Day 4: Corn – Celebrate American Food History

English novelist Charles Dickens once compared eating cornbread to eating a pincushion. In that disdainful sentiment, I see generations of English and other European people trying to adapt to this New World grain when their favorite grain – wheat – failed to thrive. Corn, or maize/Indian corn as it was called by the early settlers, originated –…

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…

A Bare Table is Like an Artist’s Canvas

There’s something about tables, big, little, or bare – and those bare ones  in particular – that make me want to festoon them with food I’ve cooked, like floral garlands at a grand wedding. I feel an urge, too, to seat people on the equally vacant chairs, saying, “Come on now, sit down a spell,…

Ladies of the Pen and the Cookpot: The Other Mrs. (Abby) Fisher

Before M. F. K. Fisher, sometimes known as plain Mrs. Fisher, there was Mrs. Abby Fisher. And Abby Fisher’s personage couldn’t be more different from M. F. K. Fisher than if a novelist like Flannery O’Connor dreamed her up. The author of what food historians long believed to be the first African-American cookbook,* Abby Fisher…

Ecstatic in Farmers’ Markets (with a List of Cookbooks at the End)

Not too long ago, driving through the flat land of northern Illinois, I passed near Galena, a charming Victorian town nestled among bluffs and rolling hills near the Mississippi River. Just before arriving in the town, along scenic Highway 20, several small farmers’ markets beckoned. Now, truth be told, my hands tingle and my blood…