my photography, in much the same way I feed bodies through my cooking. The work of food photographer Penny de los Santos…

Eating Dessert at the White House + A Word about Dallas, November 22, 1963*

Bill Yosses, the current White House pastry chef says pie is the all-time favorite in the Obama White House, but adds that “The dessert that was the biggest hit last year was a sugar cookie in the shape of the First Family’s dog, Bo. This year we have a black and yellow bumblebee to celebrate…

The South is Rising Again: The 2013 James Beard Nominees

In the culinary world, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize or the Oscars comes down to the James Beard Awards. This year, the list of nominees includes a large number of Southern chefs, restaurants, and other food-related entities. What's so fascinating about this list lies in the evidence of increasing diversity - it's not all…

Dear Julia, Happy Birthday! #100, or, Why I Loved You

Dear Julia, Happy 100th birthday! Today lots of famous food writers will write or post reams of flattering words about you. I know, I’ve already seen them, the New York Times leading the charge with three features about you, one by your friend Jacques Pépin. Like Jacques, many others will point out, once again, that…

French Bistro: Seasonal Recipes

“A visual feast as well as a gastronomic one . . . Organized by ten essentials that any successful bistro must have, French Bistro almost reads like a graphic novel, thanks to the prolific and colorful photographs.” When you walk into a Paris bistro straight off the street on a cool fall day, the odd leaf rustling…

Ivan Day: Master Food Historian

Those of you with a tremendous love of food history will be happy to know that Ivan Day blogs with all the beauty and erudite authority of his spectacular recreations of historical British food. (Yes, British food!) Take a look both his blog - Food History Jottings - and his regular Web site - Historic Food. You'll…

The Expert (French) Cook in Enlightenment France: A Review

If you scrutinize sixteenth-century Dutch artist Pieter Aertsen’s painting, “The Cook in Front of the Stove,” you will see a rather stereotypical image of servant cooks, one that persisted in popular memory in Europe until well into the nineteenth century. Sean Takats, assistant professor of history at George Mason University and codirector of Zotero, attempts…

The Cardinal and the Chef

Sauce Madère 2 cups brown sauce (you can use prepared demi-glace like that sold by D'Artagnan ) 2 T. good Madeira Cook down the brown sauce for 20 minutes over medium heat. Add the Madeira, raise the heat, and cook rapidly; the sauce should look syrupy and lightly coat a metal spoon. Serve with beef or…

For French Cooks Who …

have everything - or nearly everything - in their batterie de cuisine. A Turbotière, for cooking, well, turbots. Available, the pan, that is, at E. DEHILLERIN in Paris ( 18 et 20, rue Coquillière - 51, rue Jean- Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement) for the princely sum of nearly 570 euros ($826.25). Considering the size of turbots, the price…

Modernist Cuisine: French-Influenced, Of Course (Hint: “Cuisine”)

Culinary History Has To Be Analyzed Like Art History ~~ Nathan Myhrvold "Modernist Cuisine is a six-volume, 2,438-page set that is des­tined to rein­vent cook­ing. The lav­ishly illus­trated books use thou­sands of orig­i­nal images to make the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy clear and engaging." That tantailizing passage refers to the first edition of a book that costs as much…

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…

Vivre en l’Outre-Mer, or, The Trials of Living in French Congo ca. 1923: Part III

Once settled into their bungalow overlooking Stanley Pool in Brazzaville, the Vassals faced the problem of hiring household help, especially a cook. Unlike many Europeans, they found a cook who knew his business, of whom Gabrielle wrote: I am glad, too, to have a change from German cooking.* Our primitive black Matamba is far superior…

Léon Isnard: Bringing the Cuisines of Africa to France

"It seems that the word couscous is a Gallic version of "rac keskes," which means "crushed small." ~ Leon Isnard Whether you think about it consciously or not, the nineteenth-century European drive for overseas colonies still molds our world. Ever since the Portuguese sailed for Prince Henry the Navigator out of Sagres, an ocean-facing place…

Fatéma Hal, Queen of Moroccan Cuisine in France

Fatéma Hal, a Moroccan chef with a penchant for busting female stereotypes, cooks traditional Moroccan food at her Parisian restaurant, La Mansouria (11, rue Faidherbe, 11th Arrondissement, Paris), opened in 1984. The restaurant began with only women working there, including Fatéma's mother, the cooking in "the hands of women." Unusual for France, non? One of…

The Cookbooks on Their Shelves: The First English-Language French Cookbooks in the United States, or, Who was Sulpice Barué?

Much has been made of Thomas Jefferson's influence on the “Frenchification” of cuisine in the young United States and in American diplomatic circles. Just take a look at "The French Touch," a chapter in Even Jones's American Food: The Gastronomic Story (1990) or Karen Hess's "Thomas Jefferson's Table: Evidence and Influences," in Dining at Monticello…

Auguste Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire, Revised

New, revised version of Escoffier's premier work, unabridged fourth edition from 1921. In English, glory be. Translated from the 1921 Fourth Edition, this revision includes all-new Forewords by Heston Blumenthal, chef-owner of the Michelin three-star-rated Fat Duck restaurant, and Chef Tim Ryan, President of The Culinary Institute of America, along with Escoffier’s original Forewords, a…

To India, via Paris’s Le Passage Brady

In spite of French presence in India for a couple of centuries, trying to find Indian curry in France tends to be a bit of a chore. The first Indian restaurant didn't open in Paris until 1975. Those in the know (mostly British expatriates pining for curry in London) lament the lack of good Indian food,…

Culinary Diffusion? Yes, in Alain Ducasse’s Kitchens

In a way, it's the French version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." World-famous French chef, Alain Ducasse, chose fifteen women from Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris housing mostly poor immigrants mainly from France's former North African colonies. An article in The New York Times tells the whole story, almost a Cinderella saga: 15…

The [Culinary] Heroes of France

They're not in the Panthéon in Paris, where France entombs her heroes, but from all the adulation they receive, you'd think they would be. France not only treats its chefs like celebrities or royalty, but the country  sometimes even views these men (usually they're all men) like gods. Here's a taunting image by photographer and…