Ramp it Up!

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.

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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.




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  • Ruth, I am fan!
    Love your writings.
    I am wondering if you ever visited my groundbreaking Ristorante Georgine Cavaiola during the 1980’s in NYC.?
    Fred Ferretti in 1984 wrote a great article in Gourmet about Little Italy and kindly mentioned us. And of course the one and only Mimi Sheraton reviewed GC as well. I plan to do an interesting pop up at some point soon.

    • admin says:

      I was in California in the eighties, so sadly I missed your restaurant. Please let me know when you do your pop up; I don’t want to miss out again!

  • anne taylor says:

    I remember your restaurant, Georgine. Excited to learn you are planning a pop up….
    Thanks Ruth for giving Craig Claiborne his due credit for his important contributions to the then new appreciation of food and wine. He was a master, and his cookbooks today are still of great value.