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CHoWLine - Back Issues





November 2002

November Meeting Program: "A Taste Of the Orchard" by Kathy Reid

Kathy Reid will bring 24 varieties of apples to sample while she talks to us about the history, genealogy, and uses of the different varieties. Kathy and Dave Reid have farmed for 22 years in Buchanan Valley, Pennsylvania, and currently raise 74 varieties of fruit for farmers' markets.


For more information on apples, the following two sources will be available on the Reading Table at our meeting: "Apples of Your Eye" (pp. 111-118) in the November issue of Smithsonian, written by heritage apple grower Tim Hensley of Bristol, Virginia. The last issue of Food History News is devoted to apples at various stages of their history in America.

It's Time To Renew!

Our membership year runs from October 1 through September 30. The new membership directory will be mailed to members on January 2, 2003.

Report: October 20 Meeting

Members voted to authorize a contribution of one thousand dollars to the National Museum of American History to be used for culinary history programming for the Julia's Kitchen exhibition. It was decided that the theme for our January cooperative dinner will be food of the Chesapeake region. Elsewhere in this issue is further information provided by Gina Jenkins and a list of potential sources of recipes.

In keeping with the 1950s period of the Poppy Cannon - Alice B. Toklas relationship which was the subject of the meeting's program, refreshments included Rice Krispies Treats from Sally Epskamp, corn muffins and gooseberry jam brought by Ann Derhammer, and a pimiento cheese dip and another dip that was a trip down Memory Lane for anyone who was cooking in the '50s: a pale green combination of sour cream, pineapple, sugar, miniature marshmallows, whipped topping, almonds, pistachios, and food coloring, contributed by Julia Abrahams.

The three "whatzits" didn't puzzle members for long: Kay Shaw Nelson's oven rack 'grabber,' and a device to remove corn kernels from the cob were guessed immediately, and Laura Gilliam's corn scorer also was identified with dispatch.

A summary of Laura Shapiro's talk, "At The Heart of the Fifties: Poppy Cannon and Alice B. Toklas," appears at the end of this issue.


Gina Jenkins reported that she will soon add back issues of CHoWLine to our web site as well as a reading list of culinary history books that CHoW has contributed to the Culinary Collection at the Eckles Library of the George Washington University at Mount Vernon College. She requested that CHoW members give her suggestions of recently published books on culinary history to be added to the reading list ( virginiajenkins@earthlink.net).

News Of Our Members

Marcie Cohen Ferris's article, "Matzah Ball Gumbo, Gasper Goo Gefilte Fish, and Big Momma's Kreplach: Exploring Southern Jewish Foodways," was one of the articles in the Summer 2002 Food and Culture issue of Phi Kappa Phi Forum (vol. 82, no. 3).

Papers read by Helen Tangires, Molly Schuchat and Shirley Cherkasky at the 13th Conference of the International Commission for Ethnological Food Research in Slovenia in June 2000 have been published in Food and Celebration: From Fasting To Feasting, edited by Patricia Lysaght of the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin (hardcover, 428 pp., Ljubljana: ZRC Publishing, 2002).

Mary Randolph (who should be made a CHoW honorary member posthumously) was mentioned in the October 3 story that the Washington Post carried in its Alexandria/Arlington section on Tom Sherlock, the historian of Arlington National Cemetery. The sidebar listed historical, literary, and famous figures buried at Arlington and stated that "Randolph wrote 'The Virginia Housewife,' a bestseller in the 1700s." (It was published in 1824, and was the first American regional cookbook but at least they got the title right.)

Food In Museums: Julia's Kitchen, CHoW, and H&G

The current November issue of House & Garden includes an article by Laura Shapiro, our speaker for the October meeting, about the installation of Julia's Kitchen in the National Museum of American History (pp. 106-108), with a mention that it was CHoW volunteers who helped to catalog the objects for the museum before the exhibition opened.

Food of the Chesapeake Region

Here are Gina Jenkins' suggestions for our cooperative dinner on the theme "Food of the Chesapeake Region" on January 19, 2003.

The Bay is rich in seafood, and salt marshes provide food and winter quarters for migrating waterfowl. Native Americans grew corn, sweet potatoes, melons, and a variety of squash and beans. They harvested strawberries, blackberries, persimmons, acorns, hickory nuts, and black walnuts, and hunted deer, turkeys, and small game. They ate large quantities of oysters, crabs, and fish. European settlers added domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens, and European grains, fruits and vegetables. African slave cooks combined the foods of America, Europe, and Africa to crate a regional cuisine that became famous throughout the United States.

Virginia and Maryland fried chicken (served with cream gravy) may have had its origins in Africa. Peanuts, black-eye peas, okra, and watermelon also came from Africa. Sweet potato biscuits are in the Indian tradition. Corn pudding, spoon bread (batter bread in Virginia), unsweetened white corn bread, hominy, grits, sweet potato and pumpkin pies, are all adaptations using native ingredients. (White potato pie is found on the Eastern Shore.) Brunswick stew originiated in Brunswick County, Virginia. Pork is a common ingredient in Chesapeake region cooking, including dry-cured Smithfield ham (served with beaten biscuits), stuffed hams (a traditional Easter dish), and scrapple. In 1880 Baltimore packed more oysters than any other city in the world. Fried oysters, oyster stew, scalloped oysters, oyster fritters, and ham and oyster pie are popular in the region. A good cook knows at least twenty ways to prepare crabs, including crab cakes, crab soups, deviled crabs, Crab Imperial, Crab Norfolk, and crab salads. Rockfish are also very popular.

Maryland was the leading tomato canning state until the 1940s when farmers shifted their efforts to raising poultry. Stewed tomatoes are ubiquitous on regional menus. Watermen relished salt fish for breakfast cooked with potatoes, onions, and salt pork. Bean soup with hot biscuits or fry bread, and molasses was a staple midday meal. Many people still enjoy stewed chicken or dried lima bean soup with slick dumplings (also known as slippery squares), or cornmeal dumplings known as dodgers. Muskrat appears on menus in January and February, and venison, duck, and goose are popular.

In Baltimore, sauerkraut is a necessary complement to Thanksgiving turkey (with oyster stuffing) and sauerkraut salad and coleslaw are popular side dishes. Sauerbraten, or sour beef, is another regional favorite. German settlers also brought with them a taste for beer, and it is used by local cooks for steaming shellfish and fish, and as a braising agent for meats, cabbage, sausages, and sauerkraut.

Desserts have changed very little since the eighteenth century. Puddings made from rice, bread, and crackers are still favorites, as are custard pies (baked puddings in a pie shell). Elegant dessert jellies have been replaced by Jell-O. Chess pies are a Virginia specialty, and peach cobbler and strawberry-rhubarb pie are favorites on Maryland tables. Regional cakes include Kossuth Cake, Lady Baltimore Cake, Lord Baltimore Cake, and Smith Island seven-layer chocolate-frosted cakes.

Suggested Resources
Carson, Jane, Colonial Virginia Cookery: Procedures, Equipment and Ingredients in Colonial Cooking, Williamsburg, VA, 1985.
Dutton, Joan Parry, The WIlliamsburg Cookbook, Williamsburg, VA, 1975.
From A Lighthouse Window: Recipes and Recollections From The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD, 1989.
Howard, Mrs. B. C., Fifty Years In A Maryland Kitchen. (First published in 1873. Available in reprints and libraries.)
Randolph, Mrs. Mary, The Virginia Housewife. (First published in 1824. Available in reprints and libraries.)
Shields, John, Chesapeake Bay Cooking With John Shields, New York, 1998.
Stieff, Frederick Philip, Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland: An Anthology From A Great Tradition, New York, 1932.
Tawes, Avalynne, My Favorite Maryland Recipes, New York: Random House, 1964.

Call For Papers

Carolina Low-country and Caribbean Cuisines is the topic for a conference planned for March 20-22, 2003, co-sponsored by the College of Charleston Program in the Carolina Low Country and the Atlantic World, and Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. The program committee is looking for proposals from prospective presenters of original scholarship on the development of Low-country Cuisine. Send inquiries to Jeffrey Pilcher, Department of History, The Citadel, Charleston, SC 29409; pilcherj@citadel.edu.

The Book Forager

Repeat alert: The Goodwill Annual Used Book sale will be November 14-18 at the Washington Convention Center. It's a fantastic place to find culinary history and cookbooks at low cost. For more information:www.dcgoodwill.org

On The Bookshelf

The Magic of Fire, subtitled "Hearth Cooking: One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campfire," by WIlliam Rubel has just been published by Ten Speed Press (296 pp., $40.00 hardcover). Rubel is a cook and author specializing in traditional cooking methods and a collector of antique and modern culinary utensils. A review copy is available upon request. If you'd like to review this book for CHoWLine, please contact the editor shircher@cs.com.

If you enjoyed Katherine Livingston's review of Consider The Eel in our October issue, I hope you also spotted two reviews of other books on denizens of the sea in the October 27 Washington Post's "Book World" (www.washingtonpost.com/books); Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World's Most Coveted Delicacy by Inga Saffron, and The Founding Fish [shad] by John McPhee. For further reading, there's always Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky (1997).

On The Reading Table

Meeting notices, Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin, November 2002.
Meeting notice, Culinary Historians of Southern California, October 2002.

Summary of Laura Shapiro's Talk

Laura is in the final phase of preparing her book for publication and expects that it will be out sometime in 2003. Its working title is The Housewife's Dream: Liberation and the Kitchen in 1950s America. She has provided the following summary of her talk at the CHoW meeting on October 20:

In the course of my research for a book on women and cooking in the '50s, I was amazed to discover that Alice B. Toklas -- legendary companion of Gertrude Stein and a famously excellent cook -- had co-authored a cookbook with Poppy Cannon, legendary author of The Can Opener Cookbook and famously not a cook at all. What I found when I investigated was that their book, Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present, was the product of a friendship very much in character for both of them, despite their obvious differences, and that together they represented the female culinary '50s writ small. Over time their views on cooking actually meshed in some important ways. What really separated them was the way they lived: of the two, Poppy was the feminist and Alice the happy housewife.