At the Tables of the Monks: Daily Fare (Part III)

Fermentation provided a number of foods on the tables of medieval monks. Beer, cheese, wine, sausages all result from fermentation processes. While it is true that medieval monks invented none of these foods originally --- the Romans made cheese, wine, and sausages and Norsemen enjoyed beer --- the monks, after the fall of Rome, guarded…

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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…

Fish: Garum and Beyond

O le bi oju eja ti ehin ko le iwe. (Yoruba) : It is as hard as the eye of a (smoked) fish, which the teeth cannot break. [N.B. -- Applicable to any difficult matter.] (from Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton) Most people who live to eat (definition: the food-obsessed) might…

The Pope and the Porcupine

When it's soft, eat the stone and throw the porcupine out. Old saying about tough meat. Chef Bartolomeo Scappi (1500-1577) cooked for two popes (Pius V, for one), as well as for several cardinals. Fortunately for posterity, he also wrote a fat, hands-on tome about  cooking and serving food in Renaissance Italy. Terence Scully's invaluable…

Scottish Eggs, Anyone?

Scotland's been in the news a lot lately. But what do Scottish people eat? That's the question. Tea, most likely. That's a good place to start. Oatmeal, in scones and porridge (just for breakfast, you would hope). Yes. And whisky. Scotland produces some of the best whisky in the world. Smoky. Peaty. Can't go wrong…

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…

Eggplant: Mezze Time

With this post, we continue on our journey of exploration , attempting to learn where eggplant came from and how cooks over the centuries treated it. No discussion of eggplant can ignore baba ghanouj, a dish made with puréed eggplant and tahini (sesame seed paste). According to Nawal Nasrallah, author of one of the few…

Pie in the Sky: A Review of Janet Clarkson’s “Pie: A Global History”

You will eat, bye and bye, In that glorious land above the sky; Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die. ~~ Joe Hill*, "The Preacher and the Slave" chorus, 1911 Everybody knows what pie is, right? Wrong, and Janet Clarkson (The Old Foodie) tells us why in…

Ham and Eggs

Omne vivum ex ovo. "All life comes from an egg." --Latin Proverb-- Eggs and Easter go together like...ham and eggs? Well, it hasn't always been that way. Christians first celebrated Easter in the second century A.D. and the Council of Nicaea, convened in 325 A.D. by the Emperor Constantine, set the official date for Easter.…

Angelina’s Hot Chocolate

For anyone who's walked through Paris on a rainy winter day, the cold wind whipping your coat about your knees, your umbrella suddenly quitting on you. Drenched, you find yourself on the Rue de Rivoli, making for Angelina's tea room. You walk through the crowds of tourists, hoping you look as French as those ladies…

France Encore

France bewitches. Burgundy. Normandy. The Loire Valley. The French Alps. Provence. All sublime. But the besotted dream most of returning to live in some tiny Parisian garret, drinking high-class red or white plonk, writing of life, death, and love while seated at a sticky Formica-covered table at Flore or Deux Magots. And surreptitously paging through…

MOVE OVER, MAJOR GREY

In keeping with the whole British colonial heritage story [See HERE and HERE for more], here's a change of continents. From Africa to the Indian subcontinent. Chutney. Etymologically, the word entered English via Urdu ( چٹنی ), Hindi ( चटनी --- caṭnī ), and  Bengali (চাটনী) . Chutney is chutney is Major Grey's mango chutney.…

Carnevale Goeth: A Dip into Austerity and Cucina di Magro

"Thin" kitchen, that's what the "magro" part means here. No, not a galley kitchen. Not a New York loft kitchen. Not even a Paris apartment kitchen. Skinny food. That's cucina di magro. Vegetables. Legumes. Fish. Fruit. Shellfish. The bones of the Mediterranean diet. No meat, at least none that walks around on four legs. Or…

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…

Carnevale Cometh: Ricotta and Fritters, Oh My!

Fritters and Carnevale, lumped together like ham and eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, risi e bisi, rice and beans. Ricotta fritters, to be exact. True, most people associate ricotta fritters more with St. Joseph's Day, March 19 in Italy. But those fritters lean toward the filled variety, sweetened, creamy ricotta delivering a tantalizing surprise with…

George Washington’s Family Cookbooks

Martha Washington's cookbook tells a tale, one that really needs no elaboration:  George went through life toothless. Recipes for soft puddings, quidonys (a type of fruit preserve), and jellies abound. Of course, puddings testified in part to the, well, Englishness of the Father of Our Country and his wife. But the fact of the matter…

Carnevale Cometh: Calzone

What of calzone? And its cousin panzerotti? As cousins will often do, both look alike, except for size. And both end up seated at the communal table for celebrations like Carnevale. Calzone comes from a Latin word, calceus, meaning shoe, and may have been in used in everyday speech beginning around 1170. Today, the accepted…

Carnevale Cometh: Cenci By Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet …

Hereupon, a whole host of absurd figures surrounded him, pretending to sympathize in his mishap. Clowns and party-colored harlequins; orang-outangs; bear-headed, bull-headed, and dog-headed individuals; faces that would have been human, but for their enormous noses; one terrific creature, with a visage right in the centre of his breast; and all other imaginable kinds of…

“Old” News — Chocolaholics of 1000 Years Ago

Put the word "chocolate" in front of my eyes and my salivary glands start secreting. And, oh boy, when the real McCoy appears on a plate in front of me, watch out! Like that Chocolate Mousse Cake looking at you, kid. Even when the discussion involves people drinking chocolate over 1000 years ago, those old…

Another Fish in the Sea: Mullet

Of all the nurslings of the sea, mullets have the most gentle and just disposition, harming neither each other nor any other creatures, never staining their lips with blood but...always feeding on the green seaweed. ‑‑Oppian‑‑ Ancient Greek Poet Silvery jumping mullet cause otherwise staid fishermen to jump for joy, especially now since fall passed…

“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…

All the Presidents’ Tables: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s First Inaugural Luncheon, 1953

January 20, 1953 In 1953, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) started the now-traditional ritual of hosting a luncheon for the incoming President and Vice President. General Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed tremendous public recognition because of his role as Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Any man who could keep the troops…

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…

Plum Pudding & Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Christmas Message, 1944

During the Roosevelt years. FDR spent time talking to the American people via radio; these became his famous "Fireside Chats." On Christmas Eve, Roosevelt would do one of his chats and then read Charles Dickens's  "A Christmas Carol" to his grandchildren. This what he said in 1944, the turning point of World War II: "The…

George Washington’s Christmas Brunch, 1769

Happy/Merry Christmas/Hannukah/Holiday Season/Winter Solstice and a wonderful, hope-filled New Year. A big "Thank You" to each and every one of you for reading "Gherkins & Tomatoes." Seven years before the sonorous words of the American Declaration of Independence rang out in Philadelphia, George Washington ate the following Christmas brunch. Betty, the only sister of his…

The Washington Post on Best Cookbooks (Gifts) of 2008

An interesting and REAL list (for the most part) of cookbooks for serious and not-so-serious home cooks. Some of the 18 titles anointed and blessed  by The Post include: A Platter of Figs, by David Tanis (So popular right now that it can't be had from any of the big online --- or local ---…

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 Cakes

Leafing through some files the other night, I came upon these recipes, squirreled away for some future use. It's late in the game --- the 2008 election is over and others have blogged this, no doubt --- but I think that those of you who eat, drink, and obsess as much over politics as you…

In the Kitchen in Kansas … The Food of Obama’s Mother’s Childhood

There's No Place Like Home ... ~~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz Kansas is flat, real flat. Yes. And President Barack Obama's green leaf of choice, arugula, clocks in pretty low on Kansans' list of comestibles. But none of this means that President Obama doesn't love Kansas and especially its wholesome, comforting food. That said,…