May 11, 2016
That’s Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm sixteen years ago, and if you’re wondering who’s responsible for the ramp mania that’s swept the country over the past few years, he’s a good candidate. This photograph is from the April 2000 issue of Gourmet; Food Editor Kemp Minifie bought some ramps from Rick at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, and we were all so excited about them that we decided to investigate Rick’s ramps.
The article informs you, among other things, that the name does not come from Aries the Ram or from the tramp you need to take through the woods to find them. The name comes from the Old English word for wild garlic, hrmasa. (The French name, incidentally, is l’ail des ours – garlic of the bears. Indeed, bears love the stuff.)
In the article Bishop suggests chopping ramp leaves, stir-frying them in olive oil and serving them on pasta. Gourmet’s cooks, however, had a couple of better suggestions.
Flipping through that April issue of Gourmet, I came upon a tribute to Craig Claiborne, who had just passed away. The piece, written by his old friend, James Villas, is fairly astonishing. Right from the start: it opens with Craig calling to be bailed out of jail. “Drunk driving again,” he says.
In his typically curmudgeonly fashion, Villas weighs in on Claiborne’s contributions. “Despite Beard’s saintly legacy and Julia’s phenomenal celebrity, the truth is that it was Claiborne who really pioneered this country’s gastronomic sophistication back in the 1950s when he invaded the Women’s News pages of The New York Times.”
Parse that sentence; it offers a lot of food for thought. And it is entirely true; Craig Claiborne changed the way America ate. Without Craig (who gave voice to, among others, Paul Prudhomme, Madhur Jaffrey, Diana Kennedy, Marcella Hazan and Virginia Lee), American food history would have been very different.
May 9, 2016
12#This 1985 spiralbound cookbook is like no book I’ve ever encountered.
Written by Phila Hach, was was a flight attendant in the early years of Pan Am, back when flying was both elegant and exotic. Despite traveling the world, the author longed for the graceful sweeping hills of the Smokies, the friendliness of the high country, the excitement of the Grand Ole Opry. And she missed Tennessee food. Phila proudly offers up a tour of dishes from famous Tennesseeans. But for me, the high point of the book are Phila’s unusual recipes. Butter Wine Pie!
And this unusual number:
And last, another perspective on the famously curious beaten biscuit. This time no axe required.
And here’s Phila herself:
May 5, 2016
You were all so interested in the Pioneer Cookbook that I want to share a few more details from the Deadwood Centennial Cookbook. Together they weave a fascinating portrait of life on the frontier.
First, some old-fashioned vinegar making. Don’t worry; if you’re confused by one of the ingredients…
…this 1928 Farmers’ Bulletin from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has you covered:
These “bees” were something you’d order by mail, as you would kefir grains. From the USDA’s tone, it seems they were possibly problematic.
And here’s a wonderful way to use up leftover rice. (Not exactly gluten-free….)
Finally, an amazing picture of the Wong family in Deadwood. I’m sorry to say that the book includes no recipes gleaned from the city’s Chinatown.
May 2, 2016
And now for something….insane. That’s the only word for this “cookbook.” Brace yourself for something disturbing, disorienting and dark.
On it’s relatively modest face, this is a book of recipes from a restaurant in a fictional asylum called “Dippy House.” The waitstaff wear straight jackets. The “visitors” are never allowed to leave; perhaps they are the inmates? As the introduction ends the author exhorts readers to “come and see us, we know you should be here.” I believe that’s an author photo on the bottom left.
But let’s get into the “recipes”:
Is this a commentary on recipe-writing conventions? An art piece? The musings of a very disturbed mind? To be honest, I have no idea. It’s just one very strange hand-typed book dating from the twenties, and I pass it on for your edification.
April 24, 2016
Trolling through a box of old papers, I came upon this picture of Hiro Sone in 1983, along with the menu for his restaurant Terra. Hiro’s one of my favorite chefs in the world, and I was curious about what he was cooking thirty years ago. And here it is:
Hiro, was the original chef of the Tokyo Spago, and among the first to fold international flavors into his dishes. Interesting to see that he was already adding Thai curries, tahini, and miso into what was then being called “California Cuisine.”
In the same folder I found the considerably more sedate menu from La Petite Chaya, which was on what was, at the time, an extremely untrendy stretch of Hillhurst Avenue in Los Angeles. (That restaurant is long gone, but there are still a few Chayas in California.)
And finally I unearthed this fascinating artifact, courtesy of Bipin Desai, Professor of Physics and internationally renowned wine collector. Where I got this I have no idea….