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…

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Surviving the Whiplashes of History and American Gun-Culture Violence

There comes a day, sometimes, when it seems all that there remains to do is to sit and weep, staring out at the world through tears of salt, gazing through windows of murky glass. Seeing leaves, earth, sky, rain, even the path of the wind in tall grass. But not seeing. No, not really. Where…

Muses: Cross Creek and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Although I'd read her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling (1938), in high school, I came to admire Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's work more via the great unifier - food. I bought a paperback copy of Cross Creek Cookery nearly forty years after Charles Scribner's Sons first published it. Now the spine on my cheap copy splits…

Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part III: A Tale of Guacamole

The smell of burning diesel alerted me - the bus would be there in a few seconds. With a loud burp, it came to a rubber-losing stop about 10 feet away from I stood. Exiting passengers stumbled down the worn linoleum-covered steps, clutching baskets filled with squawking chickens, small squealing piglets, and sleeping babies wrapped tightly in thread-bare rebozos. Behind…

Announcing My New Author Page

You know how sometimes you keep wearing the same old blue work shirt, your favorite wrinkled and threadbare pants, the ones that you bought when you cared more about fashion? It's easy to just grab 'em and tug the waistband a bit this way and that to fit other things that might be changing. And…

Just a Few Pictures, and a Few Words

Florida is a state where nearly everybody hails from another place. (1) And that idiosyncrasy makes the state an exciting social laboratory for curious (nosy?) people like me. One of the most intriguing questions right now, out there in the wide expanse of the world, is how people deal with "other people's food." (2) The…

Velveeta and Wonder Bread: Cooking at Ozette, the Pompeii of America

"I’d like to be able to say that something mystical drew me through the Olympic National Forest to Ozette. Such as a spiritual connection to Celtic tree gods. Or a quest, inspired by medieval pilgrims hiking 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela. But no,it was an act of God that brought me there as a…

The Scent of Cinnamon and Chasing Down Humoral Theory

Purple bougainvillea flowers hung thick and rope-like over the sand-colored walls, their little white hearts nearly pulsating in the blazing noon heat of Rabat, Morocco. The door of The English Bookshop stood half-opened. The stern English proprietor stood behind the counter, his thin pale fingers reaching into scuffed cardboard boxes, filled with the newest shipment of books…

10 Blog Posts You Loved: A “Thank You” to All My Readers

Happy anniversary to Gherkins & Tomatoes! Since I wrote my first post on July 28, 2008, I have written over a thousand posts, on many, many topics. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading for all these years. It means a lot to me! Here are the most popular posts from…

Pride and Pudding: An Ode to British Cooking

"Captivated by British cuisine – from its ancient savoury dishes such as the Scottish haggis to traditional sweet and savoury pies, pastries, jellies and ices, flummeries, junkets and jam roly-poly – Regula tells the story of British food, paying homage in particular to the great British pudding, which is versatile and wonderful in all its…

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…

Shopping for Food in the 19th Century, or, You’ve Got it Real Easy Nowadays, You Know

Claire Howland* opened her left eye, squinting at the mottled ceiling of her bedroom, the peeling paint accentuated by the feeble morning sunshine. Groaning, she remembered something about the upcoming day, market day. She hoped that the new Irish maid, Kate, had prepared the boarders’ breakfast, oatmeal porridge thinned with milk from the stringy cow…

The Dangers of Nostalgia at the Stove: A Critique of Modern Food Writing

Is nostalgia dangerous? More to the point, is nostalgia a dangerous weapon when held in the hands of some food writers? I'll confess to a salient fact: I've written about food  through a thick lens of nostalgia, licking the pot of myth and stirring with the spoon of longing . I've cooked the iconic dishes of…

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…

Parsleyed Ham and Kitchen Breezes: The Letters of M. F. K. Fisher and Julia Child

Today is the 20th anniversary of M.F.K. Fisher's death, so in tribute and at the request of her friend Leo Racicot, I am reposting this, something I wrote last year after attending Barbara Wheaton's "Reading Historic Cookbooks" seminar at Harvard. Sometimes words, both spoken and written, take on terrible power. Use the wrong word and,…

Kidnapped!* A Case of Plagiarism

Plagiarism - the worst sin there is, at least in the eyes of writers and other artists. Technically, "plagiarism" refers to "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing it off as one's own," according to Google. But I prefer the hidden and truer meaning of the word - "kidnapper."** Recently, I discovered…

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…

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…

Food, Photography of

Photography is pretty simple stuff. You just react to what you see, and take many, many pictures. ~Elliott Erwitt Truth be told, I love photography for many reasons, one being the sense of peace that comes with observing the world around me. Photography forces a photographer to be centered. To photograph means slowing down and…

Food and Memory

I stood at the curb, on a corner of Insurgentes Sur in Mexico City, tapping my foot impatiently, watching the traffic hurtling by at 7382 feet above sea level, dozens of men hanging on to ladders hooked to swaying buses, diesel smoke spewing from exhaust pipes, and tinkling mariachi music fading away in the roar of…

The Curse of Modern Food Writing: The Dearth of Pleasure

Thankfully, the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames didn’t sway under my feet that day, giving lie to its other name, the Wobbly Bridge. But the chilling wind whipped at everything not tied down, painting a disagreeable redness on my nose and a deep-seated hunger in my belly. The aroma of roasting sugary peanuts floated…

Why I Love Cookbooks

“Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.” ― Julia Child, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking  Everybody says it happens, yes. Love at first sight. Real or not? I must concur – it is true, at least for me, when it comes to…

Cutting Boards and French Comfort Food

Worn and well-used cutting boards like mine, made from one piece of blonde oak, tell stories of past meals. This gouge here, that’s from the day I sliced the boule with the extra thick crust, for the open-faced cheese-and-tomato sandwiches. And that dent there, well, I pressed a little too hard on the chef’s knife…

Why Study the History of Cookbooks, Or, The Art and the Mystery of Food*

Behind that glossy copy of Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, the one that I wish I'd scored for Christmas, lies a long and fascinating history, filled with stories, mysteries, egos, and more intrigue than it’s possible to imagine. Cookbooks tell many tales, revealing secrets. In fact, just take a look at some of the titles of some…

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…

Exploring the Delicacies of Indonesia, in the Shadows of the Volcanoes

CYNTHIA D. BERTELSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times Sunday, September 29, 2013   At the fish market, the man in black hoisted a bucket of fish to his well-muscled shoulders and strained to keep from slipping on the algae-covered steps. Picking his way out of the churning water, he plunked the bucket down and grabbed…

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…

Journeys versus Destinations: Homesick for My Food

I’d never experienced it before. Amoebas, yes. Worms, yes. Dengue, yes.  Broken bones, yes. Malaria dreams, yes. But not cravings for thick juicy hamburgers or plump buttermilk pancakes swimming in melted butter and golden maple syrup or crispy fried chicken with cream gravy. In spite of all the years of traveling and living among cultures…

Doing What’s Necessary: The Logical Outcome of Haute Cuisine, or, An Extremely Brief Meditation on the History of Privies and Toilets

I came face to face with the truth about outhouses on my first day in my Peace Corps village. Not that I’d never seen (or used) an outhouse before; I became intimately acquainted with the concept during the summer I worked as the assistant cook on an archaeological dig in Ozette, Washington. There, the pit…

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…