Halloween costumes are just not as weird as they used to be.
Over on Etsy, I’ve got a history of Halloween with a focus on eating and treating. It’s a weird holiday when you really begin to think about it, right?
When Irish immigrants came to America in the 17th and 18th centuries, they brought All Hallows Eve traditions, which blended with American “mumming” traditions. Practiced on Thanksgiving and New Year’s, mumming involved parading the streets in rags or cross-dressing, playing music or making noise, and demanding food and drink from homeowners. Additionally, Harvest Festivals were celebrated in farming communities, which brought men and women together to shuck corn and dance. Women paring apples might throw an apple peel over their shoulders; when it hit the floor, it would reveal the initials of the girl’s future husband.
Learn more about Halloween’s origins here.
Halloween party decorations from 1924.
A Mai Tai with a few Tiki touches.
In a last toast to summer, I explore Tiki and all its accompanying kitsch on the Etsy blog.
Tiki is a Frankenstein combination of influences from the Caribbean, Polynesia, Hawaii and China. During prohibition, alcohol-starved Americans traveled to the Caribbean, experiencing for the first time rum drinks like the Mojito at infamous bars like Sloppy Joe’s. Post-prohibition, the first Tiki bars were opened in California by some of these Caribbean travelers. After World War II, soldiers posted in the Pacific brought back a taste for the exotic, and bars and restaurants began to reflect a luau theme. But the food served in these establishments was often cooked by Chinese immigrants, who served their own Cantonese fare
The post includes a recipe for a classic Mai Tai, which I promise is just the thing for this coming Labor Day weekend. Read it all here!
In my latest Kitchen History, I was inspired by the beautiful ice that has been appearing in historically-inspired craft cocktail bars across the country to purchase my own ice pick, freeze a block of ice and attempt to shape it into jewel-like cubes. I have questionable success.
You know when you think something is going to be really easy, and then you realize you’re in way over your head? I first got that feeling after watching Japanese ice ball carving videos online; it dawned on me that I was destined to puncture my hand.
Read the entire adventure here.
This is a Dixie Dog
My latest Etsy article is essential a rant about the historic gender bias in grilling–with recipes! Read it here.
Yes, it’s a pet peeve of mine — it’s gotten to the point where I threaten anyone who approaches the grill. But it’s not just personal paranoia. Do a search for “vintage barbecue” on Etsy and you will find men — cookbooks adorned with images of men grilling; photos, aprons, and even grilling utensils emblazoned with images of men. So what’s the deal? Why, historically, is cooking in the kitchen the realm of women, but grilling outdoors the realm of men?
The Dixie Dog is a hot dog stuffed with peanut butter and wrapped in bacon.
How to rehab cast iron in my latest on Etsy. Read it here!
In fact, cast iron gets better with age and use: years of oil and scraping with utensils create a super-smooth, non-stick cooking surface. Vintage skillets by Lodge can sell for $100 — more costly than new pieces from the 117-year-old cookware maker. If you’re not interested in dropping a Benjamin on a pan, take my advice: go for the rusty pieces. You’ll find them priced at half — or even a tenth — of the cost of clean skillets of the same age and size. All it takes is a little TLC to get these pans back in working order
My latest Kitchen History post on Etsy is in celebration of April, which is National Grille Cheese Month. I explore the secret–the and history–of the perfect grilled cheese. Read it here, and you can read the archive of all my Etsy Kitchen History posts here.
When I was in elementary school, my mom would drive me to the neighboring township for sleepovers at my friend Kelly’s. One of my clearest memories from these visits was the lunch Kelly’s mom would prepare for us: grilled cheese. The cheese was creamier than any I’d ever had before, with a tanginess I couldn’t identify. Her method was a mystery, until one day I ambled through the kitchen while she got her ingredients ready…
This post deals largely with the history of Velveeta cheese, inspired by a vintage Velveeta slicer I found on Etsy. Yesterday, I got a mysterious package in the mail, shipped overnight from Oregon. Inside:
Yes, that’s a yellow wax seal stamped “Velveeta.” There was a handwritten card that said “We noticed your love of vintage Velveeta cheese cutters and couldn’t resist diving into the vault to send you this little vintage gem.” It was signed “The Velveeta Team.”
In the box, there was a c. 1980′s “cheese cuber” and two pounds of Velveeta cheese. I couldn’t be happier. It was such a sweet thing to do. And I’m simultaneously amazed that throughout history, man has created so many tools for slicing a semi-gelatinous foodstuff that is probably one of the easiest things in the world to cut.
But hell yeah I’m going to make some queso dip with this thing.
A golden jar of my parent’s homemade maple syrup.
“It’s sugaring time, it’s sugaring time!’ My mom chriped. ”My heart always gets glad this time of year. I think it don’t want to do it ‘it’s cold, it’s muddy’ but then I head out there and the sun is shining and the birds are singing fee-bee feeb-bee!” That was the start of the most recent phone conversation I had with my mom. Yeah, she’s pretty cute.
My latest post for Etsy is all about the maple sugaring season–an annual event that might be entirely foreign to you if you’re not from New England, the Midwest or Canada, where sugar maples grow. My parents tap their backyard maples on their four acres in semi-rural Ohio. You can read all about it here.
The cold, snowy spring has been ideal for sugaring–my parents have collected almost 100 gallons of sap this year already. But some interesting research has recently been done into historic “sugaring seasons.” Here’s a bit of food for though that comes via The Farm at Miller’s Crossing:
I recently read an article by Tim Wilmot, a specialist with the University of Vermont Extension and Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill VT, which put this discussion into some perspective.
The entire maple syrup industry depends on temperatures. Maple syrup producers can only harvest when the mercury goes below freezing at night, then above freezing during the day. This freeze/thaw event forces the sap in the trees to run, which can then be harvested by the taps drilled into the trees.
Recent discoveries of old records indicate that in 1870 a normal tapping in central Vermont season began on April 1, and ended on May 7.
Fast forward 60 years, and the average start date in 1930 was March 13, with an April 15 finish date.
Fast forward again to the spring of 2012, and most serious maple producers were tapping in early January and finishing in February or early March! Last year we actually were in the high 80’s in March.
Read more about Maple Sugaring on Etsy.
At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum with a photo of the historic character I portray (far right). Photo by Will Heath.
Happy Passover, everyone! Tonight, millions of Jews are sitting down to a sumptuous meal of religious significance–and then a week of yeast-free food.
Even if you’re not Jewish, you’ll enjoy my most recent Etsy article about Bimuelos, a Pesach-friendly dessert made by Sephardic Jews, who are descended from Jews of Spain. You’ll also get a behind the scenes look at my life as an educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum playing a Sephardic Jewish character. Read all about it here.
And if you are Jewish, you’re probably going to be sick of matzo by Thursday or Friday. So allow me to recommend Manishevitts’ 1944 cookbook,
Ba’ṭam’ṭe Yidishe maykholim (Tempting Kosher Dishes). Don’t worry, it’s in Yiddish AND English. Need to liven up your matzo meal regime this week? Try Pumpkin Pancakes, Matzo Meal Polenta, or Boston Pie.
In my latest for Etsy, I hand-grind curry powder for the oldest curry recipe written in the English language. A brief history of curry, stretching back to the prehistoric ere, and more! Read it here.
Over on Etsy, I’ve got an article up about Beaten Biscuits, an old Southern recipe where you smack the heck out of biscuits dough with a rolling pin. It’s from one of America’s oldest cookbooks, The Virginia House Wife–read the Etsy article here.
The Virginia House Wife also contains the oldest known written recipe for gazpacho; I’ve made it, and you can read about it here.
The Virginia House Wife can be found on Google books here, or a hard copy can be purchased here.