Who is a Chef? Who is a Cook?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about just what constitutes a “chef” versus a “cook.” Oh yes, and it’s a question that many writers have tried to answer. Nothing new there. I’m a big believer in defining terms, realizing of course that terminology and words change meanings over the years. But, that said, and…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

Lady Tew’s “West African” Cookbook

An interesting cookbook for those pondering the influence of colonialism on the British and their foreign subjects: Cooking in West Africa: A Colonial Guide, by Lady Muriel Tew (London: Jeppestown, 2007. Originally published 1920.) In the introduction to the 2007 edition, Lady Tew’s son David provides some rare biographical information about her: My mother was…

The Expert (French) Cook in Enlightenment France: A Review

If you scrutinize sixteenth-century Dutch artist Pieter Aertsen’s painting, “The Cook in Front of the Stove,” you will see a rather stereotypical image of servant cooks, one that persisted in popular memory in Europe until well into the nineteenth century. Sean Takats, assistant professor of history at George Mason University and codirector of Zotero, attempts…

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…

Chartreuse and the Vallée du Désert: The Elixir of Life

While writing my brief “Gherkins & Tomatoes” blog post, “Cookbooks for a Desert Island, or an Autumn Afternoon,” I thumbed through de Groot’s book once more, swearing I would cook “Green Beans Sautéed in Cream” and “Potato Pancakes of the Mountains.” The price of peace and solitude has been unending struggle. ~~Roy Andries de Groot,…

Ladies of the Pen and the Cookpot: Elizabeth David

Foxed, spotted, acid-rich, the paper crackles under the slightest touch of my hands. The book’s an old Penguin paperback, worth only 74 cents on Amazon.com. As I turn the pages of French Country Cooking (1951), I vaguely recall a comment I once read, written by food activist and restaurateur Alice Waters in her book, The…