by Marion Nestle

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Nov 29 2013

Thanksgiving weekend reading: Hoosh (hint: Antarctic “cuisine”)

Jason C. Anthony. Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine. University of Nebraska Press, 2012.

I’ve just been given a copy of this quirky book written by a guy who spent eight summers hanging out in Antarctica as support staff for the American scientific expeditions.  It’s a treasure.

It never would have occurred to me to wonder what people in Antarctica are eating.  Locally grown, sustainable food?  Not a chance.

As author Jason Anthony puts it,

Is there really such a thing as a venerable Antarctic cuisine?  In a word, no….What visitors to the Antarctic—and we are all visitors—sit down to are imported meals.  There is no Antarctic terroir.

With that said, Anthony offers a food-focused history of the famously disastrous Antarctic expeditions as well as the modern-day  “syrup of American comfort.”

Hoosh, he says, is a stew of pemmican and water which, in its current Antarctic version, is commercial beef and beef fat that arrives in tightly compacted blocks.  Hoosh, you will want to know, is

a cognate of hooch, itself a corruption of the Tlingit hoochinoo, meaning both a Native American tribe on Admiralty Island, Alaska, and the European-style rotgut liquor that they made.

Yum.

The book is replete with photographs and recipes that you won’t want to miss, among them Savoury Seal Brains on Toast, Escallops of Penguin Breasts, and your choice of biscuits from Scott’s Terra Nova expedition or Amundsen’s Fram.

Hooch is an instant food-studies classic.  

I’m not the only one to discover it. Here’s the review in this Sunday’s New York Times.

Nov 22 2013

Weekend reading: Deer Hunting in Paris (Maine, that is)

Paula Young Lee.  Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat.  How a Preacher’s Daughter Refuses to Get Married, Travels the World, and Learns to Shoot.  Solas House, 2013.

The topic of this cross-cultural memoir—game hunting—would not ordinarily interest me but once I starting flipping through its pages I found myself reading it cover to cover.  For one thing, Paula Lee sounds like someone anyone would enjoy having as a friend. She’s easy to be with as she tells the story of her Korean-American background as a Maine preacher’s daughter, and her partnership with a stuffy but warm-sounding guy in Wellesley, Massachusetts who spends every free moment hunting on his family’s property in Maine.  Paula, a trained chef,* cooks what they shoot.    She also casts an affectionate eye on the backwoods hunting culture.  I can’t say it’s a culture I’d care to adopt (I’m not much for killing animals and Maine winters are cold), but I was fascinated to learn about it from a companion who writes well and tells a good story.

*Addition: Paula informs me that she is not, in fact, a trained chef.  She “just cooks” [I'd say she writes about food like a trained chef].  She says she “started out as an academic historian, migrated into the cultural history of meat via a study of slaughterhouses…and am now mostly a food writer focusing on wild meat.”

 

Oct 21 2013

Reading for this week: Ed Behr’s 50 Foods

Ed Behr.  50 Foods: The Essentials of Good Taste.  Penguin Press, 2013.

 

Just got my copy.  Here’s my blurb for 50 Foods:

Ed Behr’s 50 Foods extols the pleasures of his favorites from anchovies to walnuts, with plenty of handy advice about how to tell the difference between a great pear or cheese and one that’s not so great, and what wines make good foods taste even better.  He knows the ins and outs of delicious food, and you will too after reading this book.

Oct 8 2013

Midweek reading: “Disease-Proof”

Katz D, Colino S.  Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well.  Hudson Street Press, 2013.

Here’s the blurb I did for this one:

Disease-Proof is not only about knowing what to do to stay healthy; it’s also about developing the skills to apply that knowledge.  Katz and Colino make the skills look easy.   I especially appreciate how they encourage readers to take responsibility for the health of others as well as themselves, and work toward creating a healthy society for all.

Oct 4 2013

Weekend reading: the history of U.S. vegetarianism

Shprintzen AD.  The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921.  University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

My blurb:

A fascinating account of the nineteenth-century origins of the vegetarian social movement to improve American morality and health. The book stops in 1921 when the Vegetarian Society disbanded, but that movement’s legacy is today’s passionate vegetarians, who comprise a vital part of the current movement to improve food systems and the health of people and the planet.

Oct 2 2013

While the government is shut down, have some fun. Read (not eat) “Candy”

Samira Kawash.  Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.  Faber & Faber, 2013.

New Picture

In this delightful, intriguing account of candy in the United States, Samira Kawash argues that we must stop vilifying this sugary treat and start taking it more seriously—as a cultural icon, a marker of gender identity, a prototype of the marketing of processed foods, a source of pleasure for children and adults, and for good or ill, a contributor to daily diets.

Candy, she correctly points out, is not all that different from many other sugar-laden foods and deserves its rightful place in American diets—in moderation, of course.

Kawash, who writes the candy professor blog, wanted to call this book “In Defense of Candy,” which is what it is.  I loved her writing, her originality, and her sense of humor.  For example, she makes the connection between views of  “sweet, trivial people (women and children) and sweet, trivial candy” and observes that “So much of what we call food today is really candy.”

And so it is.

Sep 24 2013

Out today: the American edition of The Stop

Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis.  The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement.  Melville House, 2013.

This book is now available in the U.S.

Husband and wife team Saul and Curtis wrote this chronicle of Saul’s 15-year stint as the director of The Stop, a place that started out as a soup kitchen but ended up as much more.

This is an important book.  The Stop is no ordinary report on how soup kitchens convey substantial benefits to servers as well as the served.

As I said in my blurb for it:

An impassioned account of how to create food systems that foster independence and eliminate the indignities of charity.   Saul and Curtis put a human face on poverty.  If you want to know what today’s food movement is really about—and why it is anything but elitist—read this book.

I also used it in class last semester, where it stimulated much discussion and debate.  It ought to be available at bookstores everywhere.  Don’t miss this one.

Sep 18 2013

New books on food: San Francisco

Erica Peters.  San Francisco: A Food Biography.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.

For anyone curious about how San Francisco’s foods and restaurants became world-recognized icons of American regional cuisine, this book is a welcome starting place.

It’s one of a collection of books in the AltaMira Studies in Food and Gastronomy, edited by the prolific Ken Albala.  Readers may argue about Peters’ choice of topics to discuss—she left out some of my favorites—but the book is a great way to begin to delve into the city’s food history.  It’s well referenced and is wonderfully illustrated with photographs from historical collections (but alas, most of them are undated).

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