The Death of Anthony Bourdain

I forget where exactly I was when I read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. But I'll never forget the writing, the cool depiction of the parade of characters - chefs, waitresses, line cooks, dopers, and so on. Tony, I think he liked being called that, could tramp through the Chaco of Paraguay with the same ease he…

Advertisements

Musings on the Road West

Driving through Texas, thinking of my 9-year-old grandmother, of the tale she told me so many years ago. Her father decreed that they would all move to Globe, AZ, along with his brothers, driving cattle, who knows, to the new ranch, from the old one in Fredericksburg, Texas, German enclave. To Globe, Arizona. How long…

Happy Christmas to All!

At Christmastime, my kitchen becomes a place where past and present merge.  Through food, I honor my ancestors - the known, the unknown, and the never-to-be knowns, all the people whose DNA runs through my veins and shapes my nose and determines my character. They hailed from Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Cheshire, Lincoln, London, Kent ...…

Mullets, Jumping into the Stream of Life

The Gulf of Mexico lies 60 miles southwest of here. A joy to behold on a clear day, no matter what time of the year, the water there sparkles with the intensity of a stash of De Beers diamonds. And the wetlands that lacing its edges harbor a most fascinating array of life, gems, if…

Pumping Sunshine: Susie H. Baxter’s Rural North Florida Childhood

Memory, fickle memory. To recall the long-ago past becomes a journey into a place where truth flits behind trees or ducks into closets, an exhausting game of hide-and-seek where no player easily becomes “It.” Do you remember going to the Saturday afternoon movies when you were a kid? How you got so engrossed in the…

Birds of a Feather: Proverbs and Idioms

Birds fascinated my father. I could never quite understand why. Not until he died. My mother dumped his bird-watching books on me. Then I knew what the scientist in him saw when he watched birds in their natural habitat: great variety, adaptations to environment, the living proof of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, at least…

A Murder of Crows, An Unkindness of Ravens

They're not visible to the naked eye, but I hear their raucous cawing every day, the very second I open the door.  Crows, maybe ravens. No matter where I live, these glossy black birds congregate. The only place on earth to escape these intelligent creatures lies far south, in Antarctica. Crows and ravens eat whatever…

Muses: Cross Creek and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Although I'd read her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling (1938), in high school, I came to admire Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's work more via the great unifier - food. I bought a paperback copy of Cross Creek Cookery nearly forty years after Charles Scribner's Sons first published it. Now the spine on my cheap copy splits…

William Bartram and the Nature of Florida

There's something about explorers who ventured into the New World that always grips my imagination. Maybe it's because men could leave home for years, move from place to place, free to be the souls they were born to be. As a woman, I could never have done that. Nor would it be easy today, either.…

Traces of Old Florida

I left the house this morning, seeking a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. What I found in my neighborhood proves the resilience of old houses in Florida. Battered off and on for over 65 years by hurricanes of all strengths, these gems still stand. And so does the natural setting around…

Florida Oranges, and Other White House Desserts

Desserts and sweets served in the White House reflect the culinary history of the United States. The patterns of cooking, eating, and serving food in the White House originally relied heavily on the British heritage of the Thirteen Colonies, a pattern that generally continues until the present day.  Although wars and economic depressions plagued the…

9 Years of Writing about History … A Celebration!

Nine years ago, I decided to poke a toe into the world of food blogging. I settled on the name, "Gherkins & Tomatoes," based on a painting by Luis Meléndez, a tribute to the period of history known as "The Age of Exploration." Faced with a blank screen demanding something, anything, the first words that…

This Wild Land: Florida, Zora Neale Hurston, & Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man's spice-box seasons his own food. ― Zora Neale Hurston In my house, anyone waking to the soft, misty mornings of a searing Florida summer will be immediately drawn to the coolness of my…

Tales of Alligator Flesh and Tails

Alligator meat is quite varied in itself The meat found in the tail is white and sweet, and can easily fried or sauteed. The leg meat is dark and less tender, with a color and texture similar to a beef shank, best used in soups and stews. The body meat is more like that of…

Just a Few Pictures, and a Few Words

Florida is a state where nearly everybody hails from another place. (1) And that idiosyncrasy makes the state an exciting social laboratory for curious (nosy?) people like me. One of the most intriguing questions right now, out there in the wide expanse of the world, is how people deal with "other people's food." (2) The…

It’s the Environment, Stupid

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That's true, now more than ever. Mother Earth needs our voices, now more than ever. Yours, mine, everyone's. And so do all the creatures , great and small, the flowers, the trees, the rivers, and the seas. Now, more than ever. The fragility of the environment…

Fussy Eaters, or, The Plants in My Garden

You know how some people are fussy eaters? The ones you hesitate to invite to your table because you’ll end up making three dinners instead of one? Well, I’m learning that plants are worse, much worse. At least some are. Very picky. Very. As a neophyte gardener, for that is essentially how I must describe…

The Food of Florida: A Grand and Ongoing Experiment

I didn’t know it then, but when I was much – heck, I’ll be really honest here and say a lot –  younger, I began participating in a grand social experiment, one that I understand more with each passing year. Given my nature, the experiment naturally involved food. And that experiment began with a road…

The Seminoles, Eli Lilly, and the Ancient Saw Palmetto of Florida

Florida's vegetation reminds me of a willful, obstinate child. You know, the one who seems to be everywhere all at once and defies  all the rules, crossing the line on limits, chocolate smeared across her face, filched from a secret and forbidden stash. Wild and ungovernable, in other words. And saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is one of the wildest…

Poor Harry: Thanksgiving in the Truman White House 1946

President Harry S. Truman found himself on the slimming end of things in 1946. The New York Times reported that Truman's menus seemed a bit austere and quoted White House housekeeper, Mrs. Mary E. Sharpe, as saying "When I make up menus I keep it in mind." "It" being President's Truman's ongoing battle of the…

Day 5: Tomatoes – Celebrate American Food History

Tomatoes, poisonous or aphrodisiac? That was the question lurking in the pot for quite some time after the Spanish and the Portuguese began their voyages to the New World beginning around the late fifteenth century and likely introduced the tomato (and other New World foods) to Europe and Africa. John Gerard, a renown herbalist and…

The Dangers of Nostalgia at the Stove: A Critique of Modern Food Writing

Is nostalgia dangerous? More to the point, is nostalgia a dangerous weapon when held in the hands of some food writers? I'll confess to a salient fact: I've written about food  through a thick lens of nostalgia, licking the pot of myth and stirring with the spoon of longing . I've cooked the iconic dishes of…

The History and Present State of Food in Virginia

There was nary a cook among them. Nor a single woman, the usual gendered division of labor notwithstanding. No, in December 1606, the Virginia Company of London sent 104 men into the treacherous, wintry Atlantic, with stopovers in the Canary Islands and later Bermuda and the Caribbean. After a brief reconnaissance stop at Cape Henry, they made…

What is Home?

What is home? What is not home? The following pictorial essay portrays a number of symbols associated with the United States, and, indirectly, home. Mine, anyway. (If you click on the photos, you'll see far more detail than this WordPress theme shows in the posts. And further clicking zooms in, I've discovered.) © 2015 C.…

Christmas in the White House: President Benjamin Harrison’s Carlsbad Wafers and His 1890 Christmas Dinner

President Benjamin Harrison, being a card-carrying participant of the Gilded Age, and his wife Caroline Scott Harrison served an unusual dinner on Christmas day, 1890. (The menu follows below.) Unusual in one way. Carlsbad Wafers. Huh? The mention of Carlsbad Wafers stopped me in my tracks for a minute. Like a curious cat, whiskers trembling,…

Eating like a Lumberjack

The Black Bear Camp Skillet Served with Cherokee Sweet Corn Pone, Fresh Fruits, Cheese Grits, Hunt Camp Potatoes, Cathead Biscuit, Sausage (Sawmill) Gravy, and Thick Griddle Cake with Maple Syrup. A Sizzling Combo of Country or Sugar Cured Ham, Pecan Smoked Bacon, Sausage & 2 Farm Fresh Eggs any style $13.95 I recently spent several…

Swamp Cabbage and Sunshine: Craziest-Ever Hearts of Palm Salad Sums Up Florida’s Food History

Two baseball-sized scoops of green peanut-butter ice cream grabbed my attention right away. Resting on shredded iceberg lettuce, they were melting fast in the Florida heat. Beads of condensation dribbled across the white plate, like a pearl necklace ringing the throat of a marble Venus. Ice cream and lettuce? What a crazy combination! What sat before…

Eating Dessert at the White House + A Word about Dallas, November 22, 1963*

Bill Yosses, the current White House pastry chef says pie is the all-time favorite in the Obama White House, but adds that “The dessert that was the biggest hit last year was a sugar cookie in the shape of the First Family’s dog, Bo. This year we have a black and yellow bumblebee to celebrate…

The Ancient Story Behind Veterans’/Armistice Day, or, The Significance of St. Martin of Tours

"On the morning of November 11 I [Colonel Thomas Gowenlock] sat in my dugout in Le Gros Faux, which was again our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonel John Greely, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Peabody, our G-1. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message: Official Radio from Paris -…

A Glimpse into the World of Men

Men experience the world in different ways, and many of those ways are not always familiar to women. The archetypal American male, the cowboy hat a symbol of the Wild West and all the universal stereotypes of America. The military - once a rite of passage for almost all American men - another stereotype. And…