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 -…

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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…

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…

The South is Rising Again: The 2013 James Beard Nominees

In the culinary world, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize or the Oscars comes down to the James Beard Awards. This year, the list of nominees includes a large number of Southern chefs, restaurants, and other food-related entities. What's so fascinating about this list lies in the evidence of increasing diversity - it's not all…

The Ancient Sin of Gluttony: What’s Really Behind the Shunning of Paula Deen

We need strategies that do not drag us back to the dispositional focus of the Inquisition's witch-hunts, that propelled the notion of the "Satan Within," when much good and evil is the product of situational and systemic forces acting on the same ordinary, often good people.  ~~ Philip Zimbardo  It’s been with a great deal…

Coming Home to Roost: The Chickens of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

"If I had to choose between trees and people, I think I should choose trees." ~~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings If you've ever read The Yearling, you know the name and work of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Miz Rawlings owned a 72-acre homestead and citrus grove in Cross Creek, Florida, not that she was a native Floridian or…

Thomas Jefferson: The Francophile Who Became the First U.S. “Foodie”

Thomas Jefferson. President. Scientist. Writer. Man of many passions, some hidden, some not. In his writings and in his actions, food clearly revealed itself as one of those passions. Above all, Jefferson was a Francophile. From the design of his dining room in his house, Monticello, to the gardens surrounding him in the foothills of the…

The Potager of Thomas Jefferson: A Kitchen Garden in Photos

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, that amazing genius and inventor, and --- according to the late food writer, Karen Hess --- probably America's first real gourmet. Any lover of books, art, architecture, wine, and food should dream of visiting this place at least once. [Note: It's the only house declared a UNESCO World Heritage…

De-Constructing Hawaii’s Loco Moco

For those seeking examples of culinary fusion, Hawaii provides a very deep well to peer into. Rachel Laudan discovered this while teaching at the University of Hawaii and wrote an award-winning book about the subject: The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage.* One of those fusion dishes which Laudan mentions, albeit briefly, is a…

Thomas Jefferson and His Magic “Maccaroni” Machine

Thomas Jefferson, rightly or wrongly credited with first bringing pasta to the tables of Americans, drew a picture of  a pasta-making machine. This drawing, now in the Library of Congress, resulted from a trip to Italy taken by Jefferson in 1787. Don't forget that "macaroni" served as a generic name for pasta and doesn't necessarily…

Dig for Victory! Locavorism in Eons Past

Looking at the past almost always calls up that old adage: "There's nothing new under the sun."* Take locavorism's wartime antecedents ... As these WWII posters from England's "Dig for Victory!" campaign prove, the idea of local foods is not one whose time has come, but whose time has come again. Aimed at encouraging the…

Civil War Christmases

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 100 and 50 guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton. Telegram from William Tecumseh Sherman to Abraham Lincoln, December 22, 1864 Many authors write about the austerity of American Christmas celebrations prior to the Civil War (1861…

Christmas Dinner at Mount Vernon, 1790

George Washington's Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, served as the backdrop for many scrumptious dinners, cooked by Washington's slave cooks. Just reading this menu* makes my lips twitch and my fingers itch for my wooden spoons. Note that even at the relatively late date of 1790 and independence from England, there's a soup called King's Soup…

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…

Christmas in Antebellum Virginia: Part I

What is now the state of Virginia boasted the first permanent English settlement in North America. Despite its rocky beginnings in 1607, the settlement eventually flourished. The first Africans arrived in 1619 and the tobacco industry began in earnest. Along with the need for cheap labor, provided by slavery, the colonialists desired nothing more than…

Christmas Cheer, or, Fire Up the Reindeer

Black Friday marks the first "official" day of Christmas, er, shopping, that is. (You know it's almost Christmas when the day after Halloween, the grocery stores start hauling out the red ribbon and fake mistletoe.) A bit premature, but that's cultural change for you. Used to be that you couldn't find a bit of tinsel…

Breaking: State Dinner Menu Released

Potato and Eggplant Salad White House Arugula w/ Onion Seed Vinaigrette 2008 Savingnon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa Valley Red Lentil Soup w Fresh Cheese 2006 Riesling, Brooks "Ara", Wilamette Valley Roast Potato Dumplings w Tomato Chutney Chick Peas and Okra or Green Curry Prawns w caramelized Salsify w smoke Collard Greens and coconut aged basmati…

Feasting in State: Obama’s First Real State Dinner

In the next week, we will see real-time examples of a few of the different types of feasts common to American culture: Thanksgiving --- essentially a harvest feast tinged with overtones of cultural identity --- and President Barack Obama’s first true State Dinner, to be held on November 24, 2009 for India’s Prime Minister Manmohan…

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…

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…

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…

President Obama’s First “State” Dinner

According to the White House Web site, dated February 22, 2009, the following discussion took place in the White House kitchen: DISCUSSION WITH THE FIRST LADY, SOCIAL SECRETARY DESIREE ROGERS, EXECUTIVE CHEF CHRIS COMERFORD, PASTRY CHEF BILL YOSSES AND STUDENTS FROM L'ACADEMIE DE CUISINE White House Kitchen Here's what White House Chef Cris Comerford had…

Lobster Bisque and Striped Bass à la President Barack Obama

On February 24, 2009, President Barack Obama lunched on lobster bisque and striped bass, along with TV anchors due to report on his "state of the nation" speech. Very interesting was a brief mention of the Obamas' "family dinners": He cherishes family dinner in the White House, where "thorns and roses" is now the favorite…

The Inauguration of 2009 Rendered in Art

Artist Maira Kalman turned the Inauguration of 2009 into an artistic rendition of universal experience. Antoine Vollon's eggs and butter caught my attention. I am offering this link in the spirit of the artist, as a celebration of America. And, of course, of food and community. Dine with your friends and sup with your enemies.…

The Willard Hotel, and a Near Brush with Obama’s Motorcade

See all photos (unedited) by clicking HERE: Last night's dinner at the historic Willard Hotel almost didn't happen because as we walked down 15th St., we couldn't cross the street because the police had cordoned off the street to await the Obama motorcade's passing through on the way to Blair House. But at one point…