Relishing the Cranberry: A Real American Original

Bad cranberries don't bounce. Bad cranberries don't float. Bad cranberries sink. In fact, cranberry growers bounce their cranberries seven times over a four‑inch high barrier before packing. Imagine buying unbagged cranberries in the grocery store, with savvy shoppers chasing after red berries boomeranging all over the produce section! Who has ever seen fresh cranberries sold…

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What’s Cooking in Kenya? Ugali, Sukuma Wiki, and the Food of Barack Obama’s Father’s Childhood …

"When two locusts fight, it is always the crow who feasts." Nigerian saying quoted in Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father An article in The Times of London stated that Barack Obama's Kenyan family, members of the Luo group, to celebrate his presidential election victory, slaughtered four bulls, sixteen chickens, and a number of sheep…

Cooks, Kitchens, and Places: Josephine’s Tale

Since modern photography only came into being around 1816, when Nicéphore Niépc combined camera obscura techniques and paper with photosensitive qualities, the faces of so many people will never be known to us. Those of the rich, the powerful, and the occasional peasant – thanks to artists such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder – we their…

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,…

Day 1: Tuckahoe – Celebrate American Food History

It's soon to be a big, big day for Gherkins & Tomatoes - on July 28 G&T will celebrate eight (8) years (!) of writing about food and food history. Why, that's 1,181 posts. Yes, there could - and should - have been more lots more, but we must take into account the time spent writing…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

Christmas in the White House: President Benjamin Harrison’s Carlsbad Wafers and His 1890 Christmas Dinner

President Benjamin Harrison, being a card-carrying participant of the Gilded Age, and his wife Caroline Scott Harrison served an unusual dinner on Christmas day, 1890. (The menu follows below.) Unusual in one way. Carlsbad Wafers. Huh? The mention of Carlsbad Wafers stopped me in my tracks for a minute. Like a curious cat, whiskers trembling,…

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…

Let Me Count the Ways: St. Valentine’s Day 101 (Yes, There’s a French Connection)

Remember the old shoeboxes for valentines in your grade school classroom? How you'd decorate your box with all sorts of frou-frous and hope the cute little boy (or the cute little girl) with the dimples would give you a valentine card, one of those mass-produced things? In school, at least, probaly no teacher ever told…

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…

Cooking with Saint-Pierre (John Dory)

As it fell on a holy-day, And vpon an holy-tide-a, Iohn Dory bought him an ambling nag, To Paris for to ride-a.* ~~ Child Ballad #284A: "John Dory" I first met John Dory at the open-air fish market in Rabat, Morocco. He's a solitary soul. Doesn't hang out too much with his own kind. And…

La Malbouffe, Oui ou Non? Fast (Ethnic) Food and the French

If you saw the following headline  pop up on one of the many news feeds streaming into thousands of computers around the global, you might think, "Oops, some editor didn't ingest their caffeine fix in time!" French Get the Taste for Fast [Ethnic] Food (Click on the link above to read the article that inspired…

Les Quatre Mendiants au Chocolat, A Candy Offshoot of Provence’s Thirteen Christmas Desserts

Gorgeous, huh? Yummy? You bet! And the best part is that, with a quick flick of a switch and your wrist, you too can make these beauties, part of the Thirteen Desserts of a Provençal Christmas. Mendiants au Chocolat Noir ou Blanc Makes about 75 - 100 candies, depending on size of circles 1 pound…

The [Culinary] Heroes of France

They're not in the Panthéon in Paris, where France entombs her heroes, but from all the adulation they receive, you'd think they would be. France not only treats its chefs like celebrities or royalty, but the country  sometimes even views these men (usually they're all men) like gods. Here's a taunting image by photographer and…

Coconut Groves and Coconut Dreams

"Columbus had no idea, of course, of the almost infinite ramifications of his voyages on the way future people would eat." ‑‑Raymond Sokolov‑‑ Why We Eat What We Eat(1991) Trying to get the meat out of a coconut is like trying to pull a tooth without Novocain, a very painful process. I know---I tried to…

Saffron: The Gold We Eat

Once used as money instead of gold in Don Quixote's Spain, saffron costs upwards of $1000 US per pound. Indeed, the world's costliest spice.  Most likely you will not have ever seen saffron for sale in your local grocery's spice department. Knowledgeable customers ask the store managers for it; they keep it behind the counter,…

From Mother Russia with Love: Meaty Mushrooms and Relentless Lent

One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit’ po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. ~~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory…

Idylls of Cuisine, #52

[A photograph, and nothing more, for silent contemplation.] *I usually don't write anything for these "picture-only" posts, but I encourage readers to check out the "Shelf Life" Web site, because of the clever commentary on packaged foods and retro food-product ads. A column, "Shelf Life," appears monthly in the National Toronto Post as well.

Of Carrots and Things

Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot. Irish Proverb A memory, augmented and tempered by time ... and carrots. I close my eyes and scraps of the past flicker through my mind. The last carrot rasped against the finest “teeth” on the four-sided grater, orangy juice pooling slowly into a small puddle in the…

Diana Kennedy’s Menu for Charles, Prince of Wales

In 2002, Diana Kennedy, well-known author of Mexican cookbooks, served the following menu to the man who would be king, Charles, Prince of Wales:* Cocktails & Appetizers Tequila Apéritifs Fresh Tortillas Small Pumpkin Seeds Toasted and Ground with Roasted Habanero Chilies Guacamole Enhanced with Grapes and Pomegranate Seeds Meal Cream-of-Squash-Flower Soup Pork Loin Baked in…

Adding More Spices to Your Life

Jessica B. Harris, chronicler of many things African, at least when it comes to cooking anyway,  includes a recipe for “Traditional Peppersoup Spice Mixture” in her book, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent (Simon & Schuster, 1998). She says, “I have included this recipe so that you can see the world of new tastes…

The Pope and the Porcupine

When it's soft, eat the stone and throw the porcupine out. Old saying about tough meat. Chef Bartolomeo Scappi (1500-1577) cooked for two popes (Pius V, for one), as well as for several cardinals. Fortunately for posterity, he also wrote a fat, hands-on tome about  cooking and serving food in Renaissance Italy. Terence Scully's invaluable…

Scottish Eggs, Anyone?

Scotland's been in the news a lot lately. But what do Scottish people eat? That's the question. Tea, most likely. That's a good place to start. Oatmeal, in scones and porridge (just for breakfast, you would hope). Yes. And whisky. Scotland produces some of the best whisky in the world. Smoky. Peaty. Can't go wrong…

Eggplant: Mezze Time

With this post, we continue on our journey of exploration , attempting to learn where eggplant came from and how cooks over the centuries treated it. No discussion of eggplant can ignore baba ghanouj, a dish made with puréed eggplant and tahini (sesame seed paste). According to Nawal Nasrallah, author of one of the few…

Pie in the Sky: A Review of Janet Clarkson’s “Pie: A Global History”

You will eat, bye and bye, In that glorious land above the sky; Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die. ~~ Joe Hill*, "The Preacher and the Slave" chorus, 1911 Everybody knows what pie is, right? Wrong, and Janet Clarkson (The Old Foodie) tells us why in…

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.…

St. Joseph’s Day

St. Joseph's Day (March 19) always enthralls me because of the elaborate "tables" that Italian women created in honor of Saint Joseph. In many ways, these "tables" remind me of Mexican Day of the Dead altars. Here's a link that takes you to a site with first-person accounts of the feast-day celebration and customs.

Canelés de Bordeaux

Along with vanilla, a bit of legend perfumes these delicious little cakes from the Bordeaux area of France. According to the Worldwide Gourmet [spelling seems to be an issue here ---  some sources use the term cannelé and others canelé. Paula Wolfert, an authority on all manner of cooking, reflects on what she calls canelés…

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.…