Are Pole Beans Like Cows? A Crashing Tale

Pole beans are sort of like cows. If you keep milking a cow, she produces milk. Likewise, if you keep picking pole beans, the plant keeps producing. Pole beans are not like bush beans, which render up a crop and then die back. I call them pole beans, but some people call them flat beans…

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* Biscuits and Buttermilk: A New Year and New Directions

After a long fallow period, spent baking (and eating) many Christmas cookies, I have decided to bloom/cook where I am planted, so to speak. Lately I’ve become more intrigued by the cuisine that surrounds me, here in the American South.  After all, I've basically been a Southerner for over 30 years. Although many cookbook authors…

Using Cookbooks in Historical Archaeological Research: New Mexico as a Case Study

Using cookbooks as a tool in historical archaeological research might sound a tad bit absurd, but by examining certain characteristics of these books, it becomes possible to see dirt-covered artifacts in a slightly different light. As a tribute to my childhood friend, Meli-Duran Kirkpatrick, and at the request of her husband, archaeologist Dr. David Kirkpatrick,…

Remembering the Magic and Wishing for Peace on Earth

I dedicate this post to the children and the parents, everywhere, especially Newtown, Connecticut. Every year, in December, a marvelous thing happens. At least I think it's wonderful. And not for the reasons you might think. Christmas comes around, bringing with it a sense of magic in the air, some thing that I felt as…

How to Tempt the Scrooges, or, Christmas, the Cooking Season

I love Christmas. Yes, I really do. For I see Christmas as a time that allows us - in these rather sterile, rigid United States, anyway - to cut loose and string up gaudy gee-gaws all over the house. To transcend the daily. To feel the seasonal and mythic cycles of past times. To celebrate…

Long Ago, When Chickens had Teeth …*

I've never had to kill for my dinner, unless you count the time I mangled a lobster at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, crying silently as I tried to plunge the knife in the right place but failing to quickly put the creature out of its misery. I doubt I would have known…

Ode to the Great Pumpkin [Pie]: Speak, Memory*

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? ~ John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Pumpkin," 1850 Some people moan and descend straight into mourning with the first frost. Not me. You'll find me in my kitchen, with clanging pans and steaming windows, eager to put…

Weaving the Ties that Bind, One Bite at a Time

I stood by the wooden fence, peering over the barbed wire fringing it like a lace collar. For some reason, I couldn’t focus the camera lens clearly on the Holstein standing a few yards away. The cow gazed back at me, her jaws moving with the steady precision of a slow motor. When I stooped…

Two Moons and a Ksar

It’s funny how sights, sounds, and smells trigger memories, isn’t it? Tastes, too. When I photographed a blue moon the other night, a very specific image bubbled up for me.* Perhaps, in a way, you could deem it a Proustian madeleine moment. Although I didn’t really eat anything. Standing there, trying to keep the camera…

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…

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…

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…

And to Think it all Started with a French Cookbook: Forty Years of Chez Panisse

Alice Waters often said that Elizabeth David's  French Provincial Cooking started the whole thing, meaning Chez Panisse the restaurant. And of course, the ensuing local foods movement. The following excerpt comes from a review I wrote, published today on the Web site of The New York Journal of Books: The many talented cooks and chefs she…

Celebration! With Champagne …

Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons & Tomates celebrates an anniversary in a couple of days, and I would like to thank all readers --- old and new --- for their ongoing and strong support. A special thanks goes to friends and family, who keep me going by saying nice things and bringing me champagne. This…

Why Bother with Culinary History?

A friend recently asked me, "Why is culinary history important?" Actually, her words came out of her mouth a little more harsh sounding than that:  "Why are you wasting so much of your time on that stuff? Why don't you just write up some recipes, like how to make that great bread you always make?"…

Gifts of French Food: Blogs to Hold in Wonder

With each gust of drafty air from the front door, the candles  shimmer, and the flickering light scintillates off blood-red wine glasses and the golden gilt rimming them. Your mouth rounds in an "O" as you see the table for the first time. The sight never fails to cast its spell as, for a brief…

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."

The Fiction of Food: Good Reads

A novel thing, novels about food? Not really, not any more.  It seems like every publisher, and every writer, is racing behind the food-as-novel bandwagon, grasping at the flying straws, straining to hop aboard before  the cart crashes. Like all fads, trends, what-have-you crazes, some of these novels succeed, while the others appall,  so frightfully…

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…

Suffering — Sometimes it’s Just About Food and Sometimes Not

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. ~~ Winston Churchill ~~ Suffering? Why on earth write about suffering on a food blog, especially one ostensibly about cookbooks and their history? Aren't food blogs supposed to be full of fun-but-complex recipes that you can make in 1 minute,…

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…

Pass the Nostalgia, and Nix the Organics

I’ll be blunt: I like my food with a heaping handful of nostalgic romanticism. Yes, there are those who claim that the present food landscape sparkles with the dreamy hue reminiscent of rose-colored glasses, that the perfume of nostalgia permeates too much of present-day “discourse” on food. And then there’s the flip side of that…

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…

Holy Mackerel!

Mackerel scales and mares' tails Make lofty ships carry low sails. ‑Old Sailors' Rain Warning‑ (Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Alas, the poor mackerel!  A sky resembling its scales bodes rains. An unfriendly person is "cold as a mackerel". "Dead…

Being Catty: Hey, Did You Know That Catfish Tastes OK?

(Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Well, it's not "National Catfish Month," not yet. You have to wait for August for that. But there's no time like the present for dreaming of summer. Some people hate the cloying texture of these…