MOVE OVER, MAJOR GREY

In keeping with the whole British colonial heritage story [See HERE and HERE for more], here's a change of continents. From Africa to the Indian subcontinent. Chutney. Etymologically, the word entered English via Urdu ( چٹنی ), Hindi ( चटनी --- caṭnī ), and  Bengali (চাটনী) . Chutney is chutney is Major Grey's mango chutney.…

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President Obama’s First “State” Dinner

According to the White House Web site, dated February 22, 2009, the following discussion took place in the White House kitchen: DISCUSSION WITH THE FIRST LADY, SOCIAL SECRETARY DESIREE ROGERS, EXECUTIVE CHEF CHRIS COMERFORD, PASTRY CHEF BILL YOSSES AND STUDENTS FROM L'ACADEMIE DE CUISINE White House Kitchen Here's what White House Chef Cris Comerford had…

Lobster Bisque and Striped Bass à la President Barack Obama

On February 24, 2009, President Barack Obama lunched on lobster bisque and striped bass, along with TV anchors due to report on his "state of the nation" speech. Very interesting was a brief mention of the Obamas' "family dinners": He cherishes family dinner in the White House, where "thorns and roses" is now the favorite…

Carnevale Goeth: A Dip into Austerity and Cucina di Magro

"Thin" kitchen, that's what the "magro" part means here. No, not a galley kitchen. Not a New York loft kitchen. Not even a Paris apartment kitchen. Skinny food. That's cucina di magro. Vegetables. Legumes. Fish. Fruit. Shellfish. The bones of the Mediterranean diet. No meat, at least none that walks around on four legs. Or…

Strawberries, a Meditation

The following poetic musings by Alison Luterman come from Bread, Body, Spirit: Finding the Sacred in Food (edited with commentary by Alice Peck; quoted here with permission of Alison Luterman): Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then…

“Food,” by John Updike

The other day I discovered a delightful book, small, about the size of  a deck of Tarot cards, adorned with one of those old-fashioned ribbons for marking favorite passages, like a tiny red tongue sticking out. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Poems about Food and Drink, selected and edited by Peter Washington (Everyman's Library Pocket…

Carnevale Cometh: Ricotta and Fritters, Oh My!

Fritters and Carnevale, lumped together like ham and eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, risi e bisi, rice and beans. Ricotta fritters, to be exact. True, most people associate ricotta fritters more with St. Joseph's Day, March 19 in Italy. But those fritters lean toward the filled variety, sweetened, creamy ricotta delivering a tantalizing surprise with…

George Washington’s Family Cookbooks

Martha Washington's cookbook tells a tale, one that really needs no elaboration:  George went through life toothless. Recipes for soft puddings, quidonys (a type of fruit preserve), and jellies abound. Of course, puddings testified in part to the, well, Englishness of the Father of Our Country and his wife. But the fact of the matter…

Carnevale Cometh: Cenci By Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet …

Hereupon, a whole host of absurd figures surrounded him, pretending to sympathize in his mishap. Clowns and party-colored harlequins; orang-outangs; bear-headed, bull-headed, and dog-headed individuals; faces that would have been human, but for their enormous noses; one terrific creature, with a visage right in the centre of his breast; and all other imaginable kinds of…

Carnivale Cometh: Lasagne di Carnevale

And now for the food of Carnival, as interpreted by cooks in what is now Italy. (See previous post on Carnival for more history.) Greasy, fatty, protein-rich, oozing with cheese or sugar, the dishes created for Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) served a higher purpose than merely feeding hungry stomachs: the severe Lenten proscriptions…

TRAIL OF CRUMBS: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home

By Kim Sunée Grand Central Publishing. 376 pages. $13.99 (paperback) If human nature perplexes you, be assured that Trail of Crumbs will leave you wondering even more about the nature of humans. Trail of Crumbs joins the ever-increasing ranks of a new food-writing genre --- the food/culinary memoir. Recent members of this club include:  The…

No Longer an Old Wives’ Tale: The Measure of Garlic’s Medicinal Powers

It's official. Garlic really does act against free radicals. And now we know how. Count Dracula feared garlic (Allium sativum). And with good reason, according to a study conducted by researchers at Queen's University in Canada and published in the January 2009 issue of the international chemistry journal, Angewandte Chemie. Long known for its beneficial…

Four Food Groups of the Apocalypse

Frank Rich briefly mentions food in his January 31, 2009 NYT op-ed "Herbert Hoover Lives." He asks (and answers his own question), "What are Americans still buying [eating]? Big Macs, Campbell's soup, Hershey's chocolate and Spam - the four food groups of the apocalypse." Apocalypse??? Interesting way of putting things. The Spam thing caught my…

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…

A Reflection on Poetry and Writing About Food: Mark Doty and “Souls on Ice”

As I cooked a Diamond Jim-sized American breakfast this Super-Bowl-Sunday morning - pancakes with real maple syrup, thick-sliced bacon from Edwards' Surry smokehouse, scrambled eggs, and orange juice - I considered taking a picture of my cholesterol-laden plate for "Gherkins & Tomatoes." But hunger beat me to it. In the end, the only picture I…

Another Fish in the Sea: Mullet

Of all the nurslings of the sea, mullets have the most gentle and just disposition, harming neither each other nor any other creatures, never staining their lips with blood but...always feeding on the green seaweed. ‑‑Oppian‑‑ Ancient Greek Poet Silvery jumping mullet cause otherwise staid fishermen to jump for joy, especially now since fall passed…

Carnevale Cometh

Soon the streets of Venice will overflow with a flood --- not of water, as usual --- but of tourists and food. For soon the rituals of Carnevale, or Mardi Gras (also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday ) will once more surge into popular culture. The official date of Mardi Gras in 2009 falls…

Tavern on the Green: 125 Recipes for Good Times

On February 9, 2009 comes a new, feel-good, remember-the-booming times kind of cookbook that drops names of big stars and celebrities, along with terrific recipes, Tavern on the Green: 125 Recipes for Good Times. Written by the owners of the famous New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green, Jennifer Oz LeRoy and her mother…

Roots on My Mind: Rutabagas

'The next we come to is the Rootabaga Country where the big city is the Village of Liver-and-Onions,' said Gimme the Ax, looking again in his pocket to be sure he had the long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it. .... ~~Carl Sandburg, Rootabaga Stories Rutabagas (Brassicca napus), also called…

“CONCH AIN’T GOT NO BONES”

Old Creole balladeers and veteran conch (pronounced "konk") eaters know that, yes, "conch ain't got no bones," but it sure sports a shell. Piles of queen conch shells (Strombidae gigas) litter the Caribbean islands, as do pithy native sayings about conch: "He beats his wife like one beats a conch," a sad commentary on Haitian…

Braving the Elements, Slogging Through the Crowds, Eating Thanks to Whole Foods: Inauguration 2009

Up at 6:30 a.m., out the hotel door at 8:00 a.m., a bit of my homemade granola rumbling in my stomach, lubricated with some 2% ultra-high-temperature milk. Down to the Third Street tunnel, completely devoid of cars, looking for all the world like the set of Wall-E the movie. But there were people there, thousands…

All the President’s Tables: Ulysses S. Grant’s 1873 Inaugural Supper

The punch froze. So did the canaries. Brought in to sing for the guests, the poor creatures stiffened seemingly in mid-air, falling to their deaths onto the guests below. Luckily, supper began at 9 p.m. with hot coffee and hot oysters. And the people needed something hot to forget their blue noses and the sad…

All the Presidents’ Tables: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s First Inaugural Luncheon, 1953

January 20, 1953 In 1953, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) started the now-traditional ritual of hosting a luncheon for the incoming President and Vice President. General Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed tremendous public recognition because of his role as Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Any man who could keep the troops…

All the President’s Tables: Harry S. Truman’s 1949 Inaugural Luncheon

Like Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman first became president after the death of an incumbent president. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Truman took the oath of office in a subdued and quiet ceremony in the White House. The 1949 inauguration, on the other hand, presented an entirely different story. To begin…

All the Presidents’ Tables: Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Lunch Menu 1981

Reagan's first inauguration boasted the honor of being the first inauguration celebrated on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Held in Statuary Hall, Ronald Reagan's 1981 luncheon featured a "California Cuisine" menu. The U.S. Air Force String Quartet and  U.S. Army Strings performed for the 200 guests. Each guest received a series of frameable…

Cristeta Comerford: White House Chef

The news is out --- Cristeta Comerford will remain as White House chef, according to an article in yesterday's The Huffington Post. Lots of great photos with that story, BTW. From the AP wire story: Cristeta Comerford took the job in 2005 and is the first woman and first minority to serve as executive chef.…

Inaugural Luncheon 2009: Menu and Details

According to an e-mail from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the 2009 Inaugural Luncheon looks like this. Note that recipes are also included; click for a .pdf file of the recipes. Around 200 guests will attend this exclusive luncheon in Statuary Hall. Design Cuisine, a top-flight caterer in Washington, designed the menu, which…

All the Presidents’ Table: George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Menus

According to the official Senate committee on the 2005 inaugural, The 2005 Inaugural Luncheon menu draws upon historic ties to the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806.  In the early twentieth century, the preparation of a decadent layered scalloped course was a common style of menu presentation. Creamed seafood…

All the Presidents’ Tables: Bill and George Tête à Tête

President-Elect George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton met for lunch in December 2000  in the Clinton White House to discuss the impending transition of power.  This is what they ate: Squash soup Greek Salad Filet Mignon Upside-down Apple Tart w/ Maple Ice Cream* I think it's interesting that there's no quarter given to vegetarians…

Sunday Suppers at Lucques: A Review in Rhapsody

Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber (Knopf/New York, 2005) Sunday suppers --- not something you associate with high-class dining. Right? Wrong. Award-winning California chef, Suzanne Goin, of Lucques and A.O.C in Los Angeles, started serving Sunday suppers at Lucques in 1998. Each Sunday supper - always a three-course extravaganza of appetizers,…