Día de los Muertos (Todos Santos)/ Day of the Dead Food-Laden Altars

(Note: The italicized portion of the following article is an excerpt from something I wrote for an encyclopedia on the history of dining and entertaining, Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl, Greenwood Press, 2008.) In Mexico, the Día de los Muertos (Todos Santos) (Day of the Dead/All Saints’ Day) resembles the norteamericano Halloween…

Muscling in on Mussels

In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone As she wheel’d her wheel barrow Thro’ streets broad and narrow (Chorus) Crying “Cockles and Mussels alive, alive O!” Alive, alive O! Alive, alive O Crying Cockles and Mussels Alive, alive O! She was a fishmonger,…

Preserving Food Preserves Life, or, Mutton in the Pot

I harbor a dirty little secret. I quite dislike the taste of mutton. For a writer who writes about food, that’s almost as bad as saying “I hate liver.” That’s also true and makes me quite suspect, especially when I mumble about French cuisine. Anyway, fortunately for me when I was kid, mutton never crossed the…

The Harvest Months

The frost descended on the pumpkin the other night and in the early morning light, as I drove around the curving roads of rural Virginia, a dozen cows stood silhouetted and blanketed in thick white fog. Eerily outlined against the fading green of the sparse grass they munched, for some reason those cows reminded me…

Velveeta and Wonder Bread: Cooking at Ozette, the Pompeii of America

“I’d like to be able to say that something mystical drew me through the Olympic National Forest to Ozette. Such as a spiritual connection to Celtic tree gods. Or a quest, inspired by medieval pilgrims hiking 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela. But no,it was an act of God that brought me there as a…

They Called it Callaloo

Stuck off the beaten track, but surrounded by the heavy traffic of a congested city, the Grand Market in Virginia Beach, Virginia is not an easy one to pinpoint, even with GPS  tracking technology. But “Sam’s” voice droned “Turn right, then left,” and somehow  I managed to avoid the motorcycle on a kamikaze path to my…

Warts and All: Cooks as Witches, Witches as Cooks

The cauldron , symbol of cooking, food, and nourishment. And of the basest, most primal horrors imaginable, the power of the Dark Arts, magic, and blasphemy. Everyone who’s ever read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” recalls THE scene, the one with the three witches stirring the pot, chanting. FIRST WITCH: Round about the cauldron go; In the poison’d entrails throw….

The Fallibility of Memory, or, The Fabulists among Us

Memory is a funny thing. By “funny,” I’m not thinking Woody Allen amusing or Amy Schumer hilarious. No, by “funny” I mean something akin to “strange” or “perplexing” or even “otherworldly.” And indeed memory can be perplexing, making it appear as the stuff of fabulists. Trying to remember what happened last week, much less 50 or…

Women and the Building of America: Reflections

Last night, I stayed awake far longer than I normally do, reading Gayle Forman’s new novel, Leave Me. The hook for me was “Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train…