Women and the Building of America: Reflections

Last night, I stayed awake far longer than I normally do, reading Gayle Forman's new novel, Leave Me. The hook for me was "Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train…

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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…

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…

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…

What’s New in Culinary Books

Pigs and hams, barbecue and ice cream --- all are foods associated with joy and love and celebration. In the United States, anyway. And writers take these foods and weave words around and around like so many carefully knitted stitches, creating new books, making this year an exciting time for food and history lovers. The…

Oxford Food Symposium 2009

The Oxford Food Symposium 2009, from an article by Corby Kummer of The Atlantic. The 2010 Symposium will take place in July 9 - 11, at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, England; the conference topic is very timely --- "Cured, Fermented, and Smoked Foods." January 15, 2010 marks the deadline for proposals for talks. Guess what…

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition (Medieval History and Archaeology), by C. M. Woolgar, Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron (paperback, 2009) In the unending quest to find models for culinary historiography, here's another fairly up-to-date addition to the growing list: This book draws on the latest research across different disciplines to present the most…

Ham and Eggs

Omne vivum ex ovo. "All life comes from an egg." --Latin Proverb-- Eggs and Easter go together like...ham and eggs? Well, it hasn't always been that way. Christians first celebrated Easter in the second century A.D. and the Council of Nicaea, convened in 325 A.D. by the Emperor Constantine, set the official date for Easter.…

Fabulous Food Blogs, Round 2

Just in time for a leisurely weekend, a watered-down version of the food blogs Academy Awards. Truthfully, this sort of thing reminds me (uncomfortably, in a way) of chain letters and ponzi schemes, but the fact of the matter is that informal and impromptu blogging awards spur bloggers on, especially when blog  stats come in…

Nachos: Etymology of a Food Word

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides many food writers with the tools to plot out the history of certain foods. But just how do those intrepid word researchers find their information? What's their go-to source? Adriana P. Orr served as a researcher for OED for 25 years. At one point later in her career, she…

It’s Superfruit! It’s an American Thang! It’s The Blueberry!

Call it what you may ---  whortleberry, bilberry, huckleberry, starberry, hurtleberry, buckleberry, or blaeberry. A card-carrying member of the Vaccinium family, with all its cousins. Whatever the Native Americans or the early American settlers called blueberries, today the health media calls them Superfruit. Full of vitamin C and vitamin K, scientists are just now confirming…