The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff. Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization. Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.
Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role. At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged. Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.
After marrying a rancher, former Los Angeles food snob and vegetarian Ree Drummond found herself in the Oklahama countryside as a ranch wife and mom to four kids, all with big, meat-loving appetites. She set out to “create delicious food - food that would allow me to tickle my cooking fancy, but still make the cowboys’ heart go pitter pat.” Drummond started a food blog called The Pioneer Woman, where she posted step-by-step directions to a number of delicious recipes, starting with “How to Cook a Steak.” Drummond’s mouthwatering recipes, combined with her witty comments and lovely photographs, skyrocketed in popularity, which led to her first book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
Upon first glancing at Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I very nearly put it aside to be reshelved. It was too beautiful. Huge and heavy--laden with photographs--and featuring a cover shot of something that looked as though it took a heck of a lot of time, money and energy to pull off, it didn’t seem like something that would work for me.
But first glances can be deceiving. Almost every recipe involves relatively normal if delicious ingredients. The techniques used are not difficult at all for someone who knows her way around a basic kitchen. These are the sort of recipes which will be made again and again--and be shared with demanding friends. Each is introduced very charmingly, in a way that conveys much about the author’s French experiences.
When one thinks about the U.S. Civil War, or the War Between the States, one does not come up with images of food and recipes. Rather, it is the exact opposite: we think about hunger and even starvation. But the truth is, some of the most creative recipes are invented at times when the basic food elements are scarce.
If you are like me, you probably enjoy exploring different cultures through food. I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations
I would love to be able to go to all these countries and taste their cuisines one day. But for now, I do it through reading. It is truly amazing to learn that many famous cooks and food writers were ordinary people and had to endure many struggles on their quests to find a niche for themselves. In these books, we will travel and experience cuisines both in the USA and around the world.
With the gardening season starting in full force, there are many moments when we plan a project, even get started and then get stuck. Further guidance and reading is required. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library certainly has a large collection of paper copies of gardening books. But what happens if the perfect book is checked out and has holds on it? Or, perhaps you can't get in to see us at the library. Time is running out, and you need to start now.
I was aware of the fact that EBSCOhost has a collection of electronic gardening books but did not know how extensive the collection is. By typing in "gardening," as the search term, I came up with over four pages of results.
To utilize the results of your gardening, there are also many different cookbooks also available as eBooks.
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, seeks to determine through investigative journalism exactly what goes into deciding what we should eat. Pollan explains that as omnivores, humans have such a vast variety of foods that they are able to eat—plant, animal, and even fungi--that it creates a problem within the human mind. Other species such as the koala bear only have one choice for dinner, eucalyptus leaves; because humans have so many choices, deciding what to eat can take up a large part of humans' time.
In order to investigate exactly how we have come to use the supermarkets and the industrial-style meal preparations today, Pollan looks at all of the ways in which people are able to feed themselves. He analyzes first the industrial-style food change, which starts with large farms in other parts of the country—or, in some cases, other parts of the world—and consists mostly of corn products, which leads to a meal served at your local McDonald's. Then he looks into the organic phenomena that we're seeing today, which stemmed out of early ideas about better ways to manufacture food that does not contain hormones and antibiotics that other industrial food chains add. Next, he looks at some alternative food production models, such as grass feed farms. The one that he examines most thoroughly is Polyface Farm, which is located in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Lastly, Pollan looks at the most traditional way of food production—food foraging—with which he produces an entire meal using his own skills in Berkley, California.
There are definitely times when friends and neighbors need a little comfort food. It might be a joyful event--new baby, new house--or it might be in sorrowful times such as a long illness, death, or divorce. Chef Sara Quessenberry and writer Suzanne Schlosberg’s The Good Neighbor Cookbook is an excellent source for the family cook who needs some fresh ideas for food to share.
Recipes range from savory (Smoky Corn Chowder) to sweet (Roasted Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies). They are designed to satisfy, to travel well, and to not require a lot of fussing in the kitchen. Although these recipes work great for times of crisis, these same qualities make them great for book club gatherings, church potlucks, or business breakfasts.
I’m going to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, and as with every excursion to the “Big Apple,” I make a list of must-see places. Usually I include a tea house, a photo gallery, and a farmer’s market. (If you’re a locavore, NYC’s markets are BEYOND compare!). But this time I’m making a reservation at Prune--Gabrielle Hamilton’s acclaimed West Village restaurant. Coincidentally, Hamilton is also the author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Her book, like her food (or so I’ve heard), is exceptional!
Hamilton’s childhood in rural Pennsylvania was unconventional and idyllic. Her father was a stage designer, frequently involved with Broadway productions; her mother, French and a former dancer, spent her days aproned in front of a six-burner stove. The clan lived in a crumbling, 19th-century silk mill. They regularly hosted legendary parties—complete with spring lamb roasting on a spit and an endless variety of creative themes.
With the arrival of summer, there is an abundance of produce all around us. Some of us may be garden-savvy and are already receiving the fruits of our labor from our backyards. All around us the farms and the Farmer's Markets are bursting with great, fresh produce that is locally grown. Why not buy some extra and try canning and preserving some of this goodness? Not only will you be helping out the local farmers, but you will also get the satisfaction of something that you have preserved, and you know exactly what you put into it.
Like any new venture, you do want to read about it and have the proper equipment. The good news is that the equipment is relatively cheap and is abundantly available at local retailers or stores online. Plus your library carries many books on this topic.