Day 3: Chicken – Celebrate American Food History

On June 20, 2016, Jas. Townsend and Son posted a remarkable video on YouTube. Over 1 million people have since watched Mr. Townsend cooking fried chicken, based on a recipe from an English cookbook from 1736: Dictionarium Domesticum, by lexicographer Nathan Bailey.  Bailey's greatest work appears to have been his Universal Etymological Dictionary, published in 1721.…

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The Lost Arabs of Marseille: Food, Family, and France

In his  timely Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 1798-1831 (2011), Ian Coller writes of the Arab families associated with Ya'qub Hanna, an Egyptian, a Copt and first non-French general who'd served with  Napoleon Bonaparte in his military campaigns in Egypt. The cover, I believe, was chosen to highlight the idea of…

Cooking with Mushrooms: Chicken and Walnuts and Baby Bellas, Oh My!

I went wild over the cheap chicken thighs at my local Kroger, dumping package after package into my grocery cart. And as I sniffed the seductive odor of pumpkin pies emanating from the bakery, I composed a menu in my head that shouted "It's FALL, finally!" Mushrooms, walnuts, shallots joined the chicken in the paper…

Summer Fare, or, Steamroller Chicken

Today, when the throbbing heat of a summer day might mean grabbing a salad at the local deli, it is hard to realize that in the past people conjured up other solutions for food on the days when sweat poured off of brows like tiny streams rushing to meet a river. Everyone knows that the…

Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Chicken Scalder (Even You!)

From the back cover of Herrick Kimball's book, Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Chicken Scalder: Every small-farm and backyard poultry producer needs a good scalder to quickly and efficiently scald their homegrown poultry prior to plucking. Precise scalding translates to fast, complete, and easy plucking of feathers. But high-performance ready-made scalding equipment is much too…

Adding More Spices to Your Life

Jessica B. Harris, chronicler of many things African, at least when it comes to cooking anyway,  includes a recipe for “Traditional Peppersoup Spice Mixture” in her book, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent (Simon & Schuster, 1998). She says, “I have included this recipe so that you can see the world of new tastes…

Palm Oil, Chicken In

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once wrote that proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten. A recipe for chicken in red palm oil: CHICKEN IN RED PALM OIL Serves 4-6 ¼ c. red palm oil 1 chicken, cut up for frying ½ t. ground coriander 1 t. sea salt 1 t. dried orange…

Dame Alice de Bryene’s Household Book: Easter 1413

One of the most spectacular "finds" related to English medieval history, The Household Book of Dame Alice de Bryene (1931 edition) provides a detailed glimpse into the daily life of an English gentry household over the period 1412 - 1413, down to the exact food purchases and the price paid. It tells of widowed Dame…

All the Presidents’ Tables: Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Lunch Menu 1981

Reagan's first inauguration boasted the honor of being the first inauguration celebrated on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Held in Statuary Hall, Ronald Reagan's 1981 luncheon featured a "California Cuisine" menu. The U.S. Air Force String Quartet and  U.S. Army Strings performed for the 200 guests. Each guest received a series of frameable…

All the President’s Tables: James A. Garfield’s Inaugural Reception Menu

On March 4, 1881, people lucky enough or well-placed enough or ambitious enough entered through the doors of what is now the Smithsonian's Castle, in Judiciary Square, to celebrate the inauguration of President James A. Garfield, the last of the U.S. presidents born and raised in a log cabin. A contemporary account states that: The…

Can a 3-Star French Chef Be a Regular Guy? Marc Meneau Tries

Writing about 3-star French chef Marc Meneau is, in a way, like trying to write about Leonardo Da Vinci. Geniuses really need geniuses to write about them, to interpret them, to salute them, like buck privates in the presence of 5-star generals. It's a little bit like meeting God - you're afraid to look at…