What’s Cooking in Kenya? Ugali, Sukuma Wiki, and the Food of Barack Obama’s Father’s Childhood …

"When two locusts fight, it is always the crow who feasts." Nigerian saying quoted in Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father An article in The Times of London stated that Barack Obama's Kenyan family, members of the Luo group, to celebrate his presidential election victory, slaughtered four bulls, sixteen chickens, and a number of sheep…

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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…

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…

Julia Child’s “The French Chef, ” by Dana Polan

“a history of early American television telescoped through the persona and history of Julia Child. . . . fascinating . . .” When you walk the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can’t miss the lingering traces of heroes and history. From the names of the men who brought you the Boston Tea Party to the…

War. Cook. Eat. Love.

Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey* (Free Press, 2011) , isn’t the first person to cook her way through trying times. Nor will she be the last. But the makeshift kitchens where Ms. Ciezadlo peeled purple eggplant or stirred onions caramelizing for Mjadara Hamra (Lentils with Bulgur Wheat) happened to be in a couple…

The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

Just a reminder that you will be able to see some 10 of the 28 sessions live and for free on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 2012. See schedule of free sessions below. To brighten up a dreary February in 2011, a group of food scholars and cookbook writers started a cookbook conference.…

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…

Michel de Montaigne: “Literally” an Ancestor?

Great article by Sarah Bakewell, on Paris Review site from November 2010: What Bloggers Owe [Michel de] Montaigne Don't forget that Michel wrote about cannibalism, relating it to ethical issues. Read his essays in translation HERE. A taste, if I may be so bold:  I am not sorry that we notice the barbarous horror of…

Un Petit Départ, Un Petit “Au Revoir”, or, Helping Père Noël and Saint Nicolas

During this Christmas season,  Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons & Tomates will be in a state of flux, assisting Père Noël and St. Nicolas with the festivities here, as well as hibernating and storing up fat (information) for future posts. Needless to say, posting may become sporadic until January 6 (Epiphany). I wish you all a…

Another Last Word on French Cuisine and UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” Program

The recent inscribing of  "intangible cultural heritage" status  to "the French gastronomic meal" by UNESCO brought both cheers and jeers to the table. As I wash my hands and get out my Le Creuset terrine baker for the paté de campagne en croûte for Thanksgiving appetizers, I'd like to share a quote with all of you…

French Cuisine, an Exposition on Medieval Food Not to be Missed

Click on the image to "attend" a gorgeous exposition of the history of medieval French cuisine: Be sure to click on the images in order to start the slide shows, chock full of paintings depicting culinary life during the Middle Ages.

The French Gastronomic Meal, UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

French Gastronomic Meal The Committee 1. Takes note that France has nominated the gastronomic meal of the French for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, described as follows: The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such…

What’s New in Culinary Books

Pigs and hams, barbecue and ice cream --- all are foods associated with joy and love and celebration. In the United States, anyway. And writers take these foods and weave words around and around like so many carefully knitted stitches, creating new books, making this year an exciting time for food and history lovers. The…

In Haiti, The Four Horsemen Strike Again

Surely all of you now know about the latest disaster to hit Haiti --- an earthquake of 7.0 hit Haiti at about 4 PM on January 12, 2010, followed by aftershocks of 5.5 and 5.9. The damage to Port-au-Prince looks like the result of a bombing raid and, indeed, experts say that the devastation resembles…

Scaling Back, Nothing Fishy About It!

To all the wonderful readers of "Gherkins & Tomatoes": I would like to let you know that starting this week (11/16/2009), I will be temporarily posting two times a week --- likely on Mondays and Thursdays, with a picture or a new food book announcement on the weekends when pertinent. Due to a very large…

Oxford Food Symposium 2009

The Oxford Food Symposium 2009, from an article by Corby Kummer of The Atlantic. The 2010 Symposium will take place in July 9 - 11, at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, England; the conference topic is very timely --- "Cured, Fermented, and Smoked Foods." January 15, 2010 marks the deadline for proposals for talks. Guess what…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Ghoulish Goodies

Check this out --- a recent cookbook all about Halloween, for kids young and old: Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feature Cupcakes, Monster Eyeballs, Bat Wings, Funny Bones, Witches' Knuckles, and Much More! (Frightful Cookbook), by Sharon Bowers (2009). Eat, drink, and enjoy the creepy yuckiness of Monster Eyeballs, Chocolate Spider Clusters, Buried Alive Cupcakes, and Screaming…

The Chicken or the Egg? 4. Egging Us On

A few days ago, I thumbed through the brand-new, hot-off-the-press version of Larousse Gastronomique. You know,  Julia Child's bedtime reading.  At least according to the movie, “Julie & Julia.” After all, Julia once remarked that, “If I were allowed only one reference book in my library, Larousse Gastronomique would be it, without question.” First written…

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…

Food History Isn’t Just Old Stuff

Convenience in the kitchen, a state of affairs that most of our great-grandmothers would have killed for, snuck into food history about the time the Russians sent Sputnik into orbit. Science ruled, even in the kitchen. An interesting thing happened, though,  when everybody happily dove into easy-to-fix dinners and eating out. People started looking like…

Fabulous Food Blogs, Round 2

Just in time for a leisurely weekend, a watered-down version of the food blogs Academy Awards. Truthfully, this sort of thing reminds me (uncomfortably, in a way) of chain letters and ponzi schemes, but the fact of the matter is that informal and impromptu blogging awards spur bloggers on, especially when blog  stats come in…

No Longer an Old Wives’ Tale: The Measure of Garlic’s Medicinal Powers

It's official. Garlic really does act against free radicals. And now we know how. Count Dracula feared garlic (Allium sativum). And with good reason, according to a study conducted by researchers at Queen's University in Canada and published in the January 2009 issue of the international chemistry journal, Angewandte Chemie. Long known for its beneficial…

Four Food Groups of the Apocalypse

Frank Rich briefly mentions food in his January 31, 2009 NYT op-ed "Herbert Hoover Lives." He asks (and answers his own question), "What are Americans still buying [eating]? Big Macs, Campbell's soup, Hershey's chocolate and Spam - the four food groups of the apocalypse." Apocalypse??? Interesting way of putting things. The Spam thing caught my…

Fabulous Food Blogs

The other day, a fellow food blogger awarded the Fabulous Food Blog Award to Gherkins & Tomatoes.  See the post HERE. Now that the torch has been passed, I must swing the award to five other food bloggers and list my five most serious food-related addictions. There are ever so many food blogs out there…

500 Years of Grapes and Wine in America: A Remarkable Story

Curated by Prof. Dan Longone and Jan Longone, February 16-May 29, 2009 Clements Library, University of Michigan Open to the public, free of charge, Mon-Fri 1-5pm Lecture on the exhibition, Sunday May 10, 3-5pm Prof. Dan Longone and Jan Longone Co-sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor PLEASE ADDRESS ANY QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS TO:…

Braving the Elements, Slogging Through the Crowds, Eating Thanks to Whole Foods: Inauguration 2009

Up at 6:30 a.m., out the hotel door at 8:00 a.m., a bit of my homemade granola rumbling in my stomach, lubricated with some 2% ultra-high-temperature milk. Down to the Third Street tunnel, completely devoid of cars, looking for all the world like the set of Wall-E the movie. But there were people there, thousands…

Palette Didn’t Deliver: Inaugural Dining on the Streets of Washington, DC

After much anticipation, we arrived at Palette for our inaugural luncheons-inspired menu yesterday at 12 noon on the dot. Alas, unbeknownst to us, the chef only parades that menu during the dinner hour. So it was a burger and fries and a turkey club for us. Both excellent, perhaps the best burger ever, served on…