Black is the Colour of My … Food

Black is the colour ... “Black is the colour of my true love’s hair, his face is something wondrous fair,” goes a traditional ballad sung in the Appalachian Mountains, with origins likely from Scotland. I started thinking about colors and food when I read of the passing of Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Heaney wrote of…

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Cookbooks for the Season: Preserving is the Hot Topic These Days

  At this time of the year, cookbooks flow like rivers out of publishing houses. The usual stabs at global cuisine are always there, covering everything cooking-related from Vietnam to Persia to Cuba, with the usual obsequious curtsies to France and Italy. Gluten-free and farm fresh crop up, too. But the most interesting trend in…

Real Mayonnaise, Real Food? Or Just Sanctimonious Snobbery?

It’s not REAL mayonnaise. You know the one I mean. Mayonnaise – made with egg yolks, an acidic liquid, a dash of mustard, salt, and oil, usually olive – feels as smooth and soft as a silk pillow, sliding like thickened cream across the tongue. There’re no startled taste buds in the presence of too much…

Why Do We Cook?

What does it mean to cook? Some - Harold McGee for example - would say that cooking means to prepare food by heating, while others, such as historian Rachel Laudan, extend the definition to include modes of preparation beyond heating. I tend to agree with the latter and not the former. So, with that sticking point…

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…

Reflections on a Green-Grape Tart

Sugary milky sweetness, that first delicious taste, imprints itself on a baby’s tiny tongue, and seals forever a great love. From the very beginning of life, then, a yearning for that nectar haunts us forever and never leaves us in peace. This primal urge for sweetness led to the scourge of slavery and fuels the…

Waiting for Pears

I bought four very green, very hard pears four days ago. Waiting for them to ripen made me think about how quickly everything happens in our lives today. There’s something soothing about watching the ripening process, something profound actually, because no matter how much I might have wanted to make a pear cake, I just…

Is Cooking Necessary?*

No, it's not. That's your immediate answer, isn't it? After all, you've got more important things to do, don't you? Or do you? You can live your life without cooking. You can go to your nearest grocery store and bypass all the technology and knowledge that took your ancestors centuries to refine. You can buy…

I was in Prison and You Did Not Feed Me

In preparation for certain medical tests (the torturous “tum-and-bum” procedure, I call it), I recently spent five days on an extremely restricted diet. Shall we say that if you consumed that diet over a period of weeks, death might soon be scooping you up. And on the Sunday before the test, I spent the afternoon…

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…

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…

Questions, and More Questions …

I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full. ~Lord Dunsany Sitting in the passenger seat of any conveyance for any length of time gives a person plenty of time to…

Celiac Disease — an Illness of Civilization?

Celiac disease now afflicts four times as many people as it did fifty years ago, according to an article in the July 2009 issue of Gastroenterology.** In patients with celiac disease, the presence of a protein called gluten from wheat, barley or rye triggers an immune system attack, damaging the villi in the small intestine.…

Reveling in Books: Catching Fire

“If there hadn't been women we'd still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girl friends. And they tolerated it and let us go ahead and play with our toys.” Orson Welles, actor, director, producer, writer (1915-1985) My big Homo-sapiens brain caught on fire while…

Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio”

When two elements combine and form more than one compound, the masses of one element that react with a fixed mass of the other are in the ratio of small whole numbers. ~~ Humphry Davy Although there are those who claim that they who know how to cook never need recipes, they actually follow recipes,…

Cooking and Eating: Some Harsh Truths

Food thoughts for munching ... thanks to Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards, the originator of home economics, or domestic science. Nutritional psychologist Marc David states that Most nutritional assertions that originate from authoritative sources [like the home economics/domestic science movement that began in the late nineteenth century] have a brief shelf life. Our nutritional information is…

How Cooking Works: The Chemistry of the Matter

Having trouble keeping your red cabbage red and your green leafies green? Although cooking IS an art, wielding a well-honed knife and calculating the cooking time for a roast  require a certain basic understanding of the science side of the kitchen, too. Food science guru Shirley Corriher cooks up some lessons in this well-done video.…