From Velouté to Casserole: A Question of Green Beans, Amandine, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

I didn’t mean to write about Campbell’s soup. You see, I started out pondering a super French soup recipe, Velouté aux Champignons. Somehow I ended up contemplating Campbell’s canned Cream of Mushroom Soup, definitely not one of Antonin Carême’s sauces mères or Mother Sauces (velouté, espagnole, allemande, béchamel)! Though you could argue that Campbell’s soups…

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Lettice Bryan’s Forgotten Cookbook, The Kentucky Housewife, and Squirrel Soup Two Ways: A Touch of Americana

It’s maddening, but true: we know very little about the authors of some of best cookbooks ever written in America. Thanks to today’s 24/7 media cycle, Paula Deen’s foibles and Rachael Ray’s battle with her weight are no mystery. But we know next to zilch about Lettice Bryan, who wrote an amazingly detailed, 1300-recipe cookbook,…

Picturing the Last Weekend of Fall

Just outside my front door, ice sparkles on the small brown bridge. I know the signs: autumn fled like a thief in the night. Only yesterday, leaves blazing scarlet and saffron hung like Christmas baubles on the trees. Now there's nothing but a memory of those exquisite jewels. Time to burrow and savor the stews…

Water, the Essence of All

Begin with a washing of hands, cleansing and purifying, before approaching the stove, as to an altar. Pouring water into a pot, do you remember the source? Rain, clouds, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans … Transformation, from elements and compounds and chaotic matter to life. Essence. Alchemy. In your hands, a cook’s hands, water shape-shifts into…

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…

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…

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…

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…

“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…

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 ---…

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…

White Beans with Cream, Prosciutto, and Parmesan

Autumn teases you, you know, with its chilly mid-September mornings, urging you to dream of sitting outside on cool evenings, wrapped lightly in woolen shawls, a bowl of hot bean soup nestled in your hands, a glass of Pinot Grigio resting on the small table next to you. Dreaming of a stone cottage in Italy's…