December 12: The Virgin of Guadalupe

Patron Saint of Mexico and the Americas Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that "...one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." Apocryphal or not, the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe makes fascinating reading. And the food's pretty…

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Why I Love Cookbooks

“Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.” ― Julia Child, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking  Everybody says it happens, yes. Love at first sight. Real or not? I must concur – it is true, at least for me, when it comes to…

High Society Dinners: Dining in Tsarist Russia, a Model of Culinary History Methodology and Translation

Many writers and researchers around the world now write prodigiously on the topic that engages all of us several times a day: food. And its history. It used to be that those of us interested in the history of food found the pickings pretty slim. Of course, there was Reay Tannahill’s Food in History (1973)…

And More Gifts: A Selection of Food and Culinary History Books Published in 2013

Before I list my choice of books for 2013, a caveat: I have not read all of these yet. What I attempt here is to list the food and culinary history tomes that interest me (and hopefully you!), published in 2013. The descriptions of these books come from various sources, usually the publisher. That said, if…

Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History, a Book You Simply Must Read

Today, I am happy to share something with you, a marvelous gift to the world of culinary history: Cuisine & Empire, by Rachel Laudan (University of California press, October 2013). I had the pleasure of reading some of the book while it was still in manuscript,* and that bit whetted my appetite so much that…

Mushrooms on My Mind, Naturally

It’s hard to imagine another form of earthly life that has affected human beings as much as the kingdom Fungi. Seeking the taste and perceived medicinal benefits of mushrooms,human beings followed a path from superstition to science: from foraging to farming, from medieval old wives’ tales to modern clinical trials, and from food eaten to…

* Biscuits and Buttermilk: A New Year and New Directions

After a long fallow period, spent baking (and eating) many Christmas cookies, I have decided to bloom/cook where I am planted, so to speak. Lately I’ve become more intrigued by the cuisine that surrounds me, here in the American South.  After all, I've basically been a Southerner for over 30 years. Although many cookbook authors…

Ivan Day: Master Food Historian

Those of you with a tremendous love of food history will be happy to know that Ivan Day blogs with all the beauty and erudite authority of his spectacular recreations of historical British food. (Yes, British food!) Take a look both his blog - Food History Jottings - and his regular Web site - Historic Food. You'll…

Rationing and the Black Market in Nazi-Occupied France: Some Thoughts

"Life is hard (On vit mal). Everyone grows thinner. A kilo of butter costs one thousand francs. A kilo of peas forty-five francs. A kilo of potatoes forty francs. Still we must find them." - Jean Guéhenno, August 1944 Speaking as the beneficiary of an immense system of food production in the twenty-first century, as…

France and the Food of War : I

Food offers us so much – nourishment, familial connections, status, comfort, security, and - above all - survival. Truth be told, food allows us to wake up each day and face the world again. With our bellies churning with adequate fodder, we trudge or dance along the path of life, free to create art or…

The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

Just a reminder that you will be able to see some 10 of the 28 sessions live and for free on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 2012. See schedule of free sessions below. To brighten up a dreary February in 2011, a group of food scholars and cookbook writers started a cookbook conference.…

Dreaming of France on a Foggy February Morning

This morning I woke up to fog so thick that I wondered if perhaps I'd morphed into a another place altogether, like London. The branches of the large oak clinging to the hillside resembled nothing less than a print of a retina found in an old medical book. I started thinking of France as I…

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…

Arabs in France: An Early Account by an Egyptian Imam

Rare is the native English speaker who reads and writes Arabic, classical or otherwise. And thus a vast body of literary work lies inaccessible to those who desire to increase their understanding and appreciation of the Arabic-speaking world. Because there is this hole in the material available to scholars and others, the scholarship of much…

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…

SUGARPLUM VISIONS: Christmas Cookies

...visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. ~~Clement C. Moore~~ " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Happy Holidays to all readers and visitors to Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons et Tomates! I will "see" you again on January 2. 'Tis soon the season to be jolly. And to bake cookies, the sugarplums of today. I'm…

A Few Marrons Glacés for the Season … A Gift for You

Photo credit: Robyn Lee A while ago, I promised you a short list of facsimile/translated French cookbooks. The following list represents a number of old French-language cookbooks translated into English that you’ll find freely available on the Internet, something quite helpful when you’ve dropped your last holiday dollar on the fixings for Beef Wellington and…

Give the Gift of Cooking French Food at Home: Some Cookbooks That Make a Seemingly Impossible Task Possible

I have to tell you that the cookbook lists that come out every year around Christmas time drive me crazy. Like you’re really going to savor, say, 101 Recipes Using ___________? (Fill in the blank.) Or you’re going to run out and buy another Italian cookbook when you already own somewhere in the neighborhood of…

East is East and West is West: Pondicherry and French Curry

In Pondicherry, Pondichéry, or Puducherry as it is now called again (since 2006), you still see streets sparkling with old colonial buildings, dating back to a time when passersby heard French spoken daily. Yet, those buildings, policemen's hats, and a fully functioning French lycée or school, are among the few overt signs that you'll notice…

French Cuisine, an Exposition on Medieval Food Not to be Missed

Click on the image to "attend" a gorgeous exposition of the history of medieval French cuisine: Be sure to click on the images in order to start the slide shows, chock full of paintings depicting culinary life during the Middle Ages.

Why Cookbooks?

Why on earth so many cookbooks, when no one cooks? Or do they? Read Adam Gopnik's thoughts in the latest food issue of The New Yorker. He starts out by saying Handed-down wisdom and worked-up information remain the double piers of a cook’s life. The recipe book always contains two things: news of how something…

Reveling in Books: DIY (Old) Food, Knowledge Lost and Now Found

Want to make your own cheese? How about pickles or chow-chow? Sausage and headcheese? Raise a couple of cows or keep a flock of geese? At a time when people want, no, need, to know the how-tos of old foodways, it seems that there’s a book for making just about everything. Fortunately, because this knowledge…

Reveling in Books: The Garden Cottage Diaries

Most of the time, I judge food by its looks and books by their covers. Sorry, but give me a little art, a bit of color, and a mob cap any day of the week. Mob cap? Take the cartoon-like cover of The Garden Cottage Diaries for example. Like a magnet, this visual rendition of…

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) …

Angelina’s Hot Chocolate

For anyone who's walked through Paris on a rainy winter day, the cold wind whipping your coat about your knees, your umbrella suddenly quitting on you. Drenched, you find yourself on the Rue de Rivoli, making for Angelina's tea room. You walk through the crowds of tourists, hoping you look as French as those ladies…

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. …

“Old” News — Chocolaholics of 1000 Years Ago

Put the word "chocolate" in front of my eyes and my salivary glands start secreting. And, oh boy, when the real McCoy appears on a plate in front of me, watch out! Like that Chocolate Mousse Cake looking at you, kid. Even when the discussion involves people drinking chocolate over 1000 years ago, those old…

500 Years of Grapes and Wine in America: A Remarkable Story

Curated by Prof. Dan Longone and Jan Longone, February 16-May 29, 2009 Clements Library, University of Michigan Open to the public, free of charge, Mon-Fri 1-5pm Lecture on the exhibition, Sunday May 10, 3-5pm Prof. Dan Longone and Jan Longone Co-sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor PLEASE ADDRESS ANY QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS TO:…