Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Poison Romance and Poison Mysteries a Gutenberg eBook

Poison Romance and Poison Mysteries
a Gutenberg eBook

My new project is Double 00 Books, a website dedicated to mysteries, espionage and crime books.

Mysterious chefs and murder by lethal food and drink are popular subjects for the Cozy genre.  The Washington Post restaurant critic and food section editor Phyllis Richman turned to mystery writing after retirement, writing as Chas Wheatley.

C.J.S. Thompson was a prolific writer, physician, collector and analyst of the chemical and toxic properties of food and drink.

His 1899 study Poison Romance and Poison Mysteries is an ebook available for free download through Gudenberg.org.  The ancient art of poison never goes out of style.

Look Out!  These recipes are for White Food.

Lafcadio Hearn House in New Orleans.

Lafcadio Hearn House in New Orleans.

Made of potato, coconut, cream, egg whites, milk, sugar and almonds, these concoctions suggest the type of bland, colorless food that the No White Food  blog plans to avoid.

But these delicacies are something special —  collected and transcribed by the writer-adventurer Lafcadio Hearn who lived in New Orleans from about 1877 to 1890 and wrote for several newspapers.

The recipes are transcribed just as he wrote them, with unusual spelling and style.  You won’t find precise measurements or involved processes here.

My particular favorite is the recipe for Syllabub, a beverage used as a restorative after illness or fatigue.  Apparently Hearn’s landlady would cosset him with a nourishing syllabub when he was under the weather.

Historic plaque for Lafcadio Hearn house in New Orleans.

Historic plaque for Lafcadio Hearn house in New Orleans.

Potato Puffs

Very nice potato puffs may be made by mashing seven or eight potatoes smoothly, and mixing in with them two well beaten eggs, two tablesspoonfuls of melted butter, also well-beaten, and a cup of milk.  Pour it into a pan and bake in a hot stove.

Potato Croquets

Take 6 boiled potatoes – cold mashed potatoes will do – add three tbsp of grated ham, a little pepper, salt and chopped parsley, also, the yolks of three eggs; form into balls, dip in egg and roll in bread crubs; fry in hot lard; garnish with parsley.

 Custard Coconut Pudding

Grate one cocoanut…take a quart of milk, four eggs, and a cup of sugar.  Beat sugar and eggs light, then stir in the milk, and last the cocoanut and such flavoring as you may prefer.  Pour this into a deep pan lined with paste; put fancy strips of paste across it and bake lightly.  (Note, “paste” in this context is pie pastry.)

Blanched Almonds

Pour boiling water on them and let remain in it a few minutes.  Remove the skins, throw the almonds into cold water, drain them from the water, but do not wipe them. Let dry and store or use in other recipes.

Coconut Candy

Four cups of water, 2 -1/2 c. fine white sugar, four spoonfuls of vinegar, and a piece of butter as large as an egg; boil till thick, or about 3/4 hour.  Just before removing stir in one cup of desiccated coconut, and lay in small, flat cakes on buttered plates, to cool and harden.

Inventing New Orleans, by Lafcadio Hearn. Book Cover.

Inventing New Orleans, by Lafcadio Hearn. Book Cover.

Syllabub

Take the juice of a large lemon, and the yellow rind pared thin; one glass of brandy, two glasses of white wine, and a quarter of a pound of powdered sugar.  Put these ingredients into a pan and let them remain one night; the next day add a pint of thick cream, and the whites of two eggs beaten together; beat them all together to a fine froth, and serve in jelly glasses.

Source:  La Cuisine Creole, Lafcadio Hearn’s Creole Cook Book. Pelican Pulishing Co,  Gretna, Louisiana. 1990

Cooking in 10 Minutes.

Cooking in 10 Minutes. Cover of 1994 US Edition.

  Cooking in Ten Minutes by Edouard de Pomaine.

“Do not imagine that ten-minute cooking is going to condemn you to an eternal round of       beef-steak without any of the frills of finer cookery.

Your gas stove has two burners, if not three.  What is to prevent you cooking slices of ox kidney saute’ in butter on the one, while you make a sauce bearnaise on the other?

During the same ten minutes you can prepare both the kidneys and the sauce.  The result is delicious.  I have done it time and again.  Thanks to the sauce the ordinary ox kidneys, despised by the fastidious, assume an aristocratic manner.

You can always prepare meat and a sauce, but are there many rapidly prepared sauces? That all depends on the liveliness of your imagination.  Invent the sauces.  The great thing is to prepare them quickly, and for this you must follow the advice which I shall give you for the preparation of some standard sauces.”

~~~~~

Here’s what Elizabeth David wrote about Pomaine in her book An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.  [pp. 175-182]

“In the days when Pomaine was writing, chefs did not dream of braising vegetables – lettuces, leeks, Belgian endives, for example – without a preliminary blanching.  That rule was immutable, and woe betide anyone who disregarded it.  Dr. de Pomaine bypassed it, and I adopted his method, particularly his recipe for cooling Belgian endives in butter and entirely without a prior water baptism.  That sort of unorthodoxy got one into trouble. …

Doctor Edouard de Pomaine’s real name was Edouard Pozerski.  He was of purely Polish origin, the son of emigres who had fled Poland and settled in Paris after the Revolution of 1863.  …

De Pomaine was the first writer to propound such happenings as the fusion of egg yolks and olive oil in a mayonnaise, the sizzling of a potato chip when plunged into fat for deep-frying, in language so straightforward, so graphic, that even the least scientifically minded could grasp the principles instead of simply learning the rules.  In cooking, the possibility of muffing a dish is always with us.  Nobody can eliminate that.  What de Pomaine did by explaining the cause, was to banish the fear of failure.

Adored by his public and his pupils, feared by the phoney, derided by the reactionary, de Pomaine’s irreverent attitude to established tradition, his independence of mind backed up by scientific training, earned him the reputation of being something of a Candide, a provocative rebel disturbing the grave conclaves of French gastronnomes, questioning the hold rites of the ‘white-vestured officiating priests’ of classical French cookery.

Of a dish from the Swiss mountains, Dr. de Pomaine observes that it is ‘a peasant dish, rustic and vigorous.  It is not everybody’s taste.  But one can improve upon it.  Let us get to work.’ … ”

Resources:

10 Minute French Cooking Blog

Wikipedia article on 10 Minute French Cooking

The following text is an excerpt  from The AtlanticCorby’s Table , 2002.05.01, a book review written by Corby Kummer.   I use this excerpt in classes on Food Writing that I  teach online for UCLA, and at other venues, as an example of how to write an engaging book review and display the essence and motivations of the author.

Corby Kummer’s voice starts here, commenting on Barbara Haber and her book  From Hardtack to Home Fries

Not all women like to cook, of course. But like it or not, most women’s lives are entwined with food.

Barbara Haber.

Barbara Haber.

The recognition that food and everything having to do with it can offer perspective on many aspects of women’s lives led Barbara Haber to build the culinary collection at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe into a powerhouse of women’s studies. In the thirty years since Haber arrived in Cambridge, from Milwaukee by way of the University of Madison with a degree in library studies, the collection has become a magnet for scholars, journalists, and cooks. The Schlesinger is now a national touchstone for anyone interested in food, not just because it houses the books and papers of Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and Ella Fitzgerald (an enthusiastic cook, it turns out), among many others, but because Haber herself is so magnetic.

She’s also a terrific speaker. I’ve long gone out of my way to attend any lecture Haber is giving, knowing that whatever the subject I’ll gain insight into a whole culture as well as the women who were active within it. Through first-person accounts, contemporary books and sources, and her own witty and sharp comments, Haber brings times and places alive. Hearing her on the social structure of the harem at Topkapi, for instance, altered my understanding of the cruel beauty of the Ottoman empire. (Haber and I were on the eve of a trip to Turkey organized by Oldways, the Cambridge-based food think tank; everyone should be able to listen to Haber at the start of a journey.)

From Hardtack to Home Fries offers a collection of nine wonderfully readable essays on an unexpected range of topics that have captured Haber’s interest. Every reader will have her or his favorites. I know that Haber herself is particularly proud of her essay on Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt, the cook who made famously bad food in the White House of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. More than just a terrible cook, Haber finds in her a woman Mrs. Roosevelt valued as a helpmeet, one who cared about the President’s health and about running a sensible household. Julia Child liked that chapter, too: in a sign of her regard for Haber, she wrote a warm endorsement for the back cover after decades of blanket refusals to blurb any book.

Uniform worn by women who worked for the Harvey Restaurants serving railroad travelers at stops in the western USA.

Uniform worn by women who worked for the Harvey Restaurants serving railroad travelers at stops in the western USA.

My own favorite is a chapter on the Window Shop, a bakery, restaurant, and sui generis social-service agency for genteel Jewish refugees who arrived on the academic shores of Cambridge starting in the late 1930s. The oral and written histories Haber collected yield a portrait of a turbulent and fascinating time, along with a good recipe for Sacher torte. I was also pleased to learn about the Harvey Girls—those white-aproned purveyors of good food and rectitude along the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, in a chapter of special charm that recalls a rough and just-civilizing time in our not-so-distant past. A chapter on the early diet gurus Sylvester Graham and John Henry Kellogg offers a crackling (even snapping and popping) account of an odd turn in American health, which gave us our national breakfast not to mention ideas about diet both sensible and peculiar.

Barbara Haber keeps her focus on women’s relationships to food—especially as it pertains to personal finances. She chronicles how several women found dignity, livelihoods, and their own identities by starting catering businesses and restaurants. A lovely last essay tells how she herself came to collect and study cookbooks; it also shows a touching understanding of her own relationship to her mother. An exceedingly valuable appendix includes notes on the many books mentioned throughout, with a bonus of many more recommendations. These capsule reviews are manna for any aspiring food and social historian. They offer a generous taste of the wealth of knowledge Haber has always freely shared.

There are a few recipes, too—ones I’d like to make. “A modified Graham bread” shows what the health-promoting Sylvester Graham really had in mind: whole grains made appealing and somewhat sweet as a kind of bread, rather than just a sweet cracker for a campfire concoction with marshmallow and chocolate (although really, is there a better dessert than S’mores made over an open fire?). Gekochtes Rindfleisch, or boiled beef, sounds dull, but in the hands of the Viennese émigrés eking out a living at the Window Shop, it was a feast reminiscent of home. A feast it is, with its rich broth and fresh vegetables, and also a way of turning a humble cut into a one-dish meal that can last many days by being served as a soup or main course. Finally, baked fudge is an easy confection that demonstrates why Cleora Butler, the recipe’s author, became a Tulsa legend as a talented businesswoman and cook. Like many of the women Haber discerningly chose, she turned her culinary skills into a way of supporting herself and her family.

—By Corby Kummer

book cover

Endless Feasts Cover.

Endless Feasts — Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet

  • Ruth Harkness munching on exotic pheasants left in a Tibetan Lamasery by monks fleeing the Chinese invaders in 1944 because that’s all the food she had.
  • Novelist Pat Conroy in Umbria rediscovering the food and sights through the eyes of his new mate.
  • The demise of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York as told by Louis DiaGou, the chef who was ran the kitchen in 1910 when the hotel opened and was still there when it closed in 1950.

These are just three of the 41 narratives from  the late, great Gourmet magazine.  My grandmother wrote a few articles for Gourmet in the 1940s-early 50s.

I wonder…. do travelers possess innately complex palates that drive them to sample the world’s cuisines?  Or, does travel expose people to exotic — perhaps fresher — ingredients, unusual preparations and intriguing cultural traditions?

The interplay between food and travel is logical.  Go traveling and you’ll be foraging, whether at the street market in Ho Chi Min City, the Ritz in Paris,  a Bayou gumbo shack,  or at Havana, North Dakota’s community run Farmer’s Inn.

Travelers do develop faith in food; a meal is reward for a long day or night’s journey.  Sometimes the story is how grand that  meal; other times, how bad, and the aftermath.  These stories are nearly all about  the great meals and the iconoclasts who cooked them.  A few stories include recipes.

Details on the book: Edited and with an introduction by Ruth Reichl. Modern Library, 2002. 401 pages, no index, $24.95

A similar version of this article appeared in the  Bloomsbury Review.

Cucina Rustica

Abundance of fresh tomatoes.

Abundance of fresh tomatoes.

When I miss Italy — and anyone who’s lived there or eaten at the family table during a visit —  will miss Italy, then this is the kind of food  I create.  Simple, fast and marvelously flavored.  Don’t compromise on the ingredients.  That means : no industrial tomatoes that lack flavor, fresh mozzarella that comes in its liquid, not a plastic shroud, and fresh fish.

Excerpts from Cucina Rustica, by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman , Wm Morrow & Co.,1990.

Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Rucola

Grilled Country Bread with Tomatoes and Arugula, Serves 4 to 6

All over Italy, grilled country bread topped with a mixture of chopped tomatoes and arugula is the most commonly served type of bruschetta. However, we strongly associate this antipasto with Rome during summer, when Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Rucola can make a meal, served with a firm, fresh piece of mozzarella di bufala.

3 large red, ripe tomatoes, blossom ends removed, diced

2 small bunches arugula, stems removed, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 thick slices good-quality country bread

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl gently mix together the tomatoes and arugula. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Grill or lightly toast bread. Rub with garlic cloves. Spoon tomato-arugula mixture over each slice of bread. Generously drizzle olive oil over the Bruschetta.

Pasta con Tonno alla Siciliana

Pasta with Fresh Tuna and Mint, Serves 4 to 6

A variation on a Sicilian dish in which a chunk of fresh tuna is stuffed with mint and garlic and braised in tomato sauce. In our recipe the tuna is diced and quickly sautéed, then added to the sauce to finish cooking. Paper-thin slices of garlic and chopped fresh mint are added at the last moment and cooked very briefly so that their flavors stay strong and bright.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, peeled and cut into medium dice

2-1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch-thick-steaks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 pound imported conchiglie rigate

Place 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion in a large sauté pan. Cook over low heat until the onion is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, partly covered, until juices thicken and a sauce forms, about 15 minutes.

Cut the tuna into 1/2-inch dice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate medium-sized skillet. Turn up heat to medium, add tuna, and toss until tuna is cooked on the surface but still pink at the center.

When the sauce has thickened, add the tuna, mint, and garlic, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until tuna is just cooked.

Cook the conchiglie rigate in abundant salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta well. Place in a serving bowl. Add the sauce and toss gently. Serve immediately.

The Gastronomica Reader
Univ of California Press, 2010

What fun to find, by chance, that the Gastronomica Reader ,which includes my long article about Diana Kennedy and Mexican organic farming,  is featured in a biblio encyclopedia run by an Estonian webarian!  Fun because this connects directly to last week’s Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC where I met the wikipedian from Estonia, Raul Veede.

Synchronicity and random serendipity are the indicators I follow in order to avoid the contrived pressures of marketing, crowd control, issues management, individual greed and social aggression.  Long live the randomness of the internet and the global volunteer efforts of wiki writers everywhere who are the activist-intellectual descendants of Thomas Paine.

Resource: Gastronomica, The Journal of Culture and Food.




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