Panis focacius, la Gibacié, and la Pompe à l’huîle, Kin Under the Crust, One of the Thirteen

Christmas cakes were baking, the famous pompou and fougasse, as they were called, dear to the hearts of the children of old Provence. ~~ Christmas in Legend and Story A Book for Boys and Girls I've always loved the "Jacob's Ladder" look of fougasse. The lacy leaf-like lattice reminds me of the connection between bread and…

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Disappearing Act: Will Centuries-Old French Fruits and Veggies Go the Way of the Dodo?

According to an article (in French) recently posted on the ASFS (Association for the Study of Food and Society) discussion list (a great list for people interested in food and culture in all their permutations), 25 --- yes, 25 --- familiar fruits and vegetables  --- many that you might consider quintessentially French ---  will soon…

The [Culinary] Heroes of France

They're not in the Panthéon in Paris, where France entombs her heroes, but from all the adulation they receive, you'd think they would be. France not only treats its chefs like celebrities or royalty, but the country  sometimes even views these men (usually they're all men) like gods. Here's a taunting image by photographer and…

Cooking in French: Soup – Cuisine’s Kindest Course*

“The French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes.” ~ Alexandre Dumaine A succulent soup provides a glistening gem of daily nourishment during all the seasons of the year, but especially during autumn, that narrow doorway…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

Anatomy Lesson: Rustic Mushroom Tart

"Nature alone is antique and the oldest art a mushroom." Thomas Carlyle [Note: This post forms part of the Picnic Game, sponsored by Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations. For more recipes and the bloggers/sites that participated, see below!] Ah, mushrooms. Either you love them or you hate them. Maybe you act indifferently toward…

From Mother Russia with Love: Kulich and Paskha

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: A Fish in Every Pie

The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin. ~~ Anton Chekov, "The Siren" Fish dishes abound in Russian cuisine, in large part because of the Russian Orthodox Church’s strict rules on fasting during Lent other times of the year. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that fish thrive in…

Traditional, “Authentic” St. Patrick’s Day Food

He's a desperate big, little Erin go brah; He will pardon our follies and promise us joy, By the mass, by the Pope, by St. Patrick so long As I live, I will give him a beautiful song! No saint is so good, Ireland's country adorning: Then hail to St. Patrick, today, in the morning!…

A Gallery of Birthday Cakes

It's lovely to think that a birthday cake actually manifests an ancient custom, when --- just like today --- bakers baked things for special days, like weddings, births, and funerals. Most of those celebratory items took the form of breads baked into unique shapes. But not until the nineteenth century could the average Joe (or…

The Black Fast, a Mortification of the Appetite

With Lent fast approaching (February 17, 2010), an examination of fasting and other fleshly challenges seems apropos. Religious-based fasting, in the history of English speakers anyway, belies its importance in the commonly used word for the first meal of the day: breakfast or “break fast.” After all, for much of Western European history, almost half…

Tuna: More Than Just a Canned Wonder

Definition: tunny large sea-fish of the mackerel order, 1530, probably from M.Fr. thon (14c.), from O.Prov. ton, from L. thunnus "a tuna, tunny," from Gk. thynnos "a tuna, tunny," possibly in the literal sense of "darter," from thynein: "dart along." Aunt Ellen took the green can and pried it open with one of those old-fashioned…

Holy Mackerel!

Mackerel scales and mares' tails Make lofty ships carry low sails. ‑Old Sailors' Rain Warning‑ (Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Alas, the poor mackerel!  A sky resembling its scales bodes rains. An unfriendly person is "cold as a mackerel". "Dead…

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…

Being Catty: Hey, Did You Know That Catfish Tastes OK?

(Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Well, it's not "National Catfish Month," not yet. You have to wait for August for that. But there's no time like the present for dreaming of summer. Some people hate the cloying texture of these…

Pandolce: From Liguria with Love, Thanks to Laura Schenone

Laura Schenone, author of the soulful The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and the scholarly (and prize-winning) A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, traveled back to Liguria for Christmas in 2007. From that trip came her perpetual Christmas gift to all of us, Pandolce. In an article in the December 2008 issue of SAVEUR…

Buttering Up

Peppermint flavoring, almond extract, gooey candied fruit, thick dark molasses, perfumey cardamom … the list could go mouth-wateringly on and on. Christmas cooking and Christmas baking demand many ingredients not normally used in everyday cooking. And that’s what makes the holiday season such a sheer delight for those besotted with all things culinary. But one…

Hunger is the Best Sauce

A hungry people listens not to reason, nor cares for justice, nor is bent by any prayers. [Lat., Nec rationem patitur, nec aequitate mitigatur nec ulla prece flectitur, populus esuriens.] De Brevitate Vitoe (XVIII), Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) Chronic hunger is something that most of us in the United States will never really know.* Yet…

Halloween: Cake and Candles

Prolific nineteenth-century domestic scientist, Sarah Tyson Hetson Rorer, in her Home Games and Parties (1898,  p. 139), wrote about some of the old Halloween customs. The ancient association of Halloween with fertility and love comes out int his section of Home Games and Parties: DIVINING BY THE CAKE WITH CANDLES MUCH sport may be had…

Of Carrots and Things

Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot. Irish Proverb A memory, augmented and tempered by time ... and carrots. I close my eyes and scraps of the past flicker through my mind. The last carrot rasped against the finest “teeth” on the four-sided grater, orangy juice pooling slowly into a small puddle in the…

The Random Herbalist: Gregor Mendel

Medieval monks knew a great deal about plants and their characteristics. And so did monks of later times. Take the example of Gregor Mendel, as does this article discussed in a March 2009 Journal of Biology article: Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws? Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his monastery garden with no…

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…