Lauren Groff’s “Florida”: Nurturing Noirishness

This is the last post I plan to write for "Gherkins & Tomatoes." At least for a long while. After almost 10 years, it's time to fold up the tent, so to speak, and move on. Thank you, all of my regular readers, for stopping by, I've loved getting to know you and sharing opinions. …

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Come to Dinner: A Meditation on Judy Chicago’s Art

Artists and writers often depict society in ways that raise eyebrows and curl lips with disdain. The artist Judy Chicago and her massive installation – “The Dinner Party” – turned the tables on the art world back in 1979. She chose the powerful motif of a dinner party to make her statement. With all the…

A Murder of Crows, An Unkindness of Ravens

They're not visible to the naked eye, but I hear their raucous cawing every day, the very second I open the door.  Crows, maybe ravens. No matter where I live, these glossy black birds congregate. The only place on earth to escape these intelligent creatures lies far south, in Antarctica. Crows and ravens eat whatever…

Traces of Old Florida

I left the house this morning, seeking a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. What I found in my neighborhood proves the resilience of old houses in Florida. Battered off and on for over 65 years by hurricanes of all strengths, these gems still stand. And so does the natural setting around…

9 Years of Writing about History … A Celebration!

Nine years ago, I decided to poke a toe into the world of food blogging. I settled on the name, "Gherkins & Tomatoes," based on a painting by Luis Meléndez, a tribute to the period of history known as "The Age of Exploration." Faced with a blank screen demanding something, anything, the first words that…

Tales of Alligator Flesh and Tails

Alligator meat is quite varied in itself The meat found in the tail is white and sweet, and can easily fried or sauteed. The leg meat is dark and less tender, with a color and texture similar to a beef shank, best used in soups and stews. The body meat is more like that of…

Seeking Food at the Crossroads of History

When it comes to the kitchen, I've always been a seeker, a pilgrim in a more modern sense of the word, "A person travelling to a place of particular personal interest."* It all began on a diesel-perfumed street corner in Puebla, Mexico. I stood in the shadow of a broken streetlight, sunshine and sweaty bodies…

Just a Few Pictures, and a Few Words

Florida is a state where nearly everybody hails from another place. (1) And that idiosyncrasy makes the state an exciting social laboratory for curious (nosy?) people like me. One of the most intriguing questions right now, out there in the wide expanse of the world, is how people deal with "other people's food." (2) The…

It’s the Environment, Stupid

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That's true, now more than ever. Mother Earth needs our voices, now more than ever. Yours, mine, everyone's. And so do all the creatures , great and small, the flowers, the trees, the rivers, and the seas. Now, more than ever. The fragility of the environment…

A Night of Jasmine Blooming

My cookbooks now live in a different room, 600 miles south of the mountains they called home for so many years. Their old shelves still cradle them, though. And the odor of fresh Benjamin Moore paint, christened for some reason Acadia White, permeates the air around them.  Every day for a week I've dragged the paint roller…

Breath and Air and the Mysteries of Spring

  One day you wake up to icicles and yet another dark, distressing gray morning, powdered with snow. And then, the very next thing you know, you're marveling at the miraculous resurgence of greens and yellows and purples scattered along the sides of the road, the warm sunshine cascading through trees, their skinny bare branches…

Art, Spirit, Life: The Joys and the Sorrows of Trees

My mind fills with thoughts of trees these days. I hear of plans to destroy the landscape here and there across the planet. Greed now claims the upper hand over compassion. You might ask, "Why trees? Surely there are far greater issues around which to rally?" Perhaps. For the moment, I just ask one thing…

The Enchanted Bamboo Forest

Standing still, as would a hunter viewing its prey, I let the moment absorb me. On another day, in another time, I might say “I absorb the moment.” But not this day. A sheer green canopy sways above my head. Tiny glimmers of light shining through the laciness recall cloudless nights in the Sahara Desert,…

The Fallibility of Memory, or, The Fabulists among Us

Memory is a funny thing. By "funny," I'm not thinking Woody Allen amusing or Amy Schumer hilarious. No, by "funny" I mean something akin to "strange" or "perplexing" or even "otherworldly." And indeed memory can be perplexing, making it appear as the stuff of fabulists. Trying to remember what happened last week, much less 50 or…

Day 8: Apples – Celebrate American Food History

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Folk proverb Two stories convey the essence of apples to me. The first involves an almost surgical treatment of an apple tree in our front yard: One autumn day, Dad’s boss – Dr. C. S. Holton – appeared at the back door of our rambling old ex-farm house, its…

What is Bliss to Me is Not Bliss to You …

I woke this morning to fire in the sky, my kitchen windows portals to the universe. The knowing hit me: this is bliss, to see, to know, to feel. To be alive, surrounded by a heart-throbbing beauty that really has no name.  Mother Earth shares this bliss with us and with every living creature. Home, as…

Home. What Signifies Home to You?

Home is where the hearth blazes and the old family photos line the entire wall. What means home to you??? [Note: Today's word/prompt is "Home." I am doing a sort of photo challenge at WordPress.com to get back into photography, which has gone on the backburner since I've had so many vision issues.] © 2016…

Shopping for Food in the 19th Century, or, You’ve Got it Real Easy Nowadays, You Know

Claire Howland* opened her left eye, squinting at the mottled ceiling of her bedroom, the peeling paint accentuated by the feeble morning sunshine. Groaning, she remembered something about the upcoming day, market day. She hoped that the new Irish maid, Kate, had prepared the boarders’ breakfast, oatmeal porridge thinned with milk from the stringy cow…

Happy Thanksgiving

No matter what your feelings about the origins of Thanksgiving -  it did NOT really start with the Massachusetts Pilgrims post-1620 - and the impact of the English settlers in North America or Sarah Josepha Hale's influence on Abraham Lincoln, today's holiday has more to do with re-enforcing family ties and culinary traditions often far…

Food, the Dog Days of Summer, and a Few Other Shocking Facts

The dog days of summer arrive, as they always do, abruptly and relentless with a seemingly never-ending swelter.  Visions of panting tongues and listless tails crowd my thoughts. But what does that phrase have to do with summer heat? A quick glance at an etymological source informs me that real, breathing dogs played no role in the…

Hey, Wait a Minute: Glimpsing What’s Really Behind Words like “Ethnic”

NOTE: Today marks SEVEN years since I first started writing this blog. It's been an interesting journey, with many bends and curves along the way. It's fascinating to observe the increasing awareness of how language defines so many cultural attitudes and reveals long-held biases. Take a recent article, "Why Everyone Should Stop Calling Immigrant Food 'Ethnic,'" by Lavanya Ramanathan, a Washington…

What is Home?

What is home? What is not home? The following pictorial essay portrays a number of symbols associated with the United States, and, indirectly, home. Mine, anyway. (If you click on the photos, you'll see far more detail than this WordPress theme shows in the posts. And further clicking zooms in, I've discovered.) © 2015 C.…

On the Move: Contemplating Nuances of Exile

You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first. ~ Dante Alighieri in “Paradiso” As a senior in high school, I endured an almost 3,000 mile journey to a new home, far from the place I'd called home for most of my young life. With that rupture,…

Water – The Staff of Life

Today's been one of those days where I ask myself how people do what they do, get up, drink their coffee, ride the subway or drive 35 miles, only to see a dog lose an eye - a veterinarian's sad day, or maybe just the usual indifference from an arrogant boss. When I started chopping…

On the Street where I Live … or Close, Anyway

Sometimes the details of daily life wiggle right by me. What my eyes don't see! Flabbergasting! But the camera misses nothing. Or so it seems. A slow meandering down the street today, a quick click of the shutter here, a slower one there. And my little town showed me a side I'd never noticed in…

Food, Photography of

Photography is pretty simple stuff. You just react to what you see, and take many, many pictures. ~Elliott Erwitt Truth be told, I love photography for many reasons, one being the sense of peace that comes with observing the world around me. Photography forces a photographer to be centered. To photograph means slowing down and…