The Copeland Spoon: A Taste of Material Culture from Early Virginia

My mother recently gave me an old pewter spoon, one with a story that tallies with my interest in American culinary history. She’d been cleaning out her kitchen cupboards and a couple of closets, and found the spoon, which she’d forgotten she’d had. The touchmark at the end of the handle reads “Joseph Copeland, 1675,…

Day 7: Squirrel – Celebrate American Food History

They’re puckish, furry, skittish, with tiny wiggly noses. And darn good eating, according to a chorus of voices in old, as well as modern, American cookbooks. What are they? Why, squirrels of course. Most people know of squirrel meat in traditional Brunswick Stew or Kentucky Burgoo. Many food writers have written on these two quintessential American…

Day 6: Beef – Celebrate American Food History

 War and food, a timeless tale. Unfortunately. Today’s story is about beef, the meat – as we all know – that become synonymous with Britain and went on to become a major force in the American economy in the nineteenth century, as well as providing for a rather mythological view of the American West. (Hint:…

Is Barbecue Barbaric? A Small Treatise on a Large and Controversial Subject

The All-American favorite cooking method, “barbecue,” sounds uncannily like “barbarism.” When warm nights and hotter days rev up cooks’ tempers as summer suddenly seems interminable, cooks turn to the trusty (and maybe rusty) BBQ grill and primal techniques of searing meat over an open flame. Age-old these methods are, indeed. And frankly barbaric, to the…

Hoppin’ John, or Dashing Myths Galore

(Due to a foul up with WordPress and dates, this post appeared on December 30. I was not finished with it yet!  But now I am!) Black-eyed peas, a gift to the New World from Africa. These beans were there as early as 1659 at St. Louis, now present-day Senegal, but they actually originated in North Africa, in…

A Baker’s Dozen of British Cookbooks for the Christmas Season – Book #13

Throughout history, cooking shows up again and again as primarily women’s work. As a reviewer of Richard Wrangham’s thought-provoking Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (2009) summarizes, “Here, too, Wrangham apologetically explains, is probably where the global subjugation of women began. Women, he observes, do most of the cooking in most societies (he describes…