Happy Christmas to All!

At Christmastime, my kitchen becomes a place where past and present merge.  Through food, I honor my ancestors - the known, the unknown, and the never-to-be knowns, all the people whose DNA runs through my veins and shapes my nose and determines my character. They hailed from Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Cheshire, Lincoln, London, Kent ...…

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Poor Harry: Thanksgiving in the Truman White House 1946

President Harry S. Truman found himself on the slimming end of things in 1946. The New York Times reported that Truman's menus seemed a bit austere and quoted White House housekeeper, Mrs. Mary E. Sharpe, as saying "When I make up menus I keep it in mind." "It" being President's Truman's ongoing battle of the…

The Harvest Months

The frost descended on the pumpkin the other night and in the early morning light, as I drove around the curving roads of rural Virginia, a dozen cows stood silhouetted and blanketed in thick white fog. Eerily outlined against the fading green of the sparse grass they munched, for some reason those cows reminded me…

Happy Hogmanay!

Perplexed as to what to serve for New Year's Eve? Look no further than Scotland's Hogmanay - or New Year's Eve - celebration, rich in history (read more HERE), with just the right touch of ancient practices. Raucous, animal-skin dressed revelers call to mind Viking invaders of the 9th and 10th centuries, Hogmanay a substitute…

Happy Thanksgiving

No matter what your feelings about the origins of Thanksgiving -  it did NOT really start with the Massachusetts Pilgrims post-1620 - and the impact of the English settlers in North America or Sarah Josepha Hale's influence on Abraham Lincoln, today's holiday has more to do with re-enforcing family ties and culinary traditions often far…

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…

What is Home?

What is home? What is not home? The following pictorial essay portrays a number of symbols associated with the United States, and, indirectly, home. Mine, anyway. (If you click on the photos, you'll see far more detail than this WordPress theme shows in the posts. And further clicking zooms in, I've discovered.) © 2015 C.…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Monster of a Stove and Tolokno

You can't cook porridge with a fool. ~~ Russian Proverb ~~ An example of Russian Lenten food, tolokno or oat flour with liquid, demonstrates the use of the astonishing Russian stove. Streamlined in the 15th century, the Russian stove incarnates the old adage, “The kitchen is the heart of the home.” Much of Russian peasant…

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…

From Mother Russia with Love: Kulich and Paskha and Easter

Because Russian Orthodox Easter falls on the same day this year (2010) as the Western Easter, it seems appropriate to include recipes for Russia's most well-known Easter sweets: Kulich, a tall puffy "baba" or sweet-bread cousin to Italian Panettone (maybe with phallic overtones and fertility in mind?) and Paskha, a cheesecake-like dairy-rich concoction eaten with…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

From Mother Russia with Love: Great Lent, the Beginning

Many years ago, a high school history teacher of mine asked our class to write down everything we knew about Russia within the space of about 30 minutes. Most people wrote a brief paragraph, describing the red Communist flag with its hammer and sickle. Some delved a little into the cruelty of the tsars and…

What’s A Turnip Got to Do with Halloween? Or Rutabagas, Beets, and Gourds, for That Matter?

Folklore or fakelore, the general consensus seems to be that the Irish who came to America brought their custom of carving turnips for All Hallows Eve. They must grow large turnips in the sod over there! Lacking a turnip, rutabagas, beets, or gourds would also do. Delicious legend, that's what started the practice of carving…

Picturing the Last Weekend of Fall

Just outside my front door, ice sparkles on the small brown bridge. I know the signs: autumn fled like a thief in the night. Only yesterday, leaves blazing scarlet and saffron hung like Christmas baubles on the trees. Now there's nothing but a memory of those exquisite jewels. Time to burrow and savor the stews…

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…

The Meat of the Matter: A Question of Sacred Reverence

Meat eating presents modern society with a bit of a dilemma. How to raise and slaughter large numbers of animals under humane conditions, while keeping the price down and within wallet reach of most consumers? That's the major issue, tinged with other, often moralistic, questions. First, right up front, I am not a vegetarian, and…

SUGARPLUM VISIONS: Christmas Cookies

...visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. ~~Clement C. Moore~~ " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Happy Holidays to all readers and visitors to Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons et Tomates! I will "see" you again on January 2. 'Tis soon the season to be jolly. And to bake cookies, the sugarplums of today. I'm…

A Few Marrons Glacés for the Season … A Gift for You

Photo credit: Robyn Lee A while ago, I promised you a short list of facsimile/translated French cookbooks. The following list represents a number of old French-language cookbooks translated into English that you’ll find freely available on the Internet, something quite helpful when you’ve dropped your last holiday dollar on the fixings for Beef Wellington and…

Give the Gift of Cooking French Food at Home: Some Cookbooks That Make a Seemingly Impossible Task Possible

I have to tell you that the cookbook lists that come out every year around Christmas time drive me crazy. Like you’re really going to savor, say, 101 Recipes Using ___________? (Fill in the blank.) Or you’re going to run out and buy another Italian cookbook when you already own somewhere in the neighborhood of…

La fête de l’huître, in Riec-sur-Belon, Brittany

Alas, we've just missed La fête de l’huître, a popular festival that takes place at Riec-sur-Belon, Brittany at the end of July. Maybe next time ... For more about oysters, see "Oysters Tales and Pearls of Wisdom."

Les Vacances à la française

Beach towels stuffed into tiny car trunks, piqnique tables folded, and wine properly cooled down, the French depart like lemmings for the seaside in August, the traditional vacation month in France. And so ---  in keeping with the French-inspired theme of Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons & Tomates --- postings this month will be a bit…

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…

Lemons – Tiny Cathedrals of Gold

Lemons, their pitted, nay, prehistoric, skins secreting golden oil, Shielding sourness, evoking memories of a grandmother's kitchen, A grandfather's garden. Born in the East, fruitful India, A kiss of cold, albeit fleeting, spawns the yellow Immortalized  in stone, paint, and clay. A fruit reverenced, Blossoming from mountain and lake, Urging cooks to slice, pierce, and…

Remembering Haiti Post-Carnival (Kanaval)

In March 2011, Japan suffered an 8.9 earthquake, a magnitude not often experienced. While the massive earthquake last year in Haiti was less on the Richter scale, it nonetheless did terrible damage that is still not wholly cleaned up. The gruesome scenes from Japan turned my mind back to Haiti. In Haiti, the tragic earthquake…

Cabbage and Black-Eyed Peas, Oh My! A New Year’s Tradition in the South

New Year's Day, coming up fast. Planning your menu, are you? There's a good reason to hesitate, to take your time, because there's really only one thing to eat that day. Black-eyed peas, a gift from a part of Africa ruled by the French for a long time. They were there as early as 1659 at St.…

Thinking of Others as You Bite into that Bûche de Noël

David Lebovitz --- a whiz of a pastry chef, cookbook author, and food blogger --- got me thinking this morning about the meaning of all the glitz and glitter out there, if only I could just get out of my icy driveway. David is giving away a set of Le Creuset cookware, a gift to…