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What Are Oyster Crackers (And How Did They Get Their Name)?
Even though I didn’t grow up in New England and only lived there for about two years, I’m immediately suspicious of any clam chowder doesn’t come with a little packet of oyster crackers on the side. Is it still authentic if there aren’t any oyster crackers? Also, these cute crackers got me thinking: What exactly IS an oyster cracker, and why does it have such a close connection with clam chowder?
Jan 13, 2015
5 Things You May Not Know About Cranberries
Whether you open up a can of cranberry sauce or make your own fancy compote, cranberries are a requisite part of the Thanksgiving menu. These tiny jewel-toned fruits actually have a rich American history that justifies its place on our tables. Here are fun facts about cranberries that you can break out at Thanksgiving dinner to impress your family and friends! Cranberries, along with blueberries and Concord grapes, are native to North America.
Nov 14, 2014
From My Childhood
Neeley came home and he and Francie were sent out for the weekend meat. This was an important ritual and called for detailed instructions by Mama. “Get a five-cent soup bone off of Hassler’s. But don’t get the chopped meat there. Go to Werner’s for that. Get round steak chopped, ten cents’ worth, and don’t let him give it to you off the plate. Take an onion with you, too.
Oct 5, 2014
5 Reasons We Love Dansk Kobenstyle Cookware
I think that there may be one type of cookware that has prompted more “What is that?” questions from readers over the years than anything else, and that is Dansk Kobenstyle.
Aug 27, 2014
The Story of Dry Curaçao’s Improbable Comeback
Thanks to the boom in cocktail culture, liquor store shelves and back bars are practically buckling under the huge influx of new spirits to the market. Some products are sui generis innovations, never seen or tasted before; others represent a look back at spirits of the past, giving our modern palates a sense of what drinking was like decades and even centuries ago.
Jul 30, 2014
Why Carrots Are Orange and Not Purple
At the grocery store you probably see only two kinds of carrots: baby carrots, and the long ones with the green tops. Both of them are orange. If you’re lucky, you might see a couple colorful carrots at your farmers market that are white, yellow, and purple (maybe). But did you know that orange carrots weren’t always the norm? In fact, purple carrots were much more prominent before the 16th century. The history of orange carrots is surprising and a little mysterious.
Jul 29, 2014
The Role of Rum in Early America
In the year 1770 — the same year as the infamous Boston Massacre — the colonies that would soon coalesce through revolution, violence, and democracy into the United States were also home to more than 140 rum distilleries. These operations, many of which were based in New England, produced an estimated 4.8 million gallons of rum per year. Rum was a very big deal in early America; here’s a closer look.
Jun 26, 2014
A Brief History of Rum
With this installment of The 9-Bottle Bar, we aptly pivot from last month’s coverage of sweet vermouth to the tipple on our roster that likely sees its highest rates of consumption during summer. I’m talking of course about rum. One of rum’s defining characteristics is that it derives from sugarcane, the sweet, fibrous, often toweringly tall grass that grows best in the steamy climates of the tropics.
Jun 5, 2014
10 Recipes That Defined the 2000s
This week we’ve been looking at the recipes and foods that defined the past decades, starting with the 60s. Today we’re tackling the 2000s. Although they wrapped up only a few years ago, it’s interesting to look back and already see a change in food trends. The 2000s were a decade of culinary contradictions: We loved fruit smoothies, organic salads, and raw diets, but we also were obsessed with cupcakes, cake pops, and the Atkins Diet.
Feb 28, 2014
10 Recipes That Defined the 1990s
This week we’re looking at the recipes that defined a decade from the 1960s all the way through the 00s. Today we’re talking all things 90s. Compared to other decades, it’s hard to look at food in the 90s without talking about processed snacks like Dunkaroos and Gushers. The decade was also filled with more non-fat dishes, and bougie plates of “tall food.” Of course, regardless of what you ate it was all washed down with a can of Surge or Clearly Canadian.
Feb 27, 2014
10 Recipes That Defined the 1980s
This week we’re talking about the recipes that defined a decade, like the Lipton onion dip of the 60s and the popularity of quiche in the 70s. Today we tackle the 1980s. Beyond incredible dance music and neon outfits, the 80s offered up some new and sometimes surprising developments, including the rise of nouvelle cuisine and the beginning of the reign of Lean Cuisine meals. But of course, no matter what you were eating you had to wash it all down with a wine cooler.
Feb 26, 2014
10 Recipes That Defined the 1970s
Yesterday we talked about the recipes that defined the 1960s, and today we’re delving into the popular recipes of the 70s. While some food trends stayed strong into the 1970s, like fondue, Jell-O, and really anything from a mold, new recipe contenders also stepped into the ring. There was more of an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit in the 70s which corresponds to the opening of Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in 1971. What are your favorite recipes from the 1970s?
Feb 25, 2014
What Are Heritage Grains and Should You Seek Them Out?
I’ve been traveling for the past few weeks to promote my cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings, and I have been really interested in the questions that have been coming up from audience members and students in my cooking classes. Some are about the book, others focus on what I really eat for breakfast, but more and more I’m getting questions about heritage grains and what they are, exactly. Are they really healthier and should we all be seeking them out?
Feb 24, 2014
Wine Words: 1855 Classification
Do you know what the 1855 Classification is? Many of you may already be familiar with the concept, and many of you may not. Often called the 1855 Classification of the Médoc, it is a special Bordeaux wine classification, but do you know what it means, exactly? The 1855 Classification is a Bordeaux wine classification. It refers back to the classification of the red wines of the Médoc and the sweet wines of Sauternes in 1855.
Jan 13, 2014
10 Snapshots of Street Food From the Past
This week I stumbled onto a fun collection of old street food photos from my hometown, Los Angeles, which sent me on a hunt for similar photos in other places around the world. From a bicycling onion peddler in Wales to child factory workers on an ice cream break, these ten snapshots give a brief but illuminating look at the past — through street food.
Oct 8, 2013
The 60th Anniversary of Masters of Wine (And Why There Are Only 312 Of Them!)
I digress from my usual Wednesday column this week to tell you a little about my week in London last week. You see, 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the Masters of Wine title. I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 2011. In 1953, 21 members of the UK wine trade sat the exams. Six passed and thus became the world’s first group of Masters of Wine. At the time the exam was restricted to persons working in the wine trade, and in Britain.
Sep 25, 2013
5 Hangover Cures That Went Mainstream
Everyone has their tried-and-true hangover foods, but throughout history there have been a few cures that were so good, they were embraced by the general population, not just those nursing a headache from the night before. Smithsonian’s Food & Think blog recently shared the history of five favorite foods that got their start as hangover cures.
Jul 25, 2013
The Candle Salad: A Retro Recipe to Make You Blush
Your eyes do not deceive you. The candle salad is a banana thrust vertically into a stack of pineapple rings on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a maraschino cherry toothpicked to the tip. No, this is not some naughty bachelorette party dessert; it is an actual recipe from the 1920s. A holiday recipe. Later printed in a children’s cookbook.What on earth?
Jul 17, 2013
10 Cheeses and Their Literary Counterparts
Forget wine. Pull out a book by one of these 10 authors for your next cheese pairing! As a former English major and current food lover, I confess to little fits of glee whenever I come across anything food-and-literature-related. (Remember these writers’ cocktails or this list of writers’ favorite snacks?
Jul 3, 2013
George Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea
In 1946 English novelist and journalist George Orwell published an essay in the Evening Standard entitled “A Nice Cup of Tea.” For everyone who’s ever believed there’s an art to making a good cup of tea, you’ll definitely enjoy Mr. Orwell’s 11 “golden” rules for the perfect cup. Read the full essay below:Originally published January 12, 1946 in the Evening Standard.
Jun 26, 2013
Who Made That? A Look at How Brunch, Salad Spinners, PB&J & More Came To Be
Ever wondered how the things we take for granted actually came to be? Take the salad spinner, for example, or the word “brunch.” And who came up with peanut butter and jelly in the first place? The New York Times magazine answered a few of those questions in their Innovations Issue a few weeks back. (You may also be surprised to learn that low-carb dieting was a thing way back in 1825!
Jun 25, 2013
Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables: Why Choosing Specific Varieties Matters
Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for our health, right? We’ve all heard that for years, and it is true. But according to Jo Robinson, author of the forthcoming book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, what really matters is choosing the right varieties of those fruits and vegetables.
May 29, 2013
Grits, Demystified: A Brief Look at a Southern Staple
“It’s the most powerful food in the landscape of American culinary experience,” according to Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, producer of handmade milled goods from organic heirloom grains. Glenn is a purist. His favorite way to enjoy the delicious milled corn dish is plain, eaten alone and with reverence. I can’t say that most of us southerners are so calm around our grits, but we do love them.
May 16, 2013
Beatrix Potter’s Recipe for Gingerbread
Today Beatrix Potter’s very rare personal recipe book will go on sale in London. The children’s author is most famously known for creating the Peter Rabbit stories (although there are no recipes for rabbit in the book!). The 161-year-old book recipe book is full of what were most likely family recipes, probably handed down over generations, with recipes for sponge cake, roast turkey, curry, and gingerbread.
Sep 27, 2012
Sando, Sarnie or Sammie: What Do You Call Your Sandwich?
The sandwich is a universally loved item, with variations on the theme found throughout the world. What’s also different are the nicknames people have for two slices of bread and a filling. Do you call your sandwich by a special name? The sandwich was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who, legend has it, would order his meat tucked between two pieces of bread in order to keep his hands from getting greasy while playing cribbage.
Sep 17, 2012
A Brief History of Smorgasbord: It’s Not Just a Buffet!
While smorgasbord has come to mean any old buffet offering a choice of foods here in the United States, the term originated in Sweden. Its roots are found in the upper class of 14th century Sweden where a small spread of bread, butter, and cheese was offered before mealtime.The smorgasbord grew to include meats, both hot and cold, and at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm it officially became the main meal instead of an appetizer.
Aug 16, 2012
Xiao Long Bao: Tracing the History of Chinese Soup Dumplings
A person’s first taste of the Chinese soup dumplings called xiao long bao is a magical one. I’ve seen it again and again on the faces of friends and family eating the dumplings for the first time at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, a nearby outpost of the Taiwan-based soup dumpling chain: there is wonder, followed by bliss, and finally greed, as they mentally calculate the remaining dumplings divided by the number of people at the table.
Aug 9, 2012
Family History: How To Document Recipes That Aren’t Written Down
Whenever I ask one of the older cooks in my family how to make a particular dish, the answer is inevitably, “Oh, you just add a little of this and a little of that…” Request that measurements be given in cups and tablespoons, and they’ll either shrug or laugh. Most of the time there is no “recipe,” and all the knowledge lives in their heads and hands.“You just have to watch me make it,” says my dad.
Jul 30, 2012
The History of the Espresso Machine
What is espresso and how did it ever come about? These questions are at the heart of Smithsonian Magazine’s recent dive into the history of the espresso machine, which is a fascinating read for any coffee lover.Contrary to what you might think, espresso is not a roasting method, or bean or blend. Rather, it’s a method of preparation so precise and molecular that no discussion of espresso could exist without discussing the machines and how they changed the whole business.
Jun 21, 2012
Literary Drinks: 10 Famous Fiction Writers and Their Cocktails
I recently came across a 2006 NPR article on famous fiction writers and their signature drinks, which sent me down a rabbit hole looking back at the history of this pairing. In celebration of Cocktail Week on The Kitchn, here are 10 writers and the boozy concoctions they drank and wrote about. Ernest Hemingway: The Mojito – Hemingway is associated with a number of cocktails (he was, after all, a heavy drinker), but none more so than the Mojito.
May 9, 2012
Downton Abbey Premiere Recipe: Kitchen Garden Cake
The second series of “Downton Abbey” premieres this weekend on PBS and if you’re as obsessed as we are, you might be planning your very own viewing party complete with period-appropriate food and drink. Here’s an Edwardian-era cake that we highly recommend. It includes several ingredients you probably have in your winter larder … and don’t worry, it’s much better than Mrs. Patmore’s salty pudding!
Jan 4, 2012
Oyster Stuffing: Is it Worth All the Shucking?
We’ve never had oyster stuffing. Have you? Whoa, it’s a lot of work if you’re talking about shucking dozens of fresh oysters to chop and bake with your bread cubes. But the payoff (we hear) is that the bread soaks up the oyster liquor, and you get a richness that’s beyond what sausage or a little chicken broth can offer. As for the origins of oyster stuffing… it’s complicated.
Nov 22, 2011
Vintage Kitchen Tool: Can You Guess What It Is?
While antique shopping the other day, we purchased this curious Bakelite-handled kitchen gadget. At first we just liked the way it looked but then we realized it might actually be very useful. Do you know what it is?It’s a pie trimmer and sealer! To use it, one would roll the wheel and its prongs along a pie crust to crimp the edges. Although this isn’t an essential pie making tool (we generally use our fingers or a fork to do the same job), it just seems fun to use.
Sep 16, 2011
100% American: How the Crispy Taco Was Invented
Even growing up in Southern California, as a child the only tacos I ate were made of seasoned ground beef, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese in a crisp, yellow, U-shaped shell. When I was finally introduced to the soft, vegetable-less, cheese-free taco truck version, I realized the tacos I grew up eating were not Mexican at all. But where did the American taco originate? And what’s with the crispy shell?
Aug 22, 2011
Retro Find: The 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library
Last week at a thrift store I spotted a red box that, when opened, revealed itself to be a time capsule of 1971. Preserved inside was a collection of Betty Crocker recipe cards for dishes that are both mesmerizing and a little horrifying. What were Americans eating in the early ’70s? You might not want to know.Because the collection was released by Betty Crocker, many of the recipes include packaged Betty Crocker brand ingredients rather than from-scratch instructions.
Jun 22, 2011
Throw It At the Bride: A History of the Wedding Cake
Did you know the first wedding cakes were thrown at brides to ensure fertility? They were then piled up with other baked goods in a mound over which the bride and groom tried to kiss. If they did it without upsetting the pile, they were guaranteed a prosperous life.From mutton pies to cardboard cake decoys, read on for more strange moments in the history of the wedding cake.
Apr 25, 2011
Mother Sauces: Are They Important for Home Cooks?
Quick, name as many mother sauces as you can – no cheating! How many did you get? Or maybe the better question is how many do you actually use?Mother sauces are the cornerstone of classic French cuisinebegin with a rouxmayoaioliThere’s actually some debate about the mayo being a mother sauce at all since it’s not a true sauce in the “cooked” sense and can be considered a version of hollandaise.
Sep 27, 2010
What’s the Deal with Garnish?
To be honest, we’ve never seen the point of that single sprig of parsley artfully balanced on top of our steak or mound of pasta. Why bother when most people simply push it to the side and dig in parsley-free? We’ve given it some thought, though, and wonder if there might be more to garnishes than meets the eye.One of the first reasons chefs started garnishing plates with herbs like parsley and mint was as a breath freshener and a digestive aid.
Apr 22, 2010
Pie Birds (A.K.A. Pie Funnels)
Pie birds (also known as pie funnels, pie chimneys, and pie whistles) are hollow ceramic devices used to keep pies from bubbling over in the oven by providing ventilation from the hot filling through the crust. They originated in Europe and historians often argue over whether they came about in the 1500’s or during Victorian times.The nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” which has the lyrics “Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie” is based on pie birds.
Mar 15, 2010
The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
After seeing Faith’s delectable post about making maple syrup taffy à la Little House in the Big Woods, I was compelled to pull down my battered copy of The Little House Cookbook and pore over the recipes inside. If, like me, you regularly re-read the Little House series as much for the mouthwatering food writing as for the stories, this cookbook is a must-read.
Jan 19, 2010
Happy Dyngus Day! Try Some Polish Food.
We just learned about Dyngus Day yesterday, and man have we been missing out. All those years we could have woken up to boys throwing buckets of water over our heads or hitting our legs with willow branches. All those times we could have been eating kielbasa and pierogi. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, read on…Dyngus Day is a Polish holiday, celebrated the Monday after Easter.
Apr 13, 2009
How To Prepare and Serve Raclette
Raclette is a firm, pungent cheese from Switzerland that is the center of a popular winter social event in the Alpine parts of Europe. The cheese is made of cow’s milk and is salty, and can come in variations made with wine, pepper, and herbs.The word “raclette” comes from the French word “to scrape.” Raclette makes up a simple meal that was enjoyed by shepherds in the fields.
Oct 2, 2008
About the Cream at the Top of Non-Homogenized Milk
Last week in our post about Straus Family Creamery, a reader commented: ok, i recently purchased the straus milk and was wondering what you’re suppose to do with the cream top? do you put it over something, throw it out or leave it in there? When milk is not homogenized, the cream in it rises to the top. This is a natural occurrence, and was more common in the old days.
Sep 24, 2008
Ancient Egyptian Recipe: Ful Medammes
Recently we bought a package of dried fava beans and made this delicious recipe that goes back thousands of years in Egypt.Ful medammes is a dish made of fava beans marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. The dish is a popular street food in Egypt and is traditionally served for breakfast, smeared on pita bread slices with some hard boiled eggs. It’s very flavorful and filling.Recipe:1 lb. dried fava beans3/4 clove garlic, chopped3 tbsp olive oil1/4 c. lemon juice3/4 tsp.
Jun 27, 2008
Survey: Dinner or Supper?
What word do you use to refer to the last meal of the day? Some of us say “supper,” and some of us say “dinner.” We’ve noticed it’s either a regional or a generational thing, and we’re interested in knowing what you say. More on the history of dinner versus supper below…Technically, the word “supper” refers to a light evening meal, and “dinner” is a more formal, hearty meal.
Mar 26, 2008
Word of Mouth: Mirepoix
Mirepoix (mirh-pwah) noun. In French cooking, a mix of carrots, onions, and celery, usually finely diced, and used as the seasoning base for a meat dish or sauce.A mirepoix is often the only seasoning we use for a good pot of beans, like the one we posted yesterday. But when we looked for a post mentioning mirepoix to link back to – nada! Oops. Mirepoix is one of the foundations of the classical Western kitchen, and we rely on it heavily in our soups and stews.
Feb 26, 2008