Eight Flavors: My Book is on Sale NOW!

My first book, Eight Flavors:The Untold Story of American Cuisine, DROPS TODAY! You can get it direct from the publisher, on Amazon, Barnes and Nobleindie bookstores–or anywhere else books are sold! For a full list of retailers, click here.

“A unique and surprising view of American history… richly researched, intriguing, and elegantly written.”
The Atlantic

“A breezy American culinary history that you didn’t know you wanted.”
Bon Appetit

“Warning: This book may make you hungry.”
Bustle

“A compulsively readable, surprising and deeply researched culinary history…a wide ranging, open hearted investigation into the way that flavors simultaneously transmit and follow cultures around the globe”
Brooklyn BasedSmithsonian Magazine named it one of the best food books of 2016!

It’s the perfect gift for the foodie in your life!!
AUTOGRAPHED COPY!

If you live in New York City, I’ll be signing copies tomorrow night (Wednesday) at The Lower East Side Tenement Museum after my free Tenement Talk with Melissa Clark, from 6-8:30pm. Afterwards, I’ll be at the launch party at Lucky Jack’s until 10pm. Feel free to stop by!

Tuesday, December 13th I’ll be at The Brooklyn Historical Society leading a panel with Mario Carbone and Jonathan Wu on How Immigrant Cooks Shape American Food. Doors: 6:30 pm Event: 7 pm and I’ll be signing books afterwards.

In the early spring, I’ll be in Boston and Baltimore! More details coming soon.

Eight Flavors: Country Captain Chicken

chickenA chicken curry from the 1850s.

To create my first book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, I researched the eight most popular flavors in American cooking: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. When I dived deep into each of these eight topics, I often found fascinating new information and recipes–some of which didn’t make it into the book. So over the next few months, I’ll be publishing this exclusive content on my blog! If it whets your appetite to read the whole book, make sure to get your own copy here.

One week after the 2016 presidential election, I attended a citizenship ceremony hosted by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Fifteen individuals, their birthplaces as wide ranging as Japan and Iraq, became Americans that day.

The most touching part of the ceremony was a speech delivered by Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, an immigrant herself from Ireland. During her speech, Power choked up while recounting the immigration stories of the families of her closest colleagues. “This is impossible,” she declared at one point, trying to get through the moving stories. She then went on to address the new citizens directly:

You are what America looks like…We are a nation of immigrants, but for as long as this nation has existed, Americans have been harkening back to a golden era, before families like yours or mine got here. It never seems to matter to those people that their parents or grandparents were on the receiving end of similar discrimination when they first arrived in this country. But even if we know deep down that such intolerance is as old as the nation itself, it doesn’t make it hurt any less when we experience it.

You may hear some people say that in order to become “real” Americans, you need to forget where you came from, or leave behind the history that brought you to this moment. Cover up your accent, change the way you dress…Please don’t list to those voices. Joining a new nation does not mean you have to leave behind the one you came from, or what it taught you.

You can watch Power’s speech in its entirety here.

I had attended this citizenship ceremony in the past, in 2013, to see my dear friend and colleague Raj become an American. Raj is an immigrant from New Zealand; his parents are from India. I talk about Raj in the Curry Powder chapter of my book; we went on a “curry crawl” together in Jackson Heights, Queens. In that chapter, I also focus on the stories of Indian immigrants in the early 20th century who were not allowed to receive their citizenship because of the color of their skin.

Often, when I list the flavors I’ve included in my book, I get a lot of push-back about curry powder. Many people don’t consider it an American ingredient. But Indian immigrants have been coming to America for more than 100 years; and we have been cooking with curry powder in this country for over 200 hundred. In fact, a dish called Country Captain Chicken, a traditional dish of the American South, arrived in this country in the 19th century through our Anglo-immigrant roots.

The History

The origin of Country Captain Chickens begins late in the 16th century, when the East India Company was granted a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth. The charter gave the East India Company a monopoly within Britain on trade with the Far East; the company would focus on India.

As the East Indian Company rapidly expanded in the 19th century, more and more employees moved to the “Country,” as India was known. They were posted to a new station in another part of India every three years, which exposed them to culinary traditions all over the subcontinent. When these British workers traveled around the subcontinent, they were carried in a litter by a team of men, the carriers traded out at roadside taverns like horses. The litter itself was misery, being shaped like a wooden coffin in which the traveler slowly baked in the Indian sun. When they stopped for food at a roadside eatery, called a “bungalow,” they were often served chicken. Beef and pork were not served in much of India because of Hindu and Muslim religious restrictions. And beyond that, chicken, no matter what the continent, was the convenience food of the 19th century. If you had sudden dinner guests, you could step out your back door and scoop up one of the chickens pecking around in the yard. A few hours of plucking and butchering later, you had a chicken dinner. It doesn’t sound convenient–but most other meat was seasonal. A chicken was available anytime.

Because British officials didn’t have the same cultural history and connection to each region as a native Indian, when eating at home, they would take the foods they loved willy-nilly from all regions and serve them together. A bowl of Anglo curry could be accompanied by garnishes from everywhere: Persian hard-boiled eggs, Punjabi pickled lemon, Madras-style sliced raw onions, fried papadum bread, as well as British-style crispy bacon. The transient English officials created a trans-continental cuisine, which became the food they imported when they returned to England. 

And that cuisine eventually traveled to America. Country Captain Chicken, a dish inspired by the bungalow dinners of the British, first showed up in America in Eliza Leslie’s 1857 cookbook Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book. Although Leslie was born in Philadelphia, she lived in England from the ages of 5-11. It’s likely that as a girl she was exposed to the Anglo curries being served in British households, and transported her love of spicy, fried Country Captain Chicken back to the States.

curry_chix1Curry powder ingredients according to a 19th century American recipe.

The Recipe

Leslie’s recipe asks the home cook to rub chicken parts in curry powder before frying them up crisp in butter and onions. The chicken is lifted out of the butter with a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain. A sauce is made from the butter and onions, with the addition of a few spoonfuls of coconut. It’s all served over rice, and the crispy chicken skin makes a lovely textural contrast to the sauce.

Country Captain Chicken
Recipe adapted by Jill Paradiso from Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book1857.

Yield: serves 4

For the curry powder:

1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1 teaspoon powdered coriander
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
1 teaspoon powdered mace
1 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper

For the chicken:

Salt
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings)
2 large onions, peeled
1 stick butter
1/2 cup curry powder
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded

  1. Make curry powder by combining the spices. Grind fresh from whole

spices for the best flavor.

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Once water has reached full

boil, add chicken breasts and onions and cook for 4 minutes. Then add

thighs, drumsticks, and wings, and continue cooking another 6 minutes.

  1. Remove the chicken from pot and drain well. Leave onion in boiling

water to continue cooking.

  1. Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss chicken in

curry powder until well coated.

  1. When butter begins to foam, add chicken to pan and cook about 3

to 4 minutes until well browned. Turn chicken pieces over and cook

another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn heat down to low and remove chicken

from pan. Season chicken with salt and set aside.

  1. Remove onions from water. Slice onions in half lengthwise and then

cut into half-moon strips. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to pan

and cook in curry butter mixture over low heat about 8 minutes or until

onions are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

  1. Garnish chicken with sautéed onions and coconut. Serve immediately

over any kind of rice you like.

 


Modern Country Captain Chicken. Photo by Dan Costin.

The Results

By the 1940s, Country Captain Chicken had spread from Philadelphia and appeared in the American South in church-fundraising cookbooks alongside Jello mold with marshmallows. It maintains a crazy level of popularity to this day, with several Southern cities laying claim to its invention. In the contemporary version, the chicken, after being fried, is stewed in the oven in a tomato sauce. And the few spoonfuls of coconut in Leslie’s recipe are replaced by a whole assortment of toppings served table side: slivered almonds, raisins, chutney, orange sections, pineapple and crispy bacon — much liked the varied condiments on the tables of the East India Company in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the South, these condiments are called “boys,” but according to one Savannah hostess, “Anything more than a five boy curry is considered pretentious north of Gaston Street.” Check out a modern recipe here.

 

Much of the background on The East India Company came from the fascinating book Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.

The Perils of Assimilation: How what we eat makes us American, for better or worse.

I’ve got a new post up on Notes from the TenementThe Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s blog, that gives more context to the Eating Like an Italian Immigrant Family experiment I did a few weeks ago. The piece takes a close look at the attitudes of American social workers and nutritionists at the turn-of-the-century regarding the diets of new Italian immigrants, and finds some striking parallels in the present day.

To greet this enormous wave of immigration, there were a growing number of American-born social workers occupying settlement houses, early social aid organizations that tackled the “settling” of new immigrants. The social workers offered a helping hand in Americanization. “The settlement ideal has included the preservation of the dignity and self-esteem of the immigrant,” Breckenridge wrote in her 1921 book, New Homes for Old, “while attempting to modify his habits when necessary… .” For Italian immigrants, it was their cooking habits that needed to be modified.

Although some of the nutritionist’s apprehension about Italian food may have come for prejudice or xenophobia, some of their fears may have been grounded in truth. Anecdotally, Wood saw higher rates of heart disease and diabetes amongst assimilated Italians. And we see a parallel in America today with modern immigrants. In 2013, the New York Times published an article called The Health Toll of Immigration:

“A growing body of mortality research on immigrants has shown that the longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. … For the recently arrived, the quantity and accessibility of food speaks to the boundless promise of the United States. Esther Angeles remembers being amazed at the size of hamburgers — as big as dinner plates — when she first came to the United States from Mexico 15 years ago. “‘I thought, this is really a country of opportunity,’ she said. ‘Look at the size of the food!’”

Read my entire article here.

Eight Flavors: Data Visualization

all

All the eight flavors. Click for a larger image.

My first book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine will be released December 6th, but is available for pre-sale right now. To create the book, I researched the eight most popular flavors in American cooking: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. When I dived deep into each of these eight topics, I often found fascinating new information and recipes–some of which didn’t make it into the book. So over the next few months, I’ll be publishing this exclusive content on my blog! If it whets your appetite to read the whole book, make sure to get your own copy here.

The premise of my new book, Eight Flavors, is that American cuisine can be illustrated by its most commonly used flavors. One of the most freqeunt questions I get about the book is how I picked my eight flavors to focus on.

When I began my research, I made a timeline of recipes from my respectable collection of cookbooks, dating from Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery, the first cookbook published in this country in 1796, all the way through modern American standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I flipped through these cookbooks from different eras: the 1800s, 1850s, 1900s, and 1950s, selecting the most influential tomes from those periods, like Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; Fannie Merritt Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook; and James Beard’s The Fireside Cook Book. I looked for ingredients that significantly affected the flavor of the recipe. After I made a list of commonly used flavors, I plotted them on a graph with the help of Google’s Ngram Viewer, which visualizes the frequency of words in all the books Google has digitized. I set the sample size to American books from 1800 to 2000. When I built the graph of American flavors, it revealed which ones were used the most frequently (and for all practical purposes, were the most popular), when flavors entered our lexicon, and how some grew in popularity while others disappeared. After all was said and done, the results revealed eight winners—flavors that were the most popular, and had never significantly waned in their popularity.

The graph at the top of the page shows them all, and gives a really clear sense of how these flavors entered into our kitchens chronologically. I love in that top graph how clear garlic’s popularity is over the other flavors I talk about.

I write in the book that vanilla replaced rosewater in American kitchens, and you can see that below.

vanilla

Vanilla v. Rosewater

And look at how long curry powder has been used in the U.S.!

curry

Curry Powder

And look at how our use of MSG has declined in the last 30 years. I unpack the perception that MSG is “bad” for you in my book, but you can also listen to some great podcasts on the topic here.

MSG

These graphs gave me a quick and dirty way to identify trends over time, and a wonderful way to visualize how our larger culture was affecting consumption of these ingredients, and vice verse.

Gastropod: The Spice Curve – From Pepper to Sriracha with Sarah Lohman

I’m on the fabulous Gastropod podcast! Talking about my new book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine!

In this episode, Lohman introduces us to the historical and biological secrets behind two of those winning flavors: black pepper and sriracha. Black pepper is such a staple that it’s hard to imagine the American dinner table without it. But we have a grumpy Massachusetts colonial-era merchant and his much friendlier son, as well as the Food Network and a pain-inducing chemical called piperine, to thank for the spice’s ubiquity today.

Sriracha is the latest addition to the American flavor palate, with everything from sriracha-flavored potato chips to sriracha baby food sweeping the market. But how on earth did a Vietnamese spicy sauce used to pep up roast dog become a staple on the shelves of Walmart? Join us this episode as we find out the history and science behind these flavors’ successes—and survive our first, and, we hope, only, black pepper tasting session.

On the podcast, I talk about Martha Washington’s recipe “To Make Pepper Cakes That Will Keep Good in Ye House for a Quarter or Halfe a Year.” If you’d like to read about my experiences with that recipe, and see the finished cakes, go here.

And below is a recipe for a delicious modernized version from my book, Black Pepper Brown Sugar Cookies. I choose to use Sarawak peppercorns from Indonesia, as the pepper has notes of citrus and coriander that lend itself well to desserts. In fact, we notes its sweetness when we taste tested it on Gastropod, and its packaging noted it paired well with sweet creams and fruits. But any black pepper you have will work for this recipe. The result is a chewy cookie, speckled with pretty bits of black pepper.

peppercakes

Black Pepper Brown Sugar Cookies
Recipe modernized from Martha Washington’s A Book of Cookery.

Yield: makes 3 to 4 dozen, depending on the size of the cookie

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to top the cookies
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice of 1/2 an orange (about 1/4 cup)
2 large eggs

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and spices.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, sugar, and orange zest.

Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high until light in color.

Add the orange juice, and then add eggs one at a time, beating well

after each addition.

  1. With mixer on low, add the dry ingredients slowly. Stop and scrape

the bowl, then continue mixing until combined. Divide dough in half,

wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured work surface

and with a floured rolling-pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a pepper grinder, crack fresh pepper over the surface of the dough and then

gently press the pepper in with the rolling-pin.

  1. Cut into desired shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. Bake on a

cookie sheet 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway

through, until the cookies are brown around the edges. Allow to cool

completely on wire racks.

 

Listen here, and if you love food, be sure to subscribe to Gastropod on Itunes! And buy my book here!!

Lapham’s Quarterly: Pie Fight


IMAGE: Marines stationed in North China participate in a pie-eating contest, c. 1941. Ray S. Robinson Collection (COLL/1940), U.S. Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections. CC by 2.0.

I’ve got an article up on Lapham’s Quarterly about the shocking history of pie eating contests:

Competitive eating contests have become common today, from the fictionalized pie-eating in the movie Stand by Me to the annual Fourth of July hot-dog-eating competition at Coney Island. Where these events came from and how they evolved over time—from masculine showdowns and competitions with racist overtones to family-friendly events—proved surprising.

Read the entire article here!

A Message for Thanksgiving: What We Can Learn from a Bowl of Chili

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I wanted to publish a brief excerpt from my book I’ve had on my mind a lot recently. It’s the close of my chapter on Chili Powder:

I think it’s important to remember that chili, and the people who first
cooked it, were both Mexican and American. While reading up on the
1967 Chili Cook-Off, I stumbled across an article published the same day
as the competition in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about a Republican
state senator named Henry Grover. With November elections just around
the corner, Grover outlined several issues he thought the Republicans
should emphasize in their campaigns. Grover felt that schools with a sizable enrollment of Mexican students should offer courses in Spanish and
Mexican history. “The people in New England are tremendously proud of
Plymouth Rock in 1621 [sic],” he said. “Mexicans also have a ‘tremendous
heritage in which they can feel proud.’ ”

When the article was published, Americans were not just thinking
about the coming elections, but about Thanksgiving, too. When I consider
this holiday, it’s easy to see why American culture often focuses on the Colonial hearths of New England: Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, cranberry
sauce and pumpkin pie. But while the English immigrants celebrated the
end of their first year in Plymouth, Spanish immigrants were establishing
missions in what is today the American Southwest. When Texas became
part of the United States, the people that lived there had a culture that became a part of the American story, just like the Mayflower. A bowl of chili, drawn from Mexican heritage, influenced by the Germans, and made famous in the state of Texas, is a true American dish.

Living History: Eating like an Italian Immigrant Family in 1919, Day 6

day6_1

Breakfast

Yaaay, last day! Last day! I know it might seem like a dream to have to eat pastry every morning, but this part of the diet has left me feeling gross and hungry every day. Sugar consumption would have been just as prestigious as meat consumption for Italians in America. I didn’t realize how far my own diet had strayed from such a sweets-laden, carb-heavy menu like this week, so I’m glad to be done with it.

I went to Ferrara Bakery in Manhattan’s Little Italy, founded in 1892, and ordered a 1/4 lb of ameritti and pignoli cookies, which are some of my FAVORITE FOODS ON THE PLANET. But my order got mixed up: when I got home, I discovered I have two, chocolat-enrobed cannolis instead. Not very accurate to 1919, although Americans have always loved enorbing foods in chocolate. Oh well.

Dinner

Homemade Macaroni with tomato sauce and chopped meat.
Pot roast. Peas.
Ice cream.

day6_4

After church, Sundays were taken up by  a giant, late-afternoon meal, laden with pastas and meats. This meal was the most complicated dishes I prepare all week, and even these recipes  seemed simple to some of food I’ve cooked on on this blog.

I’ve never made pasta from scratch, but I figured why not give it a shot? I had stopped at Di Palo’s the night before and picked up some fresh pasta as a back up in case things really went wrong.

On pasta, Gentile had this to say: ‘The Italians serve the spaghetti or macaroni at the beginning of the meal, in place of soup, and they give it the name of Minestra Asciuttaor, “dry” soup. Besides the familiar spaghetti, the paste is served in many other forms and with different seasoning. This is by far the most popular Italian dish, and it seems to have pleased the taste of all the peoples of the earth.” The instructions I used to roll out my own pasta came from Wood, who said the best pasta was made with eggs. Back home, Southern Italians likely made pasta simply with water and flour; here, they could afford a richer pasta with eggs. Here’s Wood’s recipe, which I followed:

Tagliatelli o Pasta Fatta in Casa (Noodles or Home Made Paste)

Allow about a cup of flour to an egg. Put the flour on a bread board, make a hole in the middle, and break in the egg. Work it with a fork until it is firm enough to work with the hands. Knead it thoroughly adding, more flour if necessary, until you have a paste you can roll out. Roll it as thin as a ten-cent piece.

This paste may be cut in ribbons to be cooked in soup as Tagliatelli or cut in squares or circles and filled with various mixtures to make Cappelletti, Ravioli etc.

I used semolina flour (available from Bob’s Red Mill). I had to add a little extra water to the egg, then added more flour as I rolled it out “thin as a ten-cent piece.” I think it turned out well, especially for my first time!

day6_3

I decided to cook it using another Wood recipe:

Spaghetti Italian Style

First put one quarter pound salt pork, sliced, in a small pan fry out and then strain it. Put fat back in pan; cut some garlic, if you like, one onion, too; stir a little and then put in two pork chops. Cook for about ten minutes, then add one cup strained tomato and cook for about half an hour to an hour according to meat. Second, put enough water in a good sized pan and let come to a boil; then put in one half pound spaghetti and cook .Strain spaghetti in a colander and spread in a platter over spaghetti; spread grated cheese and sauce. Put meat in a dish separate.

She used dry spaghetti, I simply subbed my fresh-made pasta. I fried bacon in a large skillet, and when it had browned, scooped out the bacon and leftt he hot fat. Then I added a medium-sized onion, chopped, and three chopped garlic cloves. When they had browned a bit, I added a big pork chop from Di Palo’s that I had cut into two-inch squares. Once the meat was brown, I added two cups of tomato sauce from the pot o’ sauce I made earlier this week, as well as salt and black pepper. I covered it and let it cook for 20 minutes, then added my fresh pasta and let it cook ten minutes more. When I plated the pasta, I topped it with crumbles of bacon and a grating of parmesan cheese.

The pasta turned out a bit too al dente, but still (I thought) very good. I love a tomato sauce paired with bacon fat; and although I thought the limited seasonings would be boring, the acid and sweetness of the tomatoes paired nicely with the umami meat. I scarfed a plate and swabbed up the sauce with bread.

Then came the “pot roast,” which is a very American/New England term. So what is it that they were cooking? I search Gentile’s Italian cookbook, and found this recipe for “Stewed Veal.” Veal is mentioned a few other times the meals that Sophinisba documents, so I thought it was an appropriate recipe for Sunday dinner.

STEWED VEAL
(Stracotto di vitella)

Place in a saucepan one pound of veal or more, bone included, a piece of butter or some olive oil (or the two together), half a medium sized onion, one small carrot, two celery stalks cut in small pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Put it on a low fire, turn the meat over often and when browned add a pinch of flour and some tomato paste, bringing it to full cooking with water poured little by little. The flour is used to keep the sauce together and give it color, but care must be taken not to burn it, because in that case the sauce would have an unpleasant taste and a black, instead of a reddish color. The stewed veal can be served with some vegetable.

day6_2

I actually decided to cook this dish in my slow-cooker; it could cook slow and low and I wouldn’t have to pay attention to it. I could have browned the meat, but I didn’t; I just put two, 1.5 lb bone-in veal shanks in the slow cooker, and seasoned them as the recipes directs, including a tablespoon of tomato pasta I mixed with a little water. I didn’t want to serve peas with the veal, as the menu suggested, because this dish was pulled from the summer menus, and peas aren’t in season now. So instead, I tucked little carrots and potatoes around the veal. I added four cups of water, and set it to cook on high for four hours.

The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and despite the simple seasoning, so flavorful. Even thought I felt full after eating a whole plate of pasta, the meat and veggies felt light in comparison, like I had plenty more space to fit them in.

day6_5

I had planned to treat myself to some gelato later in the afternoon, but never had time after running to a series of meetings (how very un-Sunday of me). I got home late in the evening, and was feeling peckish, so I made some “supper.”

Supper

Rice cooked in milk with egg.
Cake. Coffee.

day6_6

This supper is supposed to be a light meal after the heavy afternoon dinner. But the rice cooked in milk with egg was a really baffling recipe. I texted Jill to see if we could figure out was up here; she answered “Like an enriched rice pudding?? Rice pudding isn’t Italian…and I feel like rice pudding would have been known to her (Sophinisba), so she would have described it as rice pudding. I am really stumped.”

It didn’t mention sugar in the recipe, so I suspected it might be savory. Could it be a misinterpretation of risotto? but looking through Gentile’s book, I found this recipe for a savory rice dish with eggs:

RICE PUDDING WITH GIBLETS
(Sfornato di riso con rigoglie)

Make a good brown stock  and use the same for the rice as well as for the giblets. To these add some thin slices of ham and brown them first in butter, seasoned moderately with salt and pepper,completing the cooking with brown stock. A taste of mushrooms will be found useful.

Brown the rice equally in butter, then complete the cooking with hot water. Drain and put the brown stock, adding grated cheese and two beaten eggs, when the rice has cooled a little.

Take a smooth mold, round or oval, grease it evenly with butter, cover the bottom with buttered paper and place in it the rice to harden it in the oven. When taken from the mold pour over the gravy from the giblets, slightly thickened with a pinch of flour and serve with the giblets around, seeing that there is plenty of gravy for them.

I pulled parts of this recipe to create my dish: I browned the rice in butter–the only time I’ve used butter this week; perhaps I should have used olive oil. then, I cooked the rice in whole milk instead of stock or water. I turned off the burner, and while the rice was still got, poured in a beaten egg mixed with a generous amount of greater parmesan. Is stirred constantly while pouring in the egg, and let it sit, covered, for 10 more minutes. The result was creamy; sort of crumbled, but held together in chunks by the egg.

When I gave it a try…it was weird, at first. The rice felt a little greasy, from all the dairy fat, which is not a sensation I’m used to with rice. but then it grew on me–it was nutty, from the toasted rice, and cheesy from the generous parmesan shavings. Yeah I can get behind it. But if anyone has a better idea what this dish might be, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

The rice was enough; I skipped the cake, and definitely didn’t want coffee at 9pm.

So that’s the end of this week-long experiment. As I mentioned in another post, at one point I wasn’t certain I was going to continue writing this week in light of what was going on nationally; in the end, I’m really glad I did. It’s served as documentation of this important week in my life, as well as an outlet for issues that are important to me.

It’s the end of this experiment, but there are many more to come. Thank you for joining me.

Living History: Eating like an Italian Immigrant Family in 1919, Day 5

day5_1I went on a pilgrimage of sorts this weekend.

Breakfast

On Saturday, I woke up at a Bed & Breakfast near Rochester. I was speaking at a conference that afternoon, and part of the deal was my room and board. So when I wandered downstairs to the quaint dining room, I didn’t stick to my diet. I ate what they gave me. I had a cup of black tea, which I had really missed this week, as well as a homemade jelly donut, a slice of apple cake, yogurt, and a ham and cheese souffle.

Before I went to the conference, I wanted to make a special stop: I was close to Mt. Hope Cemetery, the final resting place of Susan B. Anthony. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, but her grave site was recently in the news because hundreds of women stopped by to stick their “I Voted” stickers on her grave. The cemetery decided to stay open late on Tuesday to give women the chance to do so. Check out this PBS article to see incredible photos of her gravestone covered in stickers, and the long line of women waiting to add their badge.

I had preserved my “I Voted” sticker, because I felt I wanted some physical reminder of what had happened Tuesday. When I realized I would be near her grave site this weekend, I knew this was a pilgrimage I had to make. After driving to the cemetery, the trees in high-fall colors, I walked up to silent grave and dutifully stuck my sticker to the grave. The other stickers had been cleared away; mine was the lone reminder.

Before too long, a young woman walked up, probably from the nearby University of Rochester, wearing a camera around her neck and a shirt that said “Women Belong in the House and the Senate”.  She commented she was sad the stickers were gone; I told her I had traveled from NYC to add mine.

“Frederick Douglass is here too, do you know that? His grave-site is amazing.”

“Yes, I passed him on the way here. I noticed he has a big plaque. But I’ve been wondering where Susan’s plaque is.” The sight of Douglass’ grave had made my heart sing, but feel a little confused when I approached Anthony’s. Other than a few signs to direct visitors to her grave, there was no other information or fanfare.

“Yeah. It shows even now how we treat men and women differently, even though they fought for the same things,” she answered, then added hesitantly: “…I’m sorry, I’m a feminist.”

“Anyone standing at this grave site at 9am on a Saturday is a feminist.” I responded.

Before I left, a mother and her grown daughter joined us in front of the grave. We all stood there silently, looking at the head stone. Then I walked back to my car and sobbed in the front seat.

If I could write Susan B Anthony’s plaque, here’s what it would say: “I think she would be proud of how far we’ve come, but perhaps she would be sad at how far we have left to go.”

I also visited the grave site of Lillian Wald. Wald founded the Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurses service, a group of young, college educated women that were the first organization to provide affordable health care, in this case to new immigrants on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Wald was also a lesbian. Settlement Houses and social work were considered a socially acceptable job for women with a college education who wanted to delay, or defer, marriage. If you weren’t taking care of your own husband and children, then it was seen as honorable to “sacrifice” those goals to help the children of the world. But Settlement Houses also became a place for any women who wanted to escape traditional gender roles and sexual expectations. It was a safe place for women who wanted to be with women, whether as colleagues or lovers.

day5_2

In her 1915 book, The House on Henry StreetWald described her awakening to the cause of social justice; sentences in bold are my own added emphasis:

I had spent two years in a New York training school for nurses; strenuous years for an undisciplined, untrained girl, but a wonderful human experience… I had little more than an inspiration to be of use in some way or somehow, and going to the hospital [on the Lower East Side] seemed the readiest means of realizing my desire…The Lower East Side then reflected the popular indifference—it almost seemed contempt—for the living conditions of a huge population. And the possibility of improvement seemed, when my inexperience was startled into thought, the more remote because of the dumb acceptance of these conditions by the East Side itself. Like the rest of the world I had known little of it, when friends of a philanthropic institution asked me to do something for that quarter…

From the schoolroom where I had been giving a lesson in bed making, [ed note–a lesson in nursing for local families on the LES] a little girl led me one drizzling March morning. She had told me of her sick mother, and gathering from her incoherent account that a child had been born, I caught up the paraphernalia of the bed making lesson and carried it with me.

The family to which the child led me was neither criminal nor vicious. Although the husband was a cripple, one of those who stand on street corners exhibiting deformities to enlist compassion, and masking the begging of alms by a pretense at selling; although the family of seven shared their two rooms with boarder— who were literally boarders since a piece of timber was placed over the floor for them to sleep on,— and although the sick woman lay on a wretched, unclean, bed soiled with a hemorrhage two days old, they were not degraded human beings judged by any measure of moral values…Indeed my subsequent acquaintance with them revealed the fact that, miserable as their state was, they were not without ideals for the family life and for society of which they were so unloved and unlovely a part.

That morning’s experience was a baptism of fire.

I hope this election is our country’s baptism of fire. It has been an awakening to me that I need to do more, everyday, to fight for the disenfranchised. I hope, as a country, these feelings don’t fade after a few weeks. I hope they build steam over the next few years.

Luncheon

day5_4
day5_3

Saturday afternoon, I spoke at the Domestic Skills Symposium at Genesee County Village on the topic of the history of funeral food traditions. I started my talk by saying I felt this topic was fitting, because I had been grieving since Tuesday. And that I had watched my fellow mourner’s Instagram feeds fill up with photos of carby comfort food.

Have you turned to a particular food to nourish and comfort this week?

After my talk, there was a luncheon of mourning foods from the past and present, including funeral cakes flavored with caraway seed, sweet and lemony pan de muerte, stewed prunes–served in the Middle Ages, mostly for their dark color; there were Jell-o molds and Mormon funeral potatoes, and fried chicken. I stuffed myself.

Dinner

Lima beans with celery, onions and tomatoes.
Stuffed artichokes.
Bread. Coffee. Fruit.

image1

By the evening, I was back on the road to drive to NYC. And I was back on my Italian diet. I made the mix of lima beans, celery onions and tomatoes in advance, gently sauteing them all together. I was bummed I didn’t have time make the recipe for stuffed artichokes, but here is a recipe from Gentile’s Italian cookbook:

STEWED ARTICHOKES
(Carciofi in stufato)

Wash the artichokes and cut the hard part of the leaves (the top). Widen the leaves and insert a hash composed of bread crumbs, parsely, salt, pepper and oil. Place the artichokes in the saucepan standing on their stalk, one touching the other. Cover them with water and let them cook for two hours or more. When the leaves are easily detached they are cooked.

I had a sweet roll and a plum with my dinner.

Living History: Eating like an Italian Immigrant Family in 1919, Day 4

image3

Breakfast came from a local coffee shop; they didn’t have any Italian cookies or pastries, so I went with the pumpkin loaf. Forgive me for this deviation.

I ate at a morning meeting at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The meeting was essentially group therapy; I cried. Again. I’ve been working at this museum for over seven years, and institution that believes immigration is a good things, and uses the stories of people of the past to remind us that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. If we know about the xenophobia of the past, perhaps we can stop it today.

Working at this museum has meant I’ve never felt like I’m in a “New York bubble” of liberalism. Daily, I interact with people who come from all parts of this country, let alone the world. I speak to people from vastly different backgrounds and beliefs. There is a part of me that believes I have at my job–maybe if I had tried harder, worked harder, people would have been more sympathetic to the disenfranchised, and this election would have turned out differently.

On the other hand, tickets to tours at the museum are beyond sold out all weekend. I don’t know why folks are coming, but maybe it’s for solace.

I’ve become grateful for the chance to document this historic week on my blog. And I am grateful to all of you who have commented–please, continue to do so, and share what you would like to share, and what you need to share.

 

Luncheon

Egg omelet. Chocolate.
Bread. Stewed fruit.

image2

Southern Italians ate a lot of eggs, but not for breakfast–as we’ve seen this week. And especially on Friday, a fast day, they were the main course at meal times instead of meat. If you know more about the history and significance of the Friday fast, or have your own personal experiences with it, I’d love to hear more in the comments.

To determine if there was a particular Italian style of making omelets, I searched Gentile’s Italian cookbook for omelet. I came up from look at multiple recipes that often included meat, but it’s FRIDAY, so we’re not eating meat today. I looked at a few of Gentile’s omelette and came up with a simple recipe. I added salt, pepper and dried parsley to slighty scrambled eggs, sautéed some slivers of onion in olive oil, and poured to eggs on top. I used a larger pan that I normally use for omelettes, because Gentile describes the omelets as thin. Last I added, at her recommendation, some shavings of parmesan cheese (which, by the way, is from DiPalo’s Fine Foods, founded in NYC by Italian immigrants in 1925).

I know I haven’t been sharing recipes for most of this dishes, but for example I looked up “stewed fruit” in cookbooks from the time and came up with nada. There’s aren’t really recipes as ways to cook food, using what you have. I actually really like cooking this way. Stewed fruit feels very settlement house cooking class–mushy and vaguely healthy. I cut up an apple and a pear, and added then to a saucepan with a little water, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a little cinnamon. Americans werent cooking with/supportive of a lot of spice in food, but they were down with a little cinnamon (pretty much that and black pepper were ok).

Every meal I’ve made has taken about 20 minutes of active cooking time, and maybe another 20 minutes inactive. I find these meals really efficient, easy, not a lot of cleanup. But man there is a lot of sugar. It’s more sugar and carbs than I usually eat in a day.

Dinner

Fried fish.
Fresh tomatoes. Cucumbers.
Bread. Fruit.

image1I took this photo in the front seat of my car. I’m on the road!

This menu is pulled from the summer menus that Sohpinisba gives; I liked its simplicity, and I thought it would be easy for my traveling day. I was on the road Friday night, on my way to Rochester to a public speaking gig. When it was dinner time, I was in very, very rural upstate NY, so I stopped at the only restaurant that I knew had a fish sandwich: Burger King. I ate a “Big Fish” sandwich in my car, and it was actually pretty gross. I had big fish burps all night.