Day 2: Oysters – Celebrate American Food History

Jonathan Swift once quipped, “It was a brave man who first ate an oyster.” And an even braver one who pried open the shell without special gloves and knives. Actually, it’s more likely that our hero (or heroine)  used a rock to smash into the mollusk. Oysters kept people alive in the early days of colonial North America,…

Tooth Dullers and Weevil Castles – Life Before the Mast

Englishmen, and more especially seamen, love their bellies above anything else. ~ Samuel Pepys In which we meet ship’s biscuit,* that sustainer of seafarers, soldiers, and travelers since the days of the Romans’ buccellum and before. Only a hammer could do justice to this twice-cooked, rock-hard bread made only of flour, water, and salt, this…

A Tarte to prouoke courage either in man or Woman.

Thomas Dawson’s pie recipe (The Good Housewife’s Jewell, 1596) was meant to impart courage to a man or a woman, the sweet potato being considered an aphrodisiac at the time: A Tarte to prouoke courage either in man or Woman. TAKE a quart of good wine, and boyle therein two Burre rootes scraped cleane, two good Quinces,…

The Culture of Food in England 1200 -1500

And along comes another new book about the history of English food! My cup runneth over! This one – The Culture of Food in England 1200 – 1500, by C. M. Woolgar – looks promising, for he begins Chapter One by referencing a word game from late medieval England: A carve of pantlers (those ‘who looked after…

Recipes for Thought

I just received a most intriguing book – Wendy Wall’s Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen (2016) – and thought that some of you might find it to be of interest. This, from the conclusion, sums up the author’s theory of what a recipe book meant, and likely still means: “The recipe…

Nothing Fishy about It: England’s Iconic Fish and Chips

(Photo courtesy of E. Forrest) Britain’s national dish is no longer bloody roasted beef, but rather fish‑and‑chips: batter‑fried fish and French fries, that is. Without fish‑and‑chips, eaten by millions of Englishmen everyday, the British economy would probably plummet and the national health care service grapple with more heart patients, no doubt. But fish‑and‑chips must be…

Medieval England: Medicine as Food, Food as Medicine

Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food. ~Hippocrates Food and medicine, always intertwined in the human  imagination. Because – obviously – the earliest English settlers brought their food habits and medicinal beliefs with them to what is now the United States, I relish books that provide background to the English way…