Lefse, and Giving Thanks via a Food of Immigration, Poverty, and Oppression

Term: lefse (food) Definition: thin, unleavened bread of Norwegian origin, traditionally made of a potato-based dough and baked on a griddle [Source: Dictionary of American Regional English] Thanksgiving is a day when Americans recall the myths of their founding, usually associated with the English Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1620, ignoring the Jamestown settlers who arrived…

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Cookbooks for the Season: Preserving is the Hot Topic These Days

  At this time of the year, cookbooks flow like rivers out of publishing houses. The usual stabs at global cuisine are always there, covering everything cooking-related from Vietnam to Persia to Cuba, with the usual obsequious curtsies to France and Italy. Gluten-free and farm fresh crop up, too. But the most interesting trend in…

A Reality Checklist about Romanticizing Kitchens Past

Every year during the holiday season, many media sources provide lists of cookbooks, primarily to jump-start the gift-giving proclivities of their readers. This year I’m getting a head start. Only thing is, my list is different. Most of the books I'm suggesting are free - they're all vintage. And not as “vintage” seems to be defined nowadays, as…

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…

Cheese + Flour + Yeast + Salt + Eggs = The Ancient Mystery of Bread

To contemplate bread even more, please go my previous post, Panis Gravis, or, Bread, Endless Nurturer. I’ve baked bread for years and years. In fact, except for the odd hamburger bun, my family never eats “boughten bread,” as my mother-in-law called it. In a time when “carbohydrate” evokes images reminiscent of horror films, singing the…

Another Holy Trinity of the Kitchen: The Magic of Milk, Eggs, and White Flour

Every time I pour crêpe batter into my 8-inch Teflon*-lined crêpe pan, I see deep scratches, the ones that Habiba made with the fork she used while cooking a three-egg cheese-and-herb omelet one wintry Moroccan morning. The scratches don’t affect the pan’s performance, just as wounds and scars don’t fundamentally change who we are and…

And a Cake Fit for Three Kings: Galette/Gateau des Rois

Bonne Année! Happy New Year! I  first ate Galette des Rois in Paris, on a cold, rainy January day. The smell of the almond-paste filling seemed to reach right out through the door of the nameless little patisserie near the Rue Monge and grab me by the lapels of my  too-thin coat. I couldn't wait to…

The Provençal Thirteen: Fennel- and Cumin-Scented Sablés

In France, you'll find sablés,  buttery cookies that originated in Normandy. (You know they had all that butter to get rid of there.) Most sablés are sweet. But in Provence, for the famous Thirteen Desserts of Christmas Eve, cooks prefer savory little disks perfumed with fennel and cumin. Cumin? How did cumin get into mix?…

Les Quatre Mendiants au Chocolat, A Candy Offshoot of Provence’s Thirteen Christmas Desserts

Gorgeous, huh? Yummy? You bet! And the best part is that, with a quick flick of a switch and your wrist, you too can make these beauties, part of the Thirteen Desserts of a Provençal Christmas. Mendiants au Chocolat Noir ou Blanc Makes about 75 - 100 candies, depending on size of circles 1 pound…

Anatomy Lesson: Rustic Mushroom Tart

"Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom." Thomas Carlyle [Note: This post forms part of the Picnic Game, sponsored by Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations. For more recipes and the bloggers/sites that participated, see below!] Ah, mushrooms. Either you love them or you hate them. Maybe you act indifferently toward…

A Gallery of Birthday Cakes

It's lovely to think that a birthday cake actually manifests an ancient custom, when --- just like today --- bakers baked things for special days, like weddings, births, and funerals. Most of those celebratory items took the form of breads baked into unique shapes. But not until the nineteenth century could the average Joe (or…

Pandolce: From Liguria with Love, Thanks to Laura Schenone

Laura Schenone, author of the soulful The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and the scholarly (and prize-winning) A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, traveled back to Liguria for Christmas in 2007. From that trip came her perpetual Christmas gift to all of us, Pandolce. In an article in the December 2008 issue of SAVEUR…

Fermented Foods of the World

For those interested in the impact of fermentation on human history, here's a useful tool: Fermented Foods of the World: A Dictionary and Guide, by Geoffrey Campbell-Platt (Butterworths, 1987). Now somewhat rare, with a price tag of over $600.00 for at least one used copy available online, it's not a book that should be checked…

Weihenstephan, the Oldest Brewery in the World (?)

Make that the oldest brewery still standing (and producing) in the world, never mind that the oldest brewery is actually a smashed clay pot [no pun intended] someplace yet to be dug up by an intrepid and curious archaeologist. Given my deep interest in fermentation, as well as the impact of monks and monasteries on…

Fermentations and Food Science in China — Joseph Needham’s Magnum Opus and Ancient Probiotics

If I had an extra $280.00 to my name, this is the book I'd buy (thanks to Rachel Laudan for pointing it out to me several months ago, at which time I received the book through an inter-library loan thanks to the University of Virginia library).  And in a recent discussion on the ASFS listserv…