Prelude to a Bio-Bibliography

“Let me take your coat, my dear.” I heard her voice as I stepped off the elevator, into the penthouse suite at the Chicago Hilton on a snowy day in late December. The tall, white-haired woman standing there, holding out her hands to me, drew me over the threshold, welcoming me. The color of Forget-Me-Nots,…

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Haiti is NOT a Shithole, Mr. Trump

Haiti is NOT a shithole, Mr. Trump. I should know about that. I lived in Haiti for nearly three years. And you, you've never even been there. And yet, here you are again, saying something insulting and derogatory, knowing nothing about what you're talking about. Yes, I'm talking about your woefully ignorant comments about "shithole…

Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part III: A Tale of Guacamole

The smell of burning diesel alerted me - the bus would be there in a few seconds. With a loud burp, it came to a rubber-losing stop about 10 feet away from I stood. Exiting passengers stumbled down the worn linoleum-covered steps, clutching baskets filled with squawking chickens, small squealing piglets, and sleeping babies wrapped tightly in thread-bare rebozos. Behind…

Seeking Food at the Crossroads of History

When it comes to the kitchen, I've always been a seeker, a pilgrim in a more modern sense of the word, "A person travelling to a place of particular personal interest."* It all began on a diesel-perfumed street corner in Puebla, Mexico. I stood in the shadow of a broken streetlight, sunshine and sweaty bodies…

Cassava, One Rugged World-Traveling Ingredient

Cassava, for me, remains the Sleeping Beauty of Latin American  kitchens. I remember clearly the first time I ever ate cassava. I was sitting on a porch in a Paraguayan boarding house, torrential rain streaming hard off the thatched roof. I really didn't know what I was doing there, on so many levels. Behind that wall of water, the cook - a…

With Roots in East Africa: Okra, a Veritable World Traveler

Yesterday, while driving across the vast expanse of South Carolina, I noticed dueling billboards, advertising Margaret Holmes canned goods and the Glory line of fresh chopped collards and Bruce's Candied Yams. So I decided to repost this while I look more deeply into the foods eaten in Africa prior to the tragedy of the African…

December 12: The Virgin of Guadalupe

Patron Saint of Mexico and the Americas Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that "...one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." Apocryphal or not, the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe makes fascinating reading. And the food's pretty…

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…

Forgotten Recipes and Forgotten Cooks

If you think that real cooking needs to be resurrected, you'd be right. You can't exist on McNuggets alone, as the film Super Size Me proved. But if you think we should all go back to cooking everything just like our foremothers (and sometimes forefathers) did, you'd be a bit misguided. Romantic, yes, and it's…

Coconut Groves and Coconut Dreams

"Columbus had no idea, of course, of the almost infinite ramifications of his voyages on the way future people would eat." ‑‑Raymond Sokolov‑‑ Why We Eat What We Eat(1991) Trying to get the meat out of a coconut is like trying to pull a tooth without Novocain, a very painful process. I know---I tried to…

Eat a Meal of Solidarity: Haiti’s Sos Pwa Rouj

As in a nightmare wrought by Quentin Tarantino, I watched the horrors unfolding in Haiti after the earthquake. Hands tied, unable to help in any major way, I turned to my pantry, memories of the lovely Haitian women who cooked for us stepping into my mind, smiling, images of hope for Haiti's future. Here's a…

In Haiti, The Four Horsemen Strike Again

Surely all of you now know about the latest disaster to hit Haiti --- an earthquake of 7.0 hit Haiti at about 4 PM on January 12, 2010, followed by aftershocks of 5.5 and 5.9. The damage to Port-au-Prince looks like the result of a bombing raid and, indeed, experts say that the devastation resembles…

In the Kitchen with Barbara Kingsolver: I

I'm going to bed every night now with Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, The Lacuna: A Novel, about Mexico, politics, art, El Norte, and --- best of all --- cooks. After her last book (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: A Year of Food Life), Kingsolver still finds food a fascinating part of life. In The Lacuna, here's how…

A Rogue’s Gallery: The Many Faces of Polenta

With apologies to Shakespeare and Romeo & Juliet and all lovers of the same: What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So polenta would, were it not polenta call'd, Retain that dear perfection which it owes Without that title. The big fuss in today's…

Slapdown Corner: For the Love of Food!

Like a pot of water heating on the fire, the “meaning of foodie” conversations percolating out there come to boil at times. And at times the heat gets turned off and things simmer down.* Until the next finger-pointing pundit comes flying out of the air. Frankly, it gets tiresome when people exercise their index fingers…

Diana Kennedy’s Menu for Charles, Prince of Wales

In 2002, Diana Kennedy, well-known author of Mexican cookbooks, served the following menu to the man who would be king, Charles, Prince of Wales:* Cocktails & Appetizers Tequila Apéritifs Fresh Tortillas Small Pumpkin Seeds Toasted and Ground with Roasted Habanero Chilies Guacamole Enhanced with Grapes and Pomegranate Seeds Meal Cream-of-Squash-Flower Soup Pork Loin Baked in…

Hunger and Hope

Today, even as I immerse myself in the wonders of African cooking, I need to mention malnutrition and hunger. In the same breath, as it were. Today's a day when many bloggers around the world will post comments and material on the ever-present problem of hunger in our communities, countries, and the world as a…

Nachos: Etymology of a Food Word

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides many food writers with the tools to plot out the history of certain foods. But just how do those intrepid word researchers find their information? What's their go-to source? Adriana P. Orr served as a researcher for OED for 25 years. At one point later in her career, she…

“CONCH AIN’T GOT NO BONES”

Old Creole balladeers and veteran conch (pronounced "konk") eaters know that, yes, "conch ain't got no bones," but it sure sports a shell. Piles of queen conch shells (Strombidae gigas) litter the Caribbean islands, as do pithy native sayings about conch: "He beats his wife like one beats a conch," a sad commentary on Haitian…

After Pizarro: Food in Colonial Peru and Today (Conclusion)

In Lima, a city more Spanish than perhaps any of the other seats of Spanish viceroyalties in the New World, the Spanish elite built huge mansions from the money raised by the tribute demanded of the natives and other less noble members of the society. Tribute usually consisted of the ubiquitous silver, but also included…

After Pizarro: Food in Colonial Peru and Today

In 1531, the world of the Inca of Peru changed forever. That year, Francisco Pizarro and his three brothers, from Estremadura, Spain, began their successful conquest of Peru. Not only did the Pizarros bring Spanish law, culture, and religion to the region later known as the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included all of South America…

First You Settle the Pampas: Food in Colonial Argentina and Today (Conclusion)

Throughout the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, the Roman Catholic Church proselytized the vast distances and founded convents. And the nuns who lived in those convents, and their Indian servants, soon became known for intricate sweets and other confections that had roots in the sweets that predominated in Moorish-ruled Spain for eight centuries until the…

First You Settle the Pampas: Food in Colonial Argentina and Today

What was cooking in colonial Argentina? What do cooks still cook there today? Answer: lots of dishes, but especially meat. Years ago, when I lived in Fram, Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer, going to Encarnacion, Argentina was the delight of the month --- as long as I went on a day when restaurants featured…

CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE, & MORE CHOCOLATE

I wait upon the Lieut. Governor at Dorchester and there meet with Mr. Torry, breakfast together on Venison and Chockalatte; I said Massachusetts and Mexico met his Honour's Table. ~~The Diary of Samuel Sewall,* 1697~~ Chocolate, gotta love it. Most people do, although I've known a couple of die-hard chocolate haters. Then there are the…

ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO …

One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato more. Icha bacha, soda cracker, Icha bacha boo. Icha bacha, soda cracker, out goes Y-O-U! Children's Rhyme This year the potato finally gets its due. The UN General Assembly named 2008 as the International Year of the Potato, celebrating a vegetable with…