Florida Oranges, and Other White House Desserts

Desserts and sweets served in the White House reflect the culinary history of the United States. The patterns of cooking, eating, and serving food in the White House originally relied heavily on the British heritage of the Thirteen Colonies, a pattern that generally continues until the present day.  Although wars and economic depressions plagued the…

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Muscling in on Mussels

In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone As she wheel'd her wheel barrow Thro' streets broad and narrow (Chorus) Crying "Cockles and Mussels alive, alive O!" Alive, alive O! Alive, alive O Crying Cockles and Mussels Alive, alive O! She was a fishmonger,…

SLIVERS OF BACON, SWEET ONIONS, AND FRESH CHEESE: TARTE FLAMBÉE, FLAMMEKUECHE, OR ALSATIAN PIZZA BREAD

I just cooked this for dinner tonight, in anticipation of the storm-of-the-decade. Strasbourg in the Cold (Photo Credit: Cyril Bele)One cold, rainy day in October, I sat in front of a fireplace in a  small weinstub, or bistro, in Strasbourg, France, listening to my growling stomach. I couldn’t face another round of choucroute, that heavy…

Paris, Mon Amour

Paris will always be my first love, at least as far as cities go. I've spent many, many days and nights loving Paris, and France, in the company of people I deeply love, as well as on my own. Yet another ode here, yes, among many. I cried when I heard of the mayhem in Paris, not because…

Vivre en l’Outre-Mer, or, The Trials of Living in French Congo ca. 1923: Part III

Once settled into their bungalow overlooking Stanley Pool in Brazzaville, the Vassals faced the problem of hiring household help, especially a cook. Unlike many Europeans, they found a cook who knew his business, of whom Gabrielle wrote: I am glad, too, to have a change from German cooking.* Our primitive black Matamba is far superior…

Vivre en l’Outre-Mer, or, The Trials of Living in French Congo ca. 1923: Part II

Like many writers of her era, Gabrielle M. Vassal tended not to be very complimentary of Africans in Life in French Congo (1925) and compared them negatively and constantly to the Asians she'd known during her sojourns in Vietnam and China. She recorded her experiences during a trip to Libreville early during her stay in…

Vivre en l’Outre-Mer, or, The Trials of Living in French Congo ca. 1923: Part I

When the French government appointed Dr. Joseph Vassal, Englishwoman's Gabrielle Vassal's French husband, Head of Health Services for Equatorial French Africa (A.E.F.), he exclaimed happily to her, "Je suis nommé en A.E.F." Naturally she asked, "What's A.E.F.?" So he replied "Afrique Equatoriale Francaise," and pointed to Gabon, Tchad, Oubangi-Chari, and the Congo, with its capital…

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…

Cutting Boards and French Comfort Food

Worn and well-used cutting boards like mine, made from one piece of blonde oak, tell stories of past meals. This gouge here, that’s from the day I sliced the boule with the extra thick crust, for the open-faced cheese-and-tomato sandwiches. And that dent there, well, I pressed a little too hard on the chef’s knife…

The Gift of French Cuisine

The French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes. -Alexandre Dumaine I don’t remember exactly when it happened. One day I resisted even opening my then-pristine copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking…

Les Rêves de Julia (Julia’s Dreams): Meditations and Memories

Food and cooking serve as metaphors for life and love. Each plays a huge role in the way I see and photograph the world. I seek to nourish both eye and soul with my photography, in much the same way I feed bodies through my cooking. The work of food photographer Penny de los Santos…

Eating Dessert at the White House + A Word about Dallas, November 22, 1963*

Bill Yosses, the current White House pastry chef says pie is the all-time favorite in the Obama White House, but adds that “The dessert that was the biggest hit last year was a sugar cookie in the shape of the First Family’s dog, Bo. This year we have a black and yellow bumblebee to celebrate…

Pears – an Exploration of Ancient Food Preservation

The soft, beguiling fragrance permeates the air, rising above the aroma of the Jonagolds and the Galas, even over the sweet perfume of the Golden Delicious apples piled in baskets, resembling yellow baseballs. The knobby Bartlett pears (Pyrus communis), also known as the Williams pear, still slightly green but with a small and promising pink…

Remembering Julia Child, “Our Lady of the Ladle”*: A Reprint and More

(Julia Child died on August 13, 2004. Her birthday was August 15; she would have been 92 years old. The following article originally appeared in The Roanoke Times on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2004, page 3 of the Horizon section. I wrote this with tears in my eyes, I'd only met her once. And yet, what…

The Little Fish with Big Taste: The Much-Maligned Anchovy and its Cousins

When I finally discovered that anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus) weren’t just for crappy pizzas anymore, I was pretty long in the tooth, so to speak. It took me a long time to even dare to add anchovies to the food I cooked. In that, I am not unlike other cooks over the centuries: What if I…

Another Holy Trinity of the Kitchen: The Magic of Milk, Eggs, and White Flour

Every time I pour crêpe batter into my 8-inch Teflon*-lined crêpe pan, I see deep scratches, the ones that Habiba made with the fork she used while cooking a three-egg cheese-and-herb omelet one wintry Moroccan morning. The scratches don’t affect the pan’s performance, just as wounds and scars don’t fundamentally change who we are and…

Julia Child’s “The French Chef, ” by Dana Polan

“a history of early American television telescoped through the persona and history of Julia Child. . . . fascinating . . .” When you walk the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can’t miss the lingering traces of heroes and history. From the names of the men who brought you the Boston Tea Party to the…

Macarons – Food of Dreams and Fairy Tales

Macarons. Truly an example of "Don't try this at home." But how I longed to recreate the taste and the crunch of the macarons I greedily ate as often as I could, when I passed that fairy-tale bakery on the Rue de Rivoli, close to the Hotel de Ville metro stop: Maison Georges Larnicol. Although…

Un vrai canard: Duck and French Culinary Traditions

Do you associate ducks, along with snails and frogs, with traditional French cuisine? If so, you're hardly alone. I do, too. And I often wonder, like many of us who write about food, just how some of these traditions begin. I think the answers might appall or thrill us. Last week, I read an old…

Memoirs of a Breton Peasant: Sifting Through the Nostalgia

It’s not often that the words of poor peasants appear in print. And when they do, it’s a cause for rejoicing, especially for scholars pertaining to the Braudel/Certeau school of the history of daily life. What's more, our current nostalgic longings for a more paradisiacal past evaporate quickly in the light of these often ruthlessly real…

Worshipping Different Gods … The French (Food) Reformation

People throughout history reveal their preoccupations through their architecture, artifacts, and the written word. These aspects reflect what matters to societies at various times. It comes down, in a way, to questions of taste, not just alimentary, but cultural and moral. The fashions, the trends, the modes of the day pass and morph into others…

For French Cooks Who …

have everything - or nearly everything - in their batterie de cuisine. A Turbotière, for cooking, well, turbots. Available, the pan, that is, at E. DEHILLERIN in Paris ( 18 et 20, rue Coquillière - 51, rue Jean- Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement) for the princely sum of nearly 570 euros ($826.25). Considering the size of turbots, the price…

L’Armagnac Vieux of the Tour d’Argent (and More)

Beauty comes in many guises. Appropriately for a restaurant in full view of Notre Dame and its mythical hunchback, the dining room of the Tour d'Argent in Paris resembles the prow of a ship sailing off into the sunset. Some critics say its reputation for good food departed some time ago. An auction in December…

In the Parisian Kitchen

Many years ago, when I first fell in love with Paris, I stayed in hotels and suffered through agonizingly mediocre dinners in nameless bistros, always longing for a kitchen of my own, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf. When I finally realized that renting an apartment made more sense monetarily and culinarily, why then I invested in…

Lavender, France’s Balm for the Soul

The lavender lingers on my sloping hillside, autumn rain running in rivulets between the dying leaves. At summer's peak, the purple flowers tantalized the bees and butterflies and me, the glorious scent perfuming the air of evening and morning both. No lambs frolicked in the lavender this year, but maybe someday a friend's weanlings will…

The Joy of France: Open-Air Markets I

Markets in France reflect a long tradition of local foods, now sadly giving way to supermarkets like Franprix, Monoprix, and Intermarché, but still holding their own. With any justice at all, such markets will continue as the local foods movement takes firmer root.