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CHoWLine - Back Issues





October 2004

Program:"The Evolution of the American Cookbook"

Willis Van Devanter is a collector of early cookbooks, who is specifically interested in the evolution of the American cookbook from its manuscript tradition in early days, through the first cookbooks reprinted in America in 1742, to modern times -- with commentary on various trends, and ethnic influences that have affected American cuisine. He prepared the menu and secured the food for an Elizabethan dinner, served with full pomp and circumstance, at the Folger Library some years ago.

Important Information about Parking on Campus:
No parking is permitted in the circle in front of the Library or on the Quad. You may park in metered spaces (no charge on Sunday) in the parking lot on the right, inside the W Street entrance, or in the campus metered parking garage off Whitehaven ($1.50/hour). Parking on W Street is not encouraged.

Future Meetings

November 14: Nancy Carter Crump - "Marion Harland"
December 5: Pierre Laszlo, "Citrus"
January 16 or 23: Cooperative dinner - theme to be announced
February 13: Philip J. Hilts - "Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation"
March 13: Claire Cassidy - "Family Culinary Archaeology"
April 10: Elisabetta Castleman - "Italian Regional Cuisine"
May 1: Shirley Cherkasky - "The Mediterranean's Colorful Contributions to American Confectionery"

Report: September 12 Meeting

Refreshments included cornmeal and dried fruit muffins (Kari9 Barrett); sunflower seeds (Julia abraham); bean dip (Kay Shaw Nelson); rice roll in seaweed stuffed with Kimchi, pan-fried egg, and spiced spinach (Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall); Sultana raisins and dried cranberries (Shirley Cherkasky); and sun-dried tomato, artichoke and olive spread (Dianne Hennessy King). The "whatzit" brought by Claudia Kousoulas was determined to be a plastic mold for forming sushi.

Dar Curtis, director of Solar Household Energy, Inc., spoke to us about "Solar Cooking: Cuisine for a Sunny Day," and described how the three solar cookers he had brought with him worked, what their costs were, and how they had been developed. More information on his talk appears at the end of this issue.

Refreshments volunteers needed: Kari reports that she always welcomes offers of refreshments from other CHoW members, particularly foods related to the theme of the meeting.

Cookbook Exchange: Claudia Kousoulas invited CHoW members to bring any unwanted food books to meetings to be offered to other members who may want them. This will be an informal, ongoing activity, and books to be given away should be placed on the left end of the Reading Table.

E-notices from other organizations: Claudia also announced that henceforth, when CHoW receives notices of food-related events from other organizations that arrive too late to be listed in CHoWLine, secretary Francine Berkowitz will forward the messages to all members who have provided their email addresses. If you do not wish to be included in such e-mailings, please let Francine know (fcb@ic.si.edu).

Family Culinary Archaeology

From scrapbooks to websites, each family has its own way of preserving family recipes and history. In March, Claire Cassidy will talk about the culinary history she has gleaned from her family's kitchen lists and records. How have you discovered your family's food memoirs? We would like to make this topic a year-long collaborative effort through CHoWLine and regular "show and tell" at meetings. Please help us expand our learning about methods of recording personal culinary history by sending in your recollections, techniques, or findings to Dianne Hennessy King by email or snail mail (tuckking@aol.com; 10,000 Murnane St., Vienna, VA 22181). Relatively brief accounts could appear in CHoWLine each month, and longer descriptions could be shared at meetings. Please contribute your stories so that we all can benefit from the incredibly diverse backgrounds of our members. After all, culinary history starts at home.

Adding to the above appeal by Dianne, Claudia says, "Dianne's suggestions that we share techniques for saving family culinary history, inspired by Claire Cassidy's talk scheduled for March, brought to mind a barely two-page essay by Alan Davidson included in A Kipper with My Tea (North Point Press, 1987). He describes the Thai tradition of Funeral Cookbooks, 'whereby a person composes a small notebook before his or her death, so that it can be distributed as a keepsake to the mourners attending the funeral.'

Davidson writes that the book's recipes and design are carefully considered and he finds the idea attractive. 'What other would equally well keep one's memory green among friends?' He gives consideration to composing his own, enjoying the thought of updating it over time, adding greater refinements and particulars. Although he speculates that outside the Thai culture a funeral cookbook might be received with 'surprise and even criticism in the damp and muddy driveway of the crematorium.'

It sounds grim at first but, upon reflection, wouldn't we all be glad to have funeral cookbooks of our own forebears? I admit to composing mine in my head on sleepless nights and perhaps it's time to commit it to computer."

CHoW's Culinary History Collection

Laura Gilliam, Shirley Cherkasky, and Francine Berkowitz met with Mary Augusta Thomas of the Smithsonian Libraries on September 2, and we are about to finalize an agreement to give CHoW's Culinary History Collection to the Smithsonian. The collection of approximately 300 books (most published in recent years but often now out-of-print), is devoted mainly to culinary history. CHoW hopes to continue to add to the collection from time to time. As a part of the Smithsonian Libraries, the collection will be available to CHoW members and the public by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 5:30 pm.

The collection eventually will be fully cataloged with an acknowledgement as the CHoW Collection, and thus the citations will be accessible via many search engines on the web. In the meantime, the Smithsonian wishes to establish a preliminary catalog that will be available on the Smithsonian Libraries website. If you would like to volunteer to help with the preliminary cataloging, please let Laura know.

News from Other Organizations

October 3: Fourth Annual New York International Pickle Day, sponsored by the New York Food Museum. On Orchard St., between Grand and Broome; 11 am - 4:30 pm. Free. Music, memory, smells, tastes, science, medicine, magic, and religion. Pickles from all cultures. CHoW member Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall will be one of the demonstrators. For information: www.nyfoodmuseum.org; 212 966-0191.

CHoW member Beth Cogswell, a regional historian, will ead three Saturday afternoon tours of ethnic restaurants in Arlington, sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates. Each tour will include three very different restaurants at which tour participants will be offered specially prepared, generous samples to taste as Beth discusses, and tells anecdotes about, each restaurant. On Oct. 23 (Code INS-A02, Nov. 6 (Code INS-Bo2), and Nov. 13 (INS-C02). For information: 202 357-3030.

Don't Forget Two Great Opportunities

October 10 & 11: The American Jewish Foodways Symposium, "Are We What We Eat?: American Jewish Foodways, 1654 to 2004," a two-day symposium to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in America. See the September issue of CHoWLine for information on the schedule, speakers, and locations.

The symposium is free and open to the public but reservations are requested. For further information on both the symposium and the dinner: 202 994-2190; corrected web site address www.gwu.edu/~judaic/350/food_conf.htm

October 16: "What is American Food and Drink?," a celebration of the release of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, sponsored by Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian and Oxford University Press. You are invited to join a discussion among some of the contributing writers, food historians, chefs, critics, and curators of the exhibition, "Bon Appetit: Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian."

The program begins at 1 p.m. in Carmichael Auditorium of the National Museum of American History, and is free and open to the public.

It will be followed by a reception to which all CHoW members will be invited. If, by chance, you do not receive an emailed or snailmailed invitation, please contact Dianne King (703 281-5281; TUCKKING@AOL.COM)

Boston University's Gastronomy Program

Boston University's plans to offer courses in Washington, DC, for the Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy, beginning in September 2004, have been postponed to a later date. We will keep you informed about further develoments.

On The Reading Table

Please do not take away materials from the Reading Table without letting Shirley Cherkasky know, since some of it is from her personal memberships or subscriptions, and she tries to collect complete series. Will whoever took her copy of Food History News, Vol. XV, No. 4, at the September 12 meeting please return it to the Reading Table at one of our next meetings?

Meeting e-notice, Culinary Historians of Southern California, October, 2004.

Meeting notices, Culinary Historians of Chicago, September 2004.
Gravy, newsletter of the Southern Foodways Alliance, No. 15, Summer 2004.

Solar Cooking: Cuisine for a Sunny Day

The mission of Solar Household Energy, Inc. (SHE,Inc.), a nonprofit corporation, is to promote the use of solar cooking in suitable developing countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as in the United States, where it can improve the quality of life and relieve stress on the environment. In many countries there is enough sunshine to cook for 300 days per year. A severe shortage of firewood is having devastating economic, social, and environmental consequences in developing countries where wood and brush supplies are being harvested at a rate twenty times faster that that at which they can be replaced. SHE,Inc. works through private enterprise to develop solar cooking resources, techniques, and equipment to make them affordable, efficient, durable, portable, and economical. Information is disseminated through on-site demonstrations, conferences, printed materials, a web site, and links with other organizations. SHE,Inc. is guided by a distinguished panel of experts on solar cooking and economic development issues.

Dar Curtis brought with him to the CHoW meeting examples of three different solar cooking stoves or ovens, and discussed how they can be used for braising, stewing, and baking food and to sterilize driking water. For further information, log on to the SHE,Inc. web site at www.she-inc.org.

Preserving Food with Solar Energy
The article below, by Richard Hartel, professor of food engineering in the department of food science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is reprinted from a July issue of The Capital Times of Madison, WI.

"Remember those California Raisins characters from a few years ago? Although they turned into a tremendous marketing ploy, with figurines and even their own television show, their message was simple: raisins are good for you.

Raisins, or dried grapes, a healthful snack, come in to varieties: the standard brown raisin or the more colorful and slightly sweeter golden raisin. What's the difference? Do brown raisins come from brown (or red) grapes, in the same way that chocolate milk comes from brown cows?

Nope, you'd be wrong about both. Look at the packages for brown and golden raisins and you'll be surprised to see that they both start out as green seedless grapes.

The differences in brown and golden raisins come from two things: how they're made and what else is added. The ingredients list on brown raisins has only one item: raisins. On golden raisins, however, a second ingredient is found: sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide helps to preserve raisins and also affects the color.

To make regular brown raisins, green grapes are harvested from the vine and generally left to dry in the sun in the rows between the vines. Drying can take up to two weeks, depending on sunshine and temperature. Southern California has just the right sunny climate needed for drying grapes. That's why California Raisins wore sunglasses. If a Wisconsin vineyard tried to dry grapes into raisins, what would the Wisconsin Raisins wear -- a cheese[head] had to keep off the rain and snow?

During drying, several chemical reactions take place that lead to the brown color. One of the most important reactions is called the Maillard browing reaction, which was named after a French chemist who first studied the reaction. Certain sugars and proteins react together in a complex series of steps, creating distinctive flavors and brown pigments. This same reaction browns bread during baking and toast during toasting (but not apples after slicing; that's a different reaction).

Sun drying creates ideal conditions for Maillard browning in raisins: warm temperatures and intermediate moisture contents. That means a deep tan for California Raisins. Wisconsin Raisins would be a lot paler because they would get much less sun and it's generally not warm enough most of the year.

To speed things up, the grapes could also be dried in a forced-air drier, where warm, dry air blows across the grapes to quickly remove the moisture. Grapes could be dried in just a few hours in this way. However, the raisins wouldn't be very brown because the conditions and time would not promote Maillard browning. They would look more like Wisconsin raisins, a pale whitish color.

But that's exactly what we want when making golden raisins. To make golden raisins, grapes are dried under conditions that do not promote browing so they retain much of the original color of the grape. Raisins that are not nearly so brown can be made by rapidly drying rapidly to inhibit the Maillare browning reaction. Adding sulfur dioxide also helps prevent the brown coloring by inhibiting certain steps in the Maillard browning reaction.

California Raisins develop that deep brown color from drying in the sun. Wisconsin Raisins, on the other hand, would be the paler variety because they would have to be dried indoors to avoid the cold rain, and snow."