Day 5: Tomatoes – Celebrate American Food History

Tomatoes, poisonous or aphrodisiac? That was the question lurking in the pot for quite some time after the Spanish and the Portuguese began their voyages to the New World beginning around the late fifteenth century and likely introduced the tomato (and other New World foods) to Europe and Africa. John Gerard, a renown herbalist and…

Peanuts and the Cooking of West Africa

Writers throw out the words “African cooking” all the time. I know. I have written same words, to my great embarrassment. But stop and think about something for a moment. The term “African cooking” is just as ridiculous as calling the cooking of Europe “European cooking,” lumping together the cuisine of France with that of…

* The Legacy of a Typo: A Meditation on Tomato Gravy

Stirring the flour into bacon drippings, creating a blond roux, and sautéing finely chopped yellow onions in the mixture turned out to be quite an adventure. No, I didn’t burn myself – for once – on the lethal combination of hot fat and flour. No, in the seemingly simple and slow act of making tomato…

With Time and Frost, Things Fall Apart

Fall can be a bittersweet time, a time to look forward to cool-crisp nights, hearty meat-and root-vegetable stews, and the smell of burning leaves, that is, you’re allowed to burn them where you live. On the other hand, the coming of fall and frost signifies the end of the growing season, and the beginning of…

Tomatoes, Dust, and a Tasty Soupçon of Africa, Too

My nose burned a little and an odd sensation on my forehead no doubt meant more freckles popping out. I didn’t care. I sat right where I wanted to be on that late August day, in the dirt between two rows of leafy tomato plants. Red globes of all sizes dangled like Christmas ornaments from the plants, the vines sinking into the dust from all that ripe weight.

Becoming Italian

I’m hardly Italian. Nowhere near it. With a family tree first planted in America in 1632, a seedling from a village not far from Norwich, England, we’ve been in the New World so long that we have no ethnic ties or traditions at all. But for some reason, Italian food and culture and history tapped something in my soul. Through my pots and pans, I’ve adopted Italy’s cooking. And dreams of idyllic Italian style. My house walls glow terra-cotta red in the morning sun. Rows of rosemary, oregano, and mint sprawl in my garden. And I collect Italian cookbooks like a money-mad King Midas wallowing in gold coins.