donderdag 27 november 2014

Chef Livingstone: Food Memory Generator

Food writers write no more and generate your food memories and your recipe introductions with Livingstone.

Foraging in Southern Italy my favorite, slightly eccentric, aunt explained to me how to prepare tomato sauce, it takes food to a whole new dimension. Drizzle with olive oil.

When I was studying in this tiny curry place in Jaipur a toothless fisherman showed me how to cook regional lentils, it takes food to a whole new dimension. A glass of red wine will completely finish it.

When I was a student in Thailand the great-grandson of the Moghul of the Punjab explained to me how to prepare offal, it brings back so many memories. Also delicious with bread or rice.

The months after my divorce in a place not mentioned in any guidebook a very experienced chef made me understand how to combine spicing and Yorkshire pudding, it brings the cuisine of Southern France to your kitchen at home. Yummy.

When I was in the Canadian wilderness the South-African mother of my best friend showed me how to cook regional cabbage, is has that sharp richness you normally associate with China. It is tender and juicy.

I was looking for inspiration in a teahouse in Jakarta the great-great-granddaugther of Napoleon's cook showed me how to combine Ethiopian flavors with rabbit, it tastes like nothing else. Add ginger for extra punch.

dinsdag 18 november 2014

The #FungiVerse [updated]

Recently I read Cynthia Bertelsen's compact but dense 'Mushroom, A Global History', a book on the cultural and gastronomic history of the mushroom. My favorite chapter deals with the domestication of the mushroom, it argues that large scale exploitation of mushrooms is a very recent phenomena and that much is still being done to bring new species under domestication. To see if I could reproduce this observation I turned to the 'What's on the Menu' dataset hosted and created by the New York Public Library. One of their files (Dish.csv) contains the first and last occurrence of over 400.000 dishes. I searched he names for all these dishes for the occurrence of a number of different mushrooms. This resulted in the following image that clearly shows how new fungi other than the common white mushroom still are for American restaurant visitors. Enoki, ceps, shiitake and even chestnut mushrooms are all recent additions. The file used gives titles and not actual ingredients. But I would think that it catches at least every use of the truffle as they are too expensive to use without telling. Click to enlarge.

This image shows with what other ingredients the mushrooms were combined with. 

Could we by combining the data behind these 2 images in order to say how the use of mushrooms has changed through the years? I wish you luck if you want to find out. You will need it.

vrijdag 14 november 2014

The Columbian Exchange in Three examples

Example one:

Bernal Diaz, author of the only eye-witness account of Cortez' conquest of Mexico writes:
"I sowed some orange pips near another of these temples ... The trees came up very well, for when the papas saw that these were different plants from any that they knew, they protected them and watered them and kept them free from weeds. All the oranges in the province are descendants of these trees." 
Interestingly enough Diaz scratched out this passage from his manuscript thinking it was of no consequence.

Example Two:

From Cynthia D. Bertelsen's book "Mushroom, A Global History" I quote from page 44: 
"Ethnographic studies indicate that many of the ancient cooking practices can still be found in isolated Italian villages... where the older woman within the community fry field mushrooms with sweet green peppers"
A sweet pepper is of course in the capsicum family, a plant from the new world. 

Example three:

Below is a table copied from William Balee's fabulous book on Ka'apor ethnobiology "Footprints of the Forest". The Ka'apor practice swidden agriculture in the Eastern Amazon, the kind of people often portrayed as isolated and living according to ancient ways. Here is a list of the old world plants and trees in their gardens, 22 in all.

The Columbian exchange is final and has touched even the most obscure corners of this planet.

woensdag 12 november 2014

Gary Snyder & Julia Martin: Nobody Home [review]

This is proving to be a good year for us fans of Snyderiana. Earlier this year the correspondence between Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder (my review here) appeared and now there is 'Nobody Home Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places'. It is a beautiful slim volume that fits perfectly in the side-pocket of your backpack, the perfect format for all books. It collects three interviews with Gary Snyder and the correspondence (1983-2011) with the interviewer Julia Martian, a South-African academic and Buddhist. The interviews are nice but hardly surprising, Snyder as a writer and thinker has a one-track-mind that amtraks towards the next station at his pace and without room for deviation. A near 100% of his output sits on a continues line of what he wants to say and for his steadfast reader these letters allow you to get a ever closer look on the minutiae of his intellectual development. Compared to earlier volumes you do get a little closer to Snyder as a man of teaching and travel, and there is also slightly more shown of the emotional events in his life. The real star of this book for me is Martin. I never heard of her before but we get to know her in her students years writing long overbearingly intellectual letters from the isolation of South Africa to her self-chosen teacher. As the years go by you follow the way she matures and comes into her own. At the background are the great events of her countries recent history: the fall of apartheid, the presidency of Mandela, the normalcy of violence, the presence of deep history and nature. A better title for this book would have been: "Growing up with Gary Snyder".

At the end of the book letters turn into email and this changes the entire tone of the correspondence, less formal, more kindhearted and also quicker, shorter and more pragmatic.

Not once does the word beat or beatnik fall. 

I like seeing Snyder with one of those 1980's pen holders. I always wanted one when I was a child but the only thing I could do was try to make one with toilet paper rolls. And he had one: lucky bastard.