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food

Jun 26 2013

June is National Soul Food Month

by Glenda

Soul_Food_DinnerSoul food originated in Africa and came to the United States with African slaves. Foods such as okra and rice, which are common in West Africa, were introduced to the Americas as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. These foods were dietary staples among the slaves. Foods such as corn from the Americas, turnips from Morocco and cabbage from Portugal would become staples in African-American cuisine. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible; they were given the scraps: pig ears, pig feet, ox tail, ham hocks, hog jowls, trip and skin of animals. The slaves developed dishes using the scrap parts and these dishes became a part of their daily diet. They used onions and garlic to add flavor and lard for baking and frying. In addition to the scrap animal parts they were given the small intestine of the pig, or chitterlings, which were a poor dish for Europeans during medieval times.

These cooking rituals would be passed on from generation to generation of African-Americans, and these recipes are alive and well even today. Of course these dishes are not prepared in the same manner as during slave times, but they have not changed a whole lot. For instance, chitterlings are prepared in African-American homes during the holidays every year. In my family, my mother, grandmother and aunts prepare chitterlings every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Chitterlings are cooked with onions and garlic the same as the slaves, but are prepared in much nicer cookware and maybe with a little vinegar. Fried corn, a major staple in soul food, was introduced to the slaves by the Native Americans and continues to be a popular dish today. Other products made from corn, such as cornbread, grits, whiskey and moonshine are still a part of the African-American diet.

When I think of soul food, I think of Sunday dinners that include fried chicken, fried corn, macaroni casserole, collard greens, turnip greens, cornbread, fried pork chops smothered in gravy, black eyed peas, potato salad and sweet potato pie. I can smell these wonderful dishes right now. Some people say soul food is not exactly the food a person cooks; it’s that the person cooks from the heart. Personally I think the enslaved African women put their heart and soul into the food they were cooking for their families.

If you would like to cook some of these wonderful dishes, you should come to the library and check out African-American Kitchen: Cooking from our heritage by Angela Shelf Medearis, The Welcome Table: African-American heritage cooking by Jessica B. Harris, and Down Home with the Neely’s: A southern family cookbook by Patrick Neely.  Or for a lighter version of soul food try Healthy Soul Food Cooking by Fabiola Gaines.

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May 8 2013

Let the flames begin!

by Dea Anne M

The month of May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month as well as Older Americans Month and DCPL will be celebrating both with many exciting special programs and presentations. What you may not know, is that May is also National Barbecue Month. I am by no means what you’d call the “outdoor type” but each year when spring arrives I feel myself irresistably drawn to cooking on the grill. Now I don’t know that it’s true that everything tastes better outdoors. A piping hot bowl of chili , for example, probably doesn’t gain in appeal when consumed in 90-plus heat but I do believe that there are certain delicious flavors that grilling enhances. There are the standards, of course, such as steaks, chicken, and burgers but I also favor vegetables like zuchinni, eggplant and peppers cooked to carmelized perfection. I like to grill slices of pineapple and serve them on vanilla ice cream. I’ve even grilled pizzas – a production to be sure and the pies never come out perfectly round – but the result is delicious and the heat of the grill produces a crust redolent of char and crispiness to rival that produced by a professional pizza oven.

Do you like to grill when the weather starts to warm up? Do you favor gas or charcoal? (Believe me, that’s a more than lively debate inbible some circles). What’s your favorite food to cook on the grill? Do you need ideas and inspiration? As always, DCPL can help.

Culinary writer Steve Raichlen is widely acknowledged as an authority on grilling and his book The  Barbecue! Bible is a 500 page plus guide to everything grilled. Raichlen provides recipes from around the globe for grilled dishes and their accompaniments. Grilled Snails might be a hard sell around my house but I suspect that Pancetta Grilled Figs followed by Lamb and Eggplant Kebabs would be met with enthusiasm.myron

The world of competition barbecue is certainly hot these days and throughout the country teams with names like “Squeal of Approval” and “Albert Einswine” vie for money, trophies, and glory at barbecue “opens” and on reality television. One of the best known names on the circuits is Myron Mixon and his book Smokin’ With Myron Mixon: recipes made simple from the winningest man in barbecue could be a good introduction to those who are new to grilling and barbecuing. Mixon’s motto is “keep it simple” and he follows through with clear cut instructions and techniques that will help anyone from grilling tyro to barbecue wizard turn out succulent ‘cue.vegan

Lest anyone brand me as biased toward meat, let me steer you toward Grilling Vegan Style: 125 fired-up recipes to turn every bite into a backyard barbecue by John Schlimm. Packed with recipes and color photographs, Schlimm’s book is definitely not just for vegans. I don’t know about you but Grilled Vegetables and Foccacia and Flame Kissed Eggplant with Hoisin Sauce sound absolutely scrumptious. For more great vegetable-centric recipes and techniques, be sure to check out The Gardener and the Grill: the bounty of the garden meets the sizzle of the grill by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig.pizza

Finally, you might want to give grilling pizza a whirl this spring and summer (I recommend that you do). Be sure to check out Pizza On the Grill: 100 fiesty fire-roasted recipes for pizza & more by Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer. Filled with gorgeous photographs, the book includes a concise, and very useful, chapter on basic techniques and equipment. Many of the pizza bear names like “Magic Mushroom Medley” and “Lucy in the Sky with Pizza”, just in case that’s your thing. Even if it isn’t t you’ll find enough alluring recipes for pizza and the “go-withs” to keep you happily grilling for months to come.

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Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:

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Dec 12 2012

A short personal history of fruitcake

by Dea Anne M

Most of my childhood Christmas holidays were spent with my paternal grandparents and my large, boisterous clan on that side of the family. For us kids, most of the excitement revolved around waking up Christmas morning to see what Santa had left us then (as if we weren’t greedy enough) opening presents later in the morning. Christmas dinner was usually served around 2:00 pm and featured the eagerly anticipated turkey with cornbread dressing as well as my favorite glazed, baked ham. Having been reared mostly in the Northeast and Central Florida, I was unaccustomed to the country style cooking of the South. It was, shall we say, exotic. My mother, an excellent cook with an adventurous palate, usually prepared what she thought everyone would eat and by “everyone” I mean me and my even pickier younger brother. Christmas dinner green beans cooked just about forever with a piece of salt pork were more than acceptable but giblet gravy? Forget about it! Most alien of all perhaps was the once-a-year appearance of the edible substance known as fruitcake. In my grandmother’s house there were two kinds, “light cake” and “dark cake”, and neither one in any way suggested cake to me. First of all, they were loaf-shaped and bare of embellishment.  I knew good and well that a proper cake consisted of two or three round layers heavily frosted. Even worse were the weird red and green pieces studded throughout the cake which I now know were candied cherries. I’m sure I would have liked fruitcake just fine had I deigned to taste it, but there were always cookies and banana pudding both of which settled the dessert question just fine for us persnickety youngsters.

You may already know that Georgia boasts the Fruitcake Capitol of the World, Claxton GA, home of the Claxton Fruitcake Company but did you know that Corsicana TX can make the same claim as it is equally famous for the fruitcakes produced by the Collin Street Bakery? Fruitcake is by no means unique to the U.S. In the Bahamas, dried fruit and nuts are soaked in dark rum for up to 3 months and then more rum is poured on top of the baked cake while it’s still hot. That recipe wouldn’t have passed muster with my grandmother, a strict teetotaler, but everyone might have eaten more fruitcake if it had. Italians eat a highly spiced fruitcake at Christmas time called panforte. In Romania fruitcake goes by the name Cozonac, in Switzerland it’s Birnenbrot, and the people of  Trinidad enjoy a boozy confection called Black Cake which is similar to the  Bahamanian fruitcake.

If you bake fruitcake for the holidays, you likely already follow a trusted family recipe. If not, you could do worse than picking up a copy of  The All-American Christmas Cookbook: family favorites from every state by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies and baking the “Fabulous Fruitcake.” Inspired by the fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery (the actual recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret) it contains a wealth of dried fruit, nuts, and Calvados and looks pretty delicious to me. As promised by the title, the book features a holiday recipe from every state in the union (Georgia’s contribution is Cranberry-Pecan Chutney) and features adorable vintage illustrations. If the idea of Caribbean Black Cake appeals, you’ll find recipe in for it in Warm Bread and Honey Cake: home baking from around the world by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. For a proper British fruitcake, check out Nigella Christmas: food, family, friends, festivities by Nigella Lawson. Lawson presents a really delicious looking “Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake” as well as “Gorgeously Golden Fruitcake” which she describes as “the fruity blonde sister of the brunette temptress” (meaning the chocolate version). Anyway, both look wonderful and well worth baking plus the golden fruitcake is gluten free.

Finally, I can’t leave the subject of cake without mentioning two of my favorite cake-centric books (although fruitcake doesn’t make an appearance in either). One is Vintage Cakes: timeless recipes for cupcakes, flips, rolls, layer, angel, bundt, chiffon, and icebox cakes for today’s sweet tooth by Julie Richardson. This book features beautiful photographs and boasts a truly impressive array of delicious sounding cake recipes. Just reading about such creations as  Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Blackout Cake, and Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting make me want to get out my mixing bowls and beaters right now. Also highly recommended is The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. I’d be the first person to admit that I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to mixes and culinary short cuts but Byrn really understands what she’s doing. I know people who swear by this book and always produce cakes both beautiful and delicious. Allow me to recommend the Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. This spectacular cake is one that my mother pulls out for special occasions and, for a strawberry lover like me, it comes close to cake heaven. Be sure not miss Chocolate from the the Cake Mix Doctor and The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! also by Byrn.

What’s your opinion on fruitcake? Do you have a beloved recipe?

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Nov 14 2012

Good enough to eat!

by Dea Anne M

Last week, NPR’s culinary blog “The Salt” ran an interesting piece on food themes  in Grimms’ fairy tales. Of course, most of us can remember the witch’s gingerbread house in “Hansel and Gretel,” the poisoned apple in “Snow White,” and the laden picnic basket that Red Riding Hood carries to her grandmother through the dark woods. Food often presents a dangerous lure in these stories and sometimes is downright cannibal in nature as in “The Robber Bridegroom” and “The Juniper Tree.” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were compiling their German folk tales during the nineteenth century when hunger was still an ominous presence in many people’s lives and memories so perhaps it’s no surprise that food plays such a central role in these stories.

The NPR story focuses specifically on a new edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm translated and edited by Maria Tatar. Though the book is far from complete, all the most important stories are represented along with fascinating annotations, lavish illustrations, and an introduction by A. S. Byatt. If you are as interested in folk lore and fairy tales as I am then this book is well worth your time and attention.

For other interesting views on fairy tales, check out Clever Maids: the secret history of the Grimm fairy tales by Valerie Paradiz, From the Beast to the Blonde: on fairy tales and their tellers by Marina Warner, and Fairy Tales: a new history by Ruth B. Bottigheimer. More works from Maria Tatar include The Annotated Peter Pan, Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood, and Off With Their Heads!: fairy tales and the culture of childhood. For more about the Grimm brothers themselves try The Brothers Grimm: from enchanted forests to the modern world by by Jack Zipes. Finally, for a really wild take on the Grimms and their work, check out Terry Gilliam’s 2005 fantasy film The Brothers Grimm starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. This movie isn’t for everyone (and definitely not for children…or easily spooked adults!) but I found it weird, original, and very very entertaining.

Do you enjoy fairy tales? What are some of your favorites?

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Oct 17 2012

Soup of the evening

by Dea Anne M

Beautiful soup so rich so green,

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for such dainties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

– from Lewis Carroll

The Mock Turtle recites the poem quoted above in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. John Tenniel’s classic illustration reveal a very odd creature who has the shell and front flippers of a sea turtle and the feet, head, and tail of a calf. The Mock Turtle baffled me as a very young child but its absurd appearance becomes obvious once you understand that Carroll was spinning a visual joke on the typical British Victorian’s extreme fondness for soup made from the meat of the sea turtle. Almost as popular as that concoction was a much cheaper, and more readily available, version made from the “lesser used” parts of a calf. The Mock Turtle is described as a melancholy creature and the speculation among the other characters is that this is so because he used to be a “real” turtle. My opinion is that he may feel gloomy about his ultimate fate. When the Red Queen asks Alice if she has seen the Mock Turtle yet, Alice says that she doesn’t know what a Mock Turtle is. The Queen replies: “It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from.”

I’ve never tasted turtle soup or its mock counterpart and, as Alice might say, shouldn’t hope to. I do like soup though, both cooking it and eating it, especially this time of year. Once the weather turns cool, there’s just something about a hot bowl of soup that makes me feel secure and comforted, especially if it’s wet outside as well. Recently, a co-worker who was in need of some comfort asked me to give her a few soup recipes. “Easy ones,” she said. I suspect that by “easy” she means “quick” and, for me at least, soup-making is a puttering sort of activity—enjoyable but hardly speedy. I hope that I can encourage her to take her time and sink into the process. In any case, I’m going to pass on two of my favorite recipes—Leek Potato Soup and Lentil Soup with Garlic Sausage. Both take time but reward the effort many times over.

Would you like to explore the pleasures of soup-making? Check out these resources from DCPL.

The Daily Soup Cookbook by Leslie Kaul showcases recipes from the Manhattan restaurant (now closed) by the same name. Offerings include Peking Duck Soup and Jamaican Pumpkin. There are even ideas for leftovers.

The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups: recipes and reveries by David Ansel presents such delights as Alaskan Salmon Chowder and Smoked Tomato Bisque. In 2002 Ansel, a former computer programmer, started vending soup to his grateful customers out of a cooler strapped to his bicycle. Full of stories about the often eccentric residents of Austin TX, this promises to be as fun a read as it is a useful cookbook.

My mind often turns to thoughts of soup on a leisurely Sunday afternoon and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy-to-make recipes by Betty Rosbottom looks capable of delivering plenty of inspiration. Recipes like Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cider Cream and Gulf Coast Shrimp Gumbo look perfect for this time of year and the beautiful photographs make me want to want to get to the farmer’s market as soon as possible (on the way to my kitchen, of course).

Finally, I have to mention a charming book about sharing and friendship. Not a cookbook, it is, nonetheless, well worth seeking out and has my favorite title of all the books that I mention here. It is The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup by Terry Farrish.

What’s your favorite soup? Do you like quick recipes or would you rather take your time?

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Aug 22 2012

Cooking the books

by Dea Anne M

I am just one of a legion of fans who love George R.R. Martin’s series of novels collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Halfway into the first book, A Game of Thrones, I knew that I was hooked. Martin’s work inspires a great deal of admiration and devotion in his followers and has been, in fact,  the subject of several posts on this blog ( for example here and here).  One of the latest Martin-inspired creations is the wonderful cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Leher. Truly a labor of love, this book is compiled from the authors’ clever blog, The Inn at the Crossroads (featured in this post by my fellow blogger Jesse). A prominent feature of Martin’s series is his detailed descriptions of meals enjoyed (or not) by his characters. Monroe-Cassel and Leher’s blog project recreates dishes from the different regions that Martin has invented for his books. One of my favorite aspects of both the blog and the cookbook is that there is often a medieval version of the recipe on offer as well as a modern version. The authors have clearly done their research regarding the cooking and flavors of medieval Europe and their notes on the recipes are fascinating to read. Plus the recipes sound delicious!  I for one can’t wait to try cooking the Quails Drowned in Butter and the Almond Crusted Trout.  If you too are a fan of Martin’s work, I encourage you to check out this very interesting work. I promise you don’t have to be a cook to enjoy it!

DCPL has other cookbooks inspired by works of fiction that you may want to look into. Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader edited by Martha McIntosh includes recipes for dishes mentioned throughout Karon’s much beloved Mitford series. Joanne Fluke, who writes a mystery series featuring bakery owner Hannah Swensen regales fans with Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook which features new recipes as well as those from the books. For the younger set, don’t miss The Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories by Barbara Walker if you’re a fan, as was I, of the Ingalls/Wilder saga. Finally, check out Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss! by Georgeanne Brennan. Included are recipes for (among many others) Pink Yink Ink Drink, Glunker Stew, and yes, Green Eggs and Ham featuring guacamole, cilantro, and parsley.

Do you have a favorite cookbook inspired by a work of fiction? Is there a book that you’d love to see inspire a cookbook?

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Aug 8 2012

On the menu…

by Dea Anne M

I’ve always enjoyed reading what I suppose you could call culinary history. Books like The Food of a Younger Land, The Big Oyster: history on the half shell, and Something from the Oven: reinventing dinner in 1950s America are all favorites of mine. I think it’s fascinating to learn about the cooking, dining habits, and available ingredients of people in other times and places. Did you know that at one time the lower estuary of the Hudson River was home to over half of the world’s oyster supplies or that the first frozen dinner was a Thanksgiving type meal of turkey and dressing?

Of course, restaurant menus can provide an important window into the dining preferences of particular people and times. The New York Public Library boasts what sounds like  an impressive collection of menus with its strongest focus on those dating from between 1890 and 1910. Currently NYPL is inviting the public to participate in its What’s On the Menu? project. Participants transcribe menus dish by dish in order to create a wider base of data available to historians, researchers, novelists and anyone else who needs specific information from the menu collection. Right now, the collection’s only searchable information are details such as the name of particular restaurants, geographical location and the like. Imagine though that you are a novelist and you need to find out how much your character would have paid for a plate of oysters at a Cavanagh’s in 1918. Thanks to the Menu Project, you can have your character choose, with complete historical accuracy, either the Lynhavens for 35 cents or the Pan Roast for 45 cents. Maybe your character wants to treat his paramour to pheasant at Delmonico’s on March 11th in 1916. Sorry, it isn’t on the menu, but it will be on April 19th two years later.

The website for the Menu Project provides easy to follow instructions for transcription or review of the menus and their various dishes and you can do as much as you like. It looks interesting to me as well as fun and I’m thinking to give it a try. You can too by simply visiting the web site. No registration is required. In the meantime, I might pursue my menu interest by paging through these titles featuring recipes and stories from some of this country’s historic restaurants:

Manhattan’s 21 Club opened in 1922 as a speakeasy. Featured in many movies and books, 21 is maybe best known for the row of painted lawn jockeys that line the balcony above its entrance. You can read more about the restaurant in The 21 Cookbook: recipes and lore from New York’s fabled restaurant by Michael Lomonaco.

Delmonico in New Orleans opened in 1895 as an off-shoot of New York’s famed Delmonico’s. Purchased and refurbished by Emeril Lagasse, it reopened in 1997. Read all about it (and check out vintage back and white photographs) in Emeril’s Delmonico: a restaurant with a past  by Emeril Lagasse.

Closer to home, Mary Mac’s Tea Room holds a treasured spot in many Atlanta hearts. Opened in 1945, the restaurant serves classic favorites of southern cuisine. Find them all, along with stories of the restaurant’s history in Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 years of recipes from Atlanta’s favorite dining room by John Ferrell.

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Jun 13 2012

Art and appetite

by Dea Anne M

I think I can say that I’m not the biggest Hemingway fan in the world but probably the book of his that I like best is A Moveable Feast — his memoir, told in a series of essays, of his life in Paris after WWI. Perhaps part of my admiration for that book has to do with my fascination with a period of history when  so many American writers, artists, and thinkers made the choice to live and work in Europe far from the limits and conventions of home. Many of these expatriates were not without a safety net though, and I have to admit that a particular passage in Hemingway’s book irritated me for awhile.

“It is necessary to handle yourself better when you have to cut down on food so you will not get too much hunger-thinking. Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it.”

“Hunger is Good Discipline,” A Moveable Feast

Now, Hemingway was far from starving in Paris as his wife Hadley came into the marriage with an inheritance that supported them more than comfortably (of course those dollars went a long way in the Paris of those times). “Hmph!” I thought, convinced as I was that Hemingway was merely posturing. These days, I think a bit more kindly about those lines as a re-reading of the book not too long ago reminded me that the book as a whole deals in many ways with hunger  not so much of the physical body but of the spirit. Hemingway is hungry in these essays for experience and for the dedicated pursuit of art. I believe now that I was overly influenced by a later persona of Hemingway who honestly mostly struck me as a macho braggart. A Moveable Feast reminds me how much more there is to Hemingway as a writer and how very enjoyable his prose can be.

All this musing about Hemingway has been inspired by a favorite website that I have recently discovered, Paper and Salt, whose stated mission is to “…attempt to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.” The site hasn’t been up for a long time and there are not, as yet, a huge number of posts but the writing is both eloquent and entertaining, the photography is beautiful, and the recipes…well,  they’ve made me want to get into my kitchen as quickly as I can and start cooking. I don’t know about you, but Lobster Tail with Spaghetti and Bread Crumbs inspired by the letters of Gabriel Garcia Marquez sounds pretty scrumptious. Apparently,  Marquez enjoyed a long-time correspondence with Fidel Castro and many of their letters involved discussions on best methods of preparing seafood. Oscar Wilde was famous, if not notorious, for his love of champagne and his recipe is a luscious sounding cocktail involving the bubbly stuff and fresh strawberries. I think my favorite post so far though is the one for Truman Capote and Italian Summer Pudding. In Too Brief a Treat: the letters of Truman Capote Capote writes “Food. I seldom think of anything else.” I’m not quite that obsessed (I think), but the posted recipe is certainly something that I wouldn’t mind my thoughts lingering on. Featured ingredients are bittersweet chocolate, raspberries, ladyfingers, and mascarpone cheese. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I think it’s irresistible. Need proof? Just look…

Image from paperandsalt.org

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Mar 7 2012

Concocting the Past

by Dea Anne M

Maybe it was inevitable, but our sometimes food-obsessed culture combined with a growing interest in genealogy might be leading to a new-found passion for recreating “lost” family recipes. That, anyway, is the contention of this recent WSJ article.

Mentioned in the article is Ruth Clark’s fun blog The Mid-Century Menu. Clark’s intent is to select what are admittedly bizarre recipes from circa 1950’s and 60’s cookbooks and test them out. The names alone of some of the recipes (Ham Banana Casserole and Jellied Stuffed Eggs are two) are enough to cause shivers while other dishes sound and look surprisingly tasty.  The images of Clark’s husband Tom tasting, and reacting, to these experiments are a special highlight.

Sometimes recipe recreation requires the equipment of years past. Also mentioned in the WSJ article,  Laura’s Last Ditch will help in the search for the tool of your dreams (or memories). From vintage ice-trays (what?) to donut cutters to manual cherry pitters Laura has what you’re looking for.

Do you have a beloved family recipe that you want to recreate? While contemplating the question, you might want to check out these offerings from DCPL. Any one of them might inspire you…or at least allow you to indulge in a little nostalgia.

Some best loved recipes come from community cookbooks. These are local collections of recipes, often bound with a plastic “tooth” spine, offered for sale by garden clubs, women’s clubs, and the like. I especially love these cookbooks when they feature stories about local families and individuals. Southern Foodways Alliance community cookbook by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge and America’s Best Loved Community Recipes from the Editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine are two collections that provide great stories along with interesting recipes.

Many of us crave the tastes of our childhood and that childhood is often tied to a particular region or ethnic heritage. One of my favorite books that explores taste and memory is The Taste of Country Cooking. Written by the late great Edna Lewis, this book is a  beautifully written memoir that evokes Lewis’s childhood spent in Freetown, Virginia, a small piedmont farming community. Lewis, who has sometimes been called “the South’s answer to Julia Child,” provides a treasure chest of recipes, all tied to the seasons. I loved reading about the special menus her family prepared for such events as Wheat-Threshing Day and Emancipation Day. Highly recommended! Some other memoir/cookbooks that you might enjoy include Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood by Ken Hom, You’re Cookin’ It Country: my favorite recipes and memories by Loretta Lynn, and The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber.

Finally, if you want to take a real trip in the time machine, check out Square Meals: a cookbook by Jane and Michael Stern and Fashionable Food: seven decades of food fads by Sylvia Lovegren. Each chapter in the Sterns’ book features a theme like the World War II era (victory garden vegetable plate suppers and spam recipes among others) or the cooking of Suburbia (1950’s). The writing highlights the Sterns’ trademark witty and tongue-in-cheek style as well as their genuine love for Americana in all its kitschy glory. Lovegren’s book is more of a true culinary history spanning the decades from the 1920’s through the 1990’s and concerns itself with food fads more than it does with what actual people were regularly cooking at home and includes such new-to-me things as the Depression era toast supper and the marshmallow craze of the 20’s. Both of these books make fun reading, and you actually might come across a recipe that you want to try. By the way, pictured to the right is a molded gelatin salad which features what seems to be a mixture of peas, corn, and maybe carrots. That’s not my kind of thing, but who knows, maybe someone, in some kitchen somewhere, is recreating it right now as a beloved flavor from the past.

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