Food speaks to us and in us, in a language before words. Food talks to our darkest depths.
Inside the kitchen, the ranch hands might be eating eggs, scrambled or fried in the fat from home-smoked bacon or ham or pork chops or sausage, biscuits sopped in sorghum molasses, warmed-up leftover mustard or turnip greens and green beans, boiled hominy under red-eye gravy, fried potatoes, fried apple rings, crisp fried oatmeal mush drizzled with sorghum or Karo syrup, "whole egg" custard, pearl tapioca, and slabs of fruit, pecan, or Chess pies.
Oct. 30, 1986 | Read full article
It was easy, out of the chaos of meals, to feel that when you canned, you were making art.
Rebecca led me to her pantry, opened the door, and showed me shelves on which she lined up pickled beets (my recipe, taken from Adelle Davis’s Let’s Cook It Right), dilled green beans and dilled okra pods, mint pears and lime pears (from her grandfather’s recipe), and peaches and black cherry preserves and apple butter. We sat at her kitchen table and spread butter and the black cherry preserves onto the steaming muffins.
August 8, 1991 | Read full article
Once the pie is brought to the table, I like to take a moment to admire it. I like to give a chance for the pie to wet the mouth with anticipation of its tastes. I like to contemplate the lustrous, lightly browned crust.
Set on a middle rack in the heated oven, a transformation that is almost sorcery begins. While I wash out the bowl, knives, dust flour off the pastry board, baking fruit’s aroma begins to perfume the house. Thirty, 40 minutes later, I will open the oven door a few inches and peer in. The oven’s radiating heat rises around the pie in waves that are indistinct, like the contour of a dream.
May 21, 1992 | Read full article
The beet’s sweet earthy flavor marries brilliantly with “sours” — vinegar, citrus, sour cream.
“Fresh beets are kind of challenging to homemakers. The beets get their hands all reddish and they really don’t know how to prepare them. They have to be washed off, and most people don’t know how to peel them, don’t know that they can be blanched and their skin sloughed off. So they take a carrot peeler to them and they have some trouble with that method. People don’t do it a second time.”
Sept. 30, 1993 | Read full article
By the time I’d managed three or four Thanksgivings, nothing about the dinner caused me worry except the giblet gravy.
I wrested the 25-, 30-pound thawed turkey out of the refrigerator (one of whose shelves I would have had to remove to accommodate the huge bird). I undid the metal wire that bound the turkey’s legs together at the ankle and spread apart the still-frosty legs; the cold flesh squeaked. I put my hand deep into the bird’s chilly interior and pulled out the slimy paper bag that held the turkey’s neck and giblets.
Nov. 25, 1993 | Read full article
The hippie and health nut moms of my acquaintance were milky, splendid earth mothers; their food was good for you, but bad flavor and texture were often the cost of good nutrition.
If your mom was a late 60's or 70's hippie, she well may have made your rice pudding with brown rice and added chopped dates and coconut to the mixture and then baked it. The hippie and health nut moms of my acquaintance were milky, splendid earth mothers, loving and lots of fun with their kids, their food was good for you, but bad flavor and texture were often the cost of good nutrition.
Jan. 6, 1994 | Read full article
My husband was a big help when it came to kneading dough
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
World War I landscapes we fitted out with porch swings and gramophones, a painted white band shell in the city park, hand-cranked Fords and hand-cranked telephones and hand-cranked ice cream makers, all the artifacts of our grandparents’ lost, drowned world. My husband would say that the “river, then, was fat with trout.” I would say, “the train still stopped in every little town.”
Feb. 3, 1994 | Read full article
For that first meal for guests, I as easily could have prepared some dish of my mother’s.
Bare hands rub and finger the cabbage and carrots and raw meat. Sweat on your palms, so slight that not even you feel it, carries your body salts and other castoffs into everything you touch. Skin flakes so small you’d need a microscope to see them drift off your hands and arms and face, down onto dinner’s ingredients. Eight-legged skin mites, for whom your shed skin is perpetual feast, ride atop these skin flakes.
Mar 3, 1994 | Read full article
One by one, starting in the 1940s, says Gianinni, canneries phased out. Freezing plants came in.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
“We close our drainage ditches in late November and we keep water on the beds 25 or 30 days, all of December, then we drain it. You can make an asparagus field last 30 years, or, you could kill it off in five. If you don’t quit cutting it and let it go early to reestablish itself, you’re going to weaken it. But sometimes a guy needs money and the market is good, he’s gotta keep going.”
Apr 14, 1994 | Read full article
Back then, you started your baby on Gerber’s baby oatmeal at three months, you added applesauce and mashed banana at four, and strained vegetables and mashed potatoes at six.
How difficult it must have been for Rebecca, at 17 months, from reigning in her mother’s heart, being always the first thought, to waiting for the baby to nurse, for the baby’s diaper to be changed, for the baby to be dazzled quiet with sleep. I don’t think there’s any doubt that for the first child, the second is paradise lost. She seemed hurt, but not unendingly. She tiptoed, she whispered, so the baby wouldn’t wake.
July 28, 1994 | Read full article
We checked how much was left of our sloppy Joe casserole topped with canned french-fried onion rings or our almond chicken salad or our relish tray ringed round with radish roses.
When you got a new desk calendar in December, by which time ground was frozen and trees leafless, you marked down third Thursday afternoons for guild and fourth Sundays for potlucks. You X-ed the Wednesday evenings for Lenten Bible study. I’d begin thinking what I’d wear to Bishop’s Tea and what I’d knit and bake for next year’s bazaar. I was proud my knit hats sold out the first morning and that older Calvary ladies praised my workmanship.
Nov. 10, 1994 | Read full article
“Most sweet potatoes keep like rocks. You can store them anywhere."
Mr. Scheuerman said that the best-looking, best-tasting sweet potatoes grow in California. “There’s a reason,” he said. “Our sweet potatoes don’t get as much rain as they do in the Deep South, and because they don’t get wet and because, generally, they grow in a sandier soil, they don’t become misshapen and lumpy. In California, the shine on our potato skins is so high that we don’t even have to wax our sweet potatoes.”
Feb. 2, 1995 | Read full article
Every day I went out under gray skies to Netta’s garden patch and sat on my heels and looked down at the rhubarb.
Mrs. Forrest liked to lean on her canes at the garden’s edge and talk. She showed me where, along the edge of Netta’s garden plot, two rhubarb plants for 20 years had been growing up in early spring and in midsummer dying down. She laughed, “You can’t kill rhubarb.” Netta’s husband planted the rhubarb, Mrs. Forrest said, “Lord, that man liked his mess of stewed rhubarb, and that man liked a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie.”
March 9, 1995 | Read full article
Not until 1929, when cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar introduced a one-eyed sailor named Popeye, did spinach become a routine dinner ingredient.
This year, he said, he was “trying out various sunflower seeds, onion seed, some beans, quite a number of flower seeds, things you can’t buy elsewhere, really good things. We’re trying a new strain of sugar snap peas that we think have a tremendous possibility. Also, we are growing some new strains of a white, round radish, the finest, most delicate radishes I have ever tasted. They are very long-lasting, get quite large, and still produce delicious eating.
March 30, 1995 | Read full article
Easter Peeps, Palmer chocolate bunnies. These marshmallow animals are part Nerf toy and part food.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
We couldn’t use pectin because pectin is fruit-based. We wanted to make deep flavors, like chocolate pudding, and use real ingredients for flavoring to make the beans taste closer to the real product. The little kidney-shaped bean was nicer to eat, it wasn’t such a clump of candy in your mouth. Your teeth get right into the center of the bean. So, that was the birth of the Jelly Belly. That was 1976.
April 13, 1995 | Read full article
My grandmother was rarely in the house, and when she was, she was dusting, scrubbing, disinfecting, swatting flies, washing and starching and ironing and then baking all of our bread, pies, cakes, canning and pickling and preserving and then tatting, embroidering, crocheting.
My grandmother stated that on her farm she had “more land than the eye could take in.” How a woman, then in her 60s, labored 16 hours a day as she did, I do not know. She was rarely in the house, and when she was, she was dusting, scrubbing, disinfecting, swatting flies, washing and starching and ironing and then baking all of our bread, pies, cakes, canning and pickling and preserving and then tatting, embroidering, crocheting.
Oct. 12, 1995 | Read full article
The UPS truck was loaded down with saute pans, salmon poachers, vegetable mills, asparagus steamers, tarte pans, whisks, garlic presses, stock pots, mortars and pestles, demitasse cups.
I complained that Carter and Belva dealt with us as missionaries deal with primitive tribes. I said that the unspoken question in Carter’s and Belva’s prattle seemed to be, “What did you do all these years, without us?” I said that it wasn’t just the talk about food and the culinary competition that had begun to make couples testy with each other. I also sensed all kinds of funny business in Carter and Belva’s hot tub.
Dec. 14, 1995 | Read full article
I have long puzzled over the pleasure ice cream gives. It is food no one needs and almost everyone, at some time, longs for.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
You never quite get over the first wintry spoonful’s arrival on your 98.6-degree tongue. The spoon passes over your warm bottom lip, your lips tighten around the spoon. You slowly suckle the iced cream away from the spoon’s shallow bowl and deep into your mouth. The chilly cream rests upon the tongue, glides as it melts across the taste buds’ papillae, or “gustatory hairs.” Perhaps you press your tongue up toward the roof of your mouth.
July 24, 1997 | Read full article
I am older now, more patient, and can produce an exemplary apricot tart.
“The vegetables,” my mother-in-law sighed, “are so dirty.” She often threw out the big Detroit Dark Red beets and the Royal Chantenay carrots that he carried in a zinc bucket from garden to kitchen. My husband noted that his mother seemed to regard his father’s gardening as some unspeakable, filthy habit. My father-in-law brought in five, six apricots at a time that he ate out of hand. My mother-in-law would have none of them.
August 21, 1997 | Read full article