Cookies and Cookees

The importance of logging camp cooks can’t be fathomed, really. But try to imagine being miles from anywhere, without a restaurant nearby or a place to cook for oneself; imagine the sheer dependence on log camp cooks, of men burning up 8000 calories a day while felling trees. Like baby birds counting on their parents…

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Bean Burners and Hash Rasslers: More Logging Camp Food

On a typical day in 1929, cooks at Ritter Company Camps of Dickenson County, Virginia , served the following menus to anywhere from 75 - 100 loggers: BREAKFAST: Cornflakes Oatmeal Stewed or fried apples Canned peaches Fried ham, pork chops, or beef steak, with country gravy Fried potatoes Biscuits Butter, jam, jelly, syrup Coffee, milk…

Coming Up: New Food Memoirs & Other Treats

Food memoirs form just one of many research items on the list of materials used by culinary historians. In rounding out the larger picture of just what was going on in a specific time in history and related to the life of a specific individual, food memoirs cannot be beat. The following memoirs and other…

“Curry & Rice” on Forty Plates: The British Raj Encore

In 1859, George Francklin Atkinson, a captain of the Bengal Engineers and a writer of some imagination as well as artistic skill, published "Curry & Rice" on Forty Plates: or the Ingredients of Social Life at "Our Station" in India. Illustrated with forty drawings, or the "plates" in question, Atkinson's fictitious account of life in…

A Chronology of Cooks, in the British Raj

Food certainly gave us a way not simply of ordering a week or a day but of living inside history, measuring everything we remembered against a chronology of cooks. ~~Sara Suleri, Meatless Days In The Road to Vindaloo: Curry Cooks & Curry Books, authors David Burnett and Helen Saberi discuss a number of cookery book…

Summer Fare, or, Steamroller Chicken

Today, when the throbbing heat of a summer day might mean grabbing a salad at the local deli, it is hard to realize that in the past people conjured up other solutions for food on the days when sweat poured off of brows like tiny streams rushing to meet a river. Everyone knows that the…

The Man Who Drew Too Much

As a writer for Gourmet magazine in its early years, illustrator and engraver Samuel Chamberlain introduced Americans to European food, mostly French. According to Nathalie Jordi,* his columns about his French cook Clémentine** --- who cooked in the Chamberlain kitchen in Marblehead, Massachusetts --- subtly reinforced Gourmet’s original image as a magazine intent upon luring…

Elizabeth Romer’s Chronicle of Tuscan Agriculture

Contemplating the impact of Food Network's publishing juggernaut on the current food scene in America, I find myself turning backwards, to some of the "earlier" writers on food in Italy. Many of these people, like Elizabeth Romer in The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley (1985), wrote of day-to-day practices, of times…

The Hermetic Lady in the Palazzo: Marlena de Blasi

Cookbook author and memoirist Marlena de Blasi does not seek the limelight, preferring instead to write her books in the shadows. The shadows, that is, of the great stone monuments of Italy, first San Marco in Venice and now a sixteenth-century palazzo in Orvieto in Umbria. De Blasi’s body of work includes A Taste of…

Madeleine & Julia

Appearances can be deceiving.* And in the food (foodie?) world, what smells of success --- however minor --- to one person may well reek like garbage to another. Take the case of Julia Child and Madeleine Kamman, for example. All the recent reminiscing about Julia Child (one of the Holy Trinity of female food writers…

Julie & Julia —

A kitchen, a bottle of wine, and a duck recipe. Easy, right? With the movie, "Julie & Julia," now out,  media commentators and critics find new fodder for chewing. One of the better perusals comes from The Boston Globe, written by Devra First and Wesley Morris. A video helps brings home the impact of cooking…

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…

In Morocco, Kitchens

Kitchens, a form of material culture, often determine the shape of the cuisine. By the limitations imposed by the tools, the food cooked reflects the process. A case of the medium is the message?** In the kitchens [of Morocco] there was a great assortment of wood dishes, like low corn measures, scrubbed white, as in…

Old News: Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese

Le Ricette per Cucina Raccolte dal Principe Don Paolo Borghese (Recipes  from the Collection of Prince Don Paolo Borghese), a new cookbook published by the Ferragamo family of Italian shoe fame, sounds scrumptious. The eighteenth-century recipes come from family archives. According to the Vogue UK Website, the book will be available worldwide in September 2009…

Iran: The Beauty of an Ancient Cuisine

Once upon a time, my brother married a beautiful young woman, an exile from Iran. And at their wedding feast, which she and her mother and sister cooked, I ate Persian food for the first time. Such intricate flavors and ingredient combinations, each mouthful a celebration of life and love. And when she, her mother, …

Moonshine

Living as I do in the heart of moonshine [white lightning] country, I just about dropped the cookbook when I saw the word “Moonshine.” If it had been a Southern cookbook or a Foxfire book, I would have turned the page without a second thought and been done with it. But this reference to “Moonshine”…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Larderer

With this blog post, our tales of the monastic kitchen come to an end ---  for now. THE LARDERER (p. 203-204) [Note: The Abbey paid the larderer for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] The larderer should be “as perfect, just, and faithful a servant” as could be found.…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Infirmary Cook

THE COOK FOR THE INFIRMARY (p. 204-205) [Note: The Abbey paid the infirmary cook for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] For the infirmary, and especially for the use of those who had been subjected to the periodical blood-letting, there was a special cook skilled in the preparation of…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Fish-Cooks

THE FISH-COOKS (p. 206) [Note: The Abbey paid the fish-cooks  for their services, since these people did not belong to the cloistered community.] In the large monasteries, such as, for example, Edmundsbury, there were two cooks for the fish-dishes ; the first was properly called the “fish-cook,” the other was “pittance-cook.” Their appointment was made…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Guest-Hall Cook

THE GUEST-HALL COOK (p. 206) [Note: The Abbey paid the gust-hall cook  for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] The cook to attend to the needs of visitors was appointed by the cellarer, and had under him a boy to help in any way he might direct. His office…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Abbot’s Cook

THE ABBOT’S COOK (p. 202-203) [Note: The Abbey paid the abbot's cook  for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] This official held more the position of a steward, or valet to the superior, than that of a cook. He had to go each morning to the abbot or prior…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Caterer (or Buyer)

THE CATERER, OR BUYER, FOR THE COMMUNITY (p. 202-203) [Note the Abbey paid the caterer for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] The caterer, says one Custumal, “ought to be a broadminded and strong-minded man : one who acts with decision, and is wise, just and upright in things…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Kitchener

THE KITCHENER (p. 80-81) The office of kitchener was one of great responsibility. He was appointed in Chapter by the abbot with the advice of the prior, and he should be one who was agreeable to the community. According to the Custumal of one great English abbey, the kitchener was to be almost a paragon…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Refectorian

THE REFECTORIAN (p. 76-77) The refectorian had charge of the refectory, or as it is sometimes called, the frater, and had to see that all things were in order for the meals of the brethren. He should be “strong in bodily health,” says one Custumal, “unbending in his determination to have order and method, a…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Cellarer

Until June 2, because of a time-consuming project, "Gherkins & Tomatoes' " posts will cover the key players in medieval monastic kitchens.* We begin with The Cellarer. THE CELLARER (p. 71-73): The cellarer was the monastic purveyor of all foodstuffs for the community. His chief duty, perhaps, was to look ahead and to see that…

The Triumvirate of American Cooking

TRIUMVIRATE: Latin triumvirātus, from triumvirī, board of three [men] Americans owe a lot to the following three people --- without them our grocery stores and larders and pantries would still be filled with cans of baked beans and boxes of Jell-O.* James Beard Julia Child Craig Claiborne *David Kamp's The United States of Arugula (2006) …

Safari Cooking: The Cook (II)

In John Tinney McCutcheon's book,  In Africa: Hunting Adventures in Big Game Country (1910), he  wrote the following words about an apparent jewel of a cook, whose hands moved in the kitchen with the touch of angels.  (And this after a very Eurocentric introduction to said personage, Abdullah his safari cook, in which McCutcheon focused on…

Majorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek

No longer a well-known writer, Pulitzer-Prize winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings deserves more attention. Author of the popular coming-of-age novel, The Yearling (1938), Rawlings immortalized the lives of the rural people of north Florida, often derisively called "Crackers." This photo essay grew out of my recent trip to north central Florida, as well as from long-term…

Life, Love, and Lost Raviolis

The food memoir seemingly pops out everywhere these days. It's the hot new genre in writing.  Some authors coin a phrase and tell a story better than others. Most bog down the reader right away, with dramatic and overwritten accounts of trauma suffered in the kitchen or in love,  unwrapping personal anecdotes best kept tightly…

Manuscript Cookbooks

Three manuscript cookbooks held in Virginia Tech's Newman Library's Special Collections promise rich material for food history scholars. Food historian Rachel Laudan says this about manuscript cookbooks in Mexico: What are not included in this list are manuscript cookbooks. Many of the great convents in Mexico still have magnificent manuscript cookbooks from the eighteenth century. …