The Joy of Bibliographies

Compiling bibliographies is a bit like blowing bubbles, for you never know how big the bubbles will be or how far away they’ll float through the air. Or where they’ll land. And that’s the exciting bit about bibliographies. You can’t know when you set out on the journey where you'll end up. If you compile…

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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,…

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…

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 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…

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…

No More “Cookery”: New Library of Congress Subject Heading

Culinary researchers: The new, official Library of Congress subject heading for over 800 cooking and food-related subjects changed recently from "cookery" to "cooking." Here's the official document, "Cooking and Cookbooks H 1475."

Eating Cat Meat: A Taboo?

One of the most memorable sayings you learn when you first study Spanish is, “Dar/vender gato por liebre,” or to “give or sell a cat instead of a rabbit,” meaning deception. Digging into the history of Spanish cookbooks, you’ll find a famous --- and oft-quoted --- recipe for roast cat in Ruperto de Nola’s* fifteenth-century…

A Few Choice Morsels: Children’s Cookbooks

British star chef Jamie Oliver, in spite of the flapdoodle surrounding his school lunch efforts in West Virginia, is just one more person in a long line of moralists and do-gooders hoping to change the food people eat, this time children. So let’s take a quick look at children’s cookbooks. Pretty common, aren’t they? For…

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…

De-Constructing Hawaii’s Loco Moco

For those seeking examples of culinary fusion, Hawaii provides a very deep well to peer into. Rachel Laudan discovered this while teaching at the University of Hawaii and wrote an award-winning book about the subject: The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage.* One of those fusion dishes which Laudan mentions, albeit briefly, is a…

Souls of Cooks

Slipping like honey off  a silver spoon, all the words build up to an earth-shaking, and revolutionary, crescendo. For the first time in history, cooks' words crisscross the globe,  through thin wires and invisible waves of energy, thanks to the Internet. Never before have the words of so many cooks reached so many people, making…

The Historic Gastronomist

Like old cookbooks? Like old recipes? Then don't miss this down-to-earth video, shot by Liza de Guia, entitled “The Historic Gastronomist,” about a 27-year-old Brooklyn woman named Sarah Loman who is resuscitating centuries old recipes from American history. Loman writes a food history blog called "Four Pounds Flour." Meet Sarah Lohman. She's not a professional…

Hunger is the Best Sauce

A hungry people listens not to reason, nor cares for justice, nor is bent by any prayers. [Lat., Nec rationem patitur, nec aequitate mitigatur nec ulla prece flectitur, populus esuriens.] De Brevitate Vitoe (XVIII), Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) Chronic hunger is something that most of us in the United States will never really know.* Yet…

Starvation and Hunger, Humankind’s Constant Companions: A Pre-Thanksgiving Meditation

Now hunger and [Erysichthon's] belly’s deep abyss exhausted his ancestral wealth, but still hunger was unexhausted and the flame of greed blazed unappeased . . . When his wicked frenzy had consumed all sustenance and for the dire disease provision failed, the ill-starred wretch began to gnaw himself, and dwindled bite by bite as his…

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…

The Archaeology of the Pomegranate

Our sense of the ancientness of the pomegranate comes not just from words, but also from the earth. Words do provide clues to the incredible journey of the pomegranate, such as this little ditty inscribed in Egyptian hieroglyphics --- said to be translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock, from an Italian rendition by Boris…

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…

Food and the British Raj in Africa: A Photographic Interlude

Because photographs and artwork lend insight into time periods that words might not (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?), it behooves those of us with a penchant for food history (and just plain prurient curiosity!) to examine visual renditions of the past. While reading old diaries, journals, and letters of the British Raj,…