Posts Tagged ‘books’

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.

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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

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.

During the coast to coast walk across France, I could eat dessert with every meal. And for breakfast.  The story of my solo trek and the meals I enjoyed in the Pyrenees region is between covers now and includes recipes.  Kindle version is also available.  

Crème Catalan

4 egg yolks

4 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp flour

4 cups milk

half a stick of cinnamon

fresh lemon rind, grated

1/4 cup superfine granulated or caster sugar for caramelized topping

4 ceramic ramekins or a shallow ceramic serving dish

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the granulated sugar.  In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with a little milk to make a paste.  Pour remaining milk into a saucepan, add the cinnamon stick and grated lemon rind and bring to a boil, then remove the pan from heat and let the perfumed milk cool.  Strain the perfumed milk onto the paste mixture in a non-reactive sauce pan (stainless steel, glass or enamel) and heat gently, stirring constantly.  The mixture should thicken and when it comes to a boil, pour the crème (custard) into a shallow oven proof dish or into small ceramic serving dishes.  Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the custard with superfine sugar and gently burn the surface with a chef’s torch if you have one, or pass the ramekins under the broiler for a few seconds until the top of the custard is browned and sealed with the sugar.

Selected Reading List::Literary Non-Fiction, Biographical and Autobiographical  Writing  with a Culinary Focus

Aresty, Esther B.  The Delectable Past.  Simon and Schuster. 1964.

Beard, James.  Beard on Food. Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.

Behr, Edward. The Artful Eater. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992.

Bemelmens, Ludwig.  La Bonne Table.  Simon and Schuster, 1964.

Brillat-Savarin, Anthelme.  The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy.  Translated by M. F. K. Fisher.  Arion Press, 1994.  (original translation copyright 1949, The George Macy Cos. Inc.)

Clark, Robert.  James Beard, A Biography.  HarperCollins,  1993.

Colwin, Laurie, More Home Cooking, A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, HarperCollins, 1993

Conrad, Barnaby, Absinthe: History in a Bottle, Chronicle Books, 1988.

Critchley, Laurie and Helen Windrath, editors.  Feast! Women Write About Food.  Distributed by Trafalgar Square, N. Pomfret, VT. The Women’s Press, UK 1996.

Cronin, Isaac. The Mindful Cook. Finding awareness, simplicity, and freedom in the kitchen.  Villard, 1999.

David, Elizabeth.  An Omelette and A Glass of Wine, Lyons & Burford, 1997

David, Elizabeth.  South Wind Through the Kitchen.  The Best of Elizabeth David.  North Point Press, 1999.

Davidson, Alan. A Kipper With My Tea, North Point Press, 1990

de Pomaine, Edouard.  Cooking in Ten Minutes

Dorenberg, Andrew and Karen Page.  Dining Out.  John Wiley & Sons Inc.  1998

Dumas, Alexandre.  Dumas on Food.  Selections from Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine.  Translated by Alan and Jane Davidson, Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.

Fisher, M.F.K. Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me, Journals and Stories, 1933-1941.

Pantheon Books, 1993

Fisher, M.F.K. The Art of Eating 50th Anniversary Edition, Wiley Publishing, 2004.

Fletcher, Angus, Colors of the Mind.

Gray, Patience. Honey from a Weed, North Point Press, 1986.

Harrison, Jim.  The Raw and the Cooked.  Grove Press, 2001

Jenkins, Steven.  Cheese Primer.  Workman Publishing Co., 1996.

Kummer, Corby.  The Joy of Coffee:  The Essential Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying.  Chapters Publishing, 1999.

Leibling, A. J.  Between Meals. North Point Press, San Francisco, 1986

MacDonald, Betty.  The Egg and I.  Penguin Books, 1956.

Murray, Catherine Tripalin, editor.  A Taste of Memories from Columbus Park.

Reardon, Joan.  M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child and Alice Waters: Celebrating the Pleasures of the Table. Harmony Books, 1994.

Romer, Elizabeth, The Tuscan Year.

Root, Waverly, The Food of France, Vintage Books, 1992.

Schwabe, Calvin, Unmentionable Cuisine

Simeti, Mary Taylor.  Pomp and Sustenance- 25 Centuries of Sicilian Food, Henry Holt, 1991.

Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. Three Rivers Press, 1973.
Thorne, John with Matt Lewis Thorne.  Serious Pig – An American Cook in Search of His Roots.  North Point Press-FSG, NY 1996.

Thorne, John with Matt Lewis Thorne.  Pot on the Fire – Further Explits of a Renegade Cook,  North Point Press, 2000.  Box 778, Northampton, MA 01061.

Thorne, John.  Outlaw Cook, 1992

Thorne, John.  Simple Cooking, 1987. He also publishes a newsletter called Simple Cooking.

Todhunter, Andrew. A Meal Observed. Alfred Knopf, 2004.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri and Maurice Joyant.  Translated by Margery Weiner.  Henry Holt and Co. 1996

Welsch, Roger. Cather’s Kitchen.

West, Michael Lee, Consuming Passions-A Food Obsessed Life, HarperCollins, 1999

Wolfert, Paula.  Cooking of Southwest France.

French Gastronomy -The History and Geography of a Passion

Jean-Robert Pitte, Columbia University Press, 2002

207 pages, including index.

Leading off with a tongue-in-cheek discussion on whether gourmandism is a sin in France (or anywhere), the author is equally at ease citing evangelical and Pauline epistolary evidence as the classical Greek and Roman philosophical commentators on how to live life well.  For those concerned with the eating habits of Jesus, the author points out that once the fasts ended, Jesus ate and drank heartily with the best of them.

From there, the lively analysis moves to explain that French food is so varied because it lay on the path between the warring and striving clans of the past.  Political changes brought trade and the next thing you know, wealth builds, which buys good cooks, fine ingredients and the leisure to stay at table.

The Parisian dedication to eating and measuring success by wealth of the table long predates the ostentatious 1890’s or the studious culinary minimalism of the 1980’s.  The Venetian ambassador to the King of France in 1577, surely no bumpkin, commented on the diverse provisions and how rich and  poor alike eat well.  (p. 80)  In the early 19th century Parisians could buy strawberries in January, grapes at Spring solstice and pineapples year round. (p. 82)

The big advance in French cooking occurred with the change in meat preparation from roasting on an open fire or boiling in a suspended pot to a raised prototype stove called a potager.  Built of bricks and tiles, the potager existed in Italy a century before it arrived in French kitchens in the 18th century.  Hot coals were arranged inside the potager and cooks could simmer broths, stir sauces, and braise meats. “Henceforth, cooking was done standing up, close to the source of heat, a position more favorable for producing complicated hot dishes.” (p. 97)  Of course the elaborate presentation caused the food to cool by the time the dish reached the banquet table.

In more recent centuries, the author’s primary source archives expand.  Chapters dedicated to the French royal and imperial kitchens extend to the rest of Europe because any duke worth his salt wanted a French chef.  Contemporary French food nationalism, street eating habits and the revival of regional producteurs dedicated to traditional specialties come under Pitte’s scholarly scapel, always leavened with humor and graceful translation by Jody Gladding.  In the end Pitte is hopeful that the French will abandon fast food and nouvelle cuisine, returning to their gourmandizing (sinning) ways.

by L. Peat O’Neil

This review was published in Bloomsbury Review.

Endless Feasts – Edited and with an introduction by Ruth Reichl

Modern Library, 2002,  401 pages, no index, $24.95

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 death of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York as told by Louis Diat, 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 Gourmet magazine delving into food, travel, taste and personalities.

Do travelers possess innately sophisticated palates that drive them to sample the world’s cuisines?  Or, does travel expose people to different, perhaps fresher ingredients, unusual preparations and intriguing cultural traditions?  The bond between food and travel is logical.  Go traveling and you’ll be foraging, whether at the Ritz or a Louisiana 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 travelers’ meal; other times, how bad.  These stories are nearly all about  the great meals and the iconoclasts who cooked them.  A few stories include recipes.

by L. Peat O’Neil

This review appeared in Bloomsbury Review




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