Day 6: Beef – Celebrate American Food History

 War and food, a timeless tale. Unfortunately. Today's story is about beef, the meat - as we all know - that become synonymous with Britain and went on to become a major force in the American economy in the nineteenth century, as well as providing for a rather mythological view of the American West. (Hint:…

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Farming is NOT a Romantic Occupation

Farming is not a romantic occupation. In spite of pastoral memoirs like Tim Stark's Heirloom and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, the reality of farming means backbreaking work and early mornings, poor harvests and lots of worry as Mother Nature hurls hail at a field of ripe corn. But it's…

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…

Les Rêves de Julia (Julia’s Dreams): Meditations and Memories

Food and cooking serve as metaphors for life and love. Each plays a huge role in the way I see and photograph the world. I seek to nourish both eye and soul with my photography, in much the same way I feed bodies through my cooking. The work of food photographer Penny de los Santos…

Keep Calm and Carry On: Cows as Zen Masters

The cow stood there, stoically it seemed to me, chewing with lazy abandon, while I fumbled with the focus on my camera. She rolled her big weepy eyes, as cows are wont to do when confronted with something new. Coincidence or not? I pressed the shutter and peered at the tiny LCD screen, the sun's…

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…

Brassai’s Paris, a View Through the Tunnel of Time

Before the second world war, filled with the wandering souls of the "Lost Generation," Paris throbbed with the fluttering notes of jazz and the clattering of horse hooves on cobblestones. And Paris also served as a subject for the art of photographers like Brassai, one of the earliest photojournalists, influenced by surrealism. Brassai (born in…

Hamburger Heaven, or the Global Burger: A Medley of Recipes

Hot weather does funny things to people, especially to cooks. Certain instincts crop up at about the same time that air conditioners crank up the juice. Primeval visions prevail, usually of smoldering coals and roasting meat, prompting the almost daily obeisance to that great American tradition, the summer barbecue grill. And summer just wouldn't be…

Saffron: The Gold We Eat

Once used as money instead of gold in Don Quixote's Spain, saffron costs upwards of $1000 US per pound. Indeed, the world's costliest spice.  Most likely you will not have ever seen saffron for sale in your local grocery's spice department. Knowledgeable customers ask the store managers for it; they keep it behind the counter,…

Still Mi Amore — Wild Abandonment Among the Tomatoes and Zucchini

A market is three women and a goose. ~~ Italian proverb ~~ I know that for many Italian women my nostalgic idea of Italian cooking would seem foreign, as alien as if I zoomed in from another planet. Louise DeSalvo makes that clear in her book Crazy in the Kitchen: Foods, Feuds, and Forgiveness in…

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…

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…

Reveling in Books: Fresh, Bones, Fat, and Meat

Like Susan Bourette in Meat: A Love Story My Year in Search of the Perfect Meal (did she get this subtitle from Roy Andries de Groot, a food writer popular in the sixties and seventies who wrote In Search of the Perfect Meal (1986)?), many people temporarily eschew meat at some point in their lives.…

Cape Malay Cooking

A Cape Malay Cooking Safari: A little history and a scene-setting food shopping tour, then comes the food and a cooking class. Cape Malay Cookbooks and a recipe: The Cape Malay Illustrated Cookbook, by Fadela Williams More Cape Malay Cooking,  by Faldela Williams South African Cape Malay Cooking, by Sonia Allison and Myrna Robins Traditional…

A Dish (or Two) for Children in British Colonial Africa

(A tribute to those women who endured the challenges of living in unfamiliar and far-flung places, raising their children without their extended families around. And cooking what they could.) Sometimes it literally WAS a dog's breakfast. And mothers couldn't do anything about it. Feeding their children properly preoccupied those mothers who followed their English husbands…

Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book

Nearly everyone on the planet, or at least those with access to education --- unfortunately many areas of the world and even this country lack miserably in the teaching of the young --- will know the name of Charles Darwin, as the blurb below allows. Now, maybe  some people don't buy into the theory of…

Election-Day Menu: Food from Our Greatest Presidents

Hands down, my vote for the greatest presidents we've seen in this country goes to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. John Kennedy might have been a truly great president, but he died before he could prove his mettle, though his stand against the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis counts…

BARACK OBAMA’S CHILI AND JOHN McCAIN’S RIBS

Barack Obama's reply to a reporter who asked him in March 2008 what was his favorite dish to take a potluck: Chili. He said that, "I've been using this chili recipe since college and would bring it to any potluck. I can't reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it's just got…

GOULASH, BY GOSH!

A few weeks ago, while leafing through Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Italy, I came across a recipe for goulash made in the manner of Trieste. I couldn't wait to get to my stove and start cooking. Now Trieste, which lies in the northeastern part of Italy, relishes a very diverse historical past. Under the rule of…

CHILI DAYS ARE A’COMIN’: AN ODE, OF A SORTS

"Open some cans of chili - mighty good." -Toots Shor's recipe for chili- Chili, the stuff of tall tales, legends, grudges, and just plain cussedness. If you earned a buck for every chili recipe ever cooked, fantasized about, or pirated, you'd probably beat Bill Gates at the money game. Not much appeals more to American…