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CHoWLine - Back Issues





March 2002

March 10, 2002 Meeting

Program: "Southern Jewish Foodways"

Marcie Cohen Ferris is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the George Washington University. For her dissertation she is examining the relationship between food and southern Jewish cultural identity, how southern Jewish women define themselves as food-givers, and the intersections of foodways, family, ethnic, and regional identity.

Report: February 10 Meeting

For this report we are indebted to Gina Jenkins for her notes on the meeting. Refreshments were plentiful: chocolate angel cake and chocolate-dipped strawberries, contributed by Bob Magee; Chili Bean Dip by Kay Shaw Nelson from her book, The Delectable Vegetable; a composed salad by Dianne King; and chocolate chip cookies and Woodlawn Ginger Cakes by Jane Mengenhauser, who also supplied a bit of the history of each. The recipe for Toll House Cookies originated in the 1930s when Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, added pea-sized bits of a chocolate bar to an old recipe for Butter Do Drops. The ginger cakes are associated with Woodlawn Plantation, the home of Nelly Custis, Martha Washington's granddaughter.

There were three "whatzits," a wooden beaten biscuit roller found by Laura Gilliam in Southern Virginia, a Scots porridge spurtle from Nova Scotia, brought by Jane Mengenhauser, and an ingenious potato planter, demonstrated by Willis and Carter Van Devanter.

In her presentation, "Smoke and Mirrors: Food on Film," Lisa Cherkasky described her work as a food stylist and related how she had become a stylist, food writer, and recipe developer after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working for several years in Washington restaurants. Styling involves the preparation and arrangement of food to be photographed for cookbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and other purposes. Lisa showed slides of her work and brought older cookbooks to show how standards in food photography have changed over time. She also brought the tool kit she has developed, explaining that when she began, there was no training available for food stylists. Those involved in it were very secretive about their own techniques and were unwilling to share what they had taught themselves. She demonstrated the use of some of the items, which included straight pins, Q-tips, wooden skewers, ScotchGuard, PineSol, petroleum jelly, marbles, acrylic ice cubes, some tiny dentistry tools, paint and wallpaper strippers, a jeweler's torch, and an electric charcoal starter. It was a fascinating look at some of the tricks and hazards of how those delectable photographs of food are produced.

Foods from the Silk Road

Our guest at our cooperative dinner on April 14 will be Najmieh Batmanglij whose new book, Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, will be published next September. She will talk about it, and will bring a dish to share. For those searching for a recipe to use for our dinner, here is information on the Silk Road and the foods found along it.

"Tasting the Silk Road: Bukhara, Tashkent and Samarkand ... A first look at the cuisine of Ubekistan, the former Soviet republic that is the culinary capital of Central Asia," by Charles Perry, Los Angeles Times staff writer, is too long to reprint here but will be on the Reading Table at our March meeting. Among the foods he mentions are: tea with black pepper; shish kebab sprinkled with curry-type spices; Persian-style stews flavored with fruit instead of spices; steamed dumplings, lamb with noodles; quinces and pomegranates; dill and basil; red pepper; puff pastry; horse-meat sausage; yogurt; pilaf; flatbreads; a salad of thinly sliced onions dressed with pomegranate juice and seeds; sutli dumbil (like an American corn chowder); rich stews served on top of rice; small pies and stuffed dumplings called chuchwara (boiled), manti (steamed), saamsa (baked or fried) with fillings of meat, morels, fried onions, or a puree of squash or chickpeas; naan; and Mongolian shawla, a rice porridge.

Dianne King retrieved the following from the Internet:

The Silk Road is the most well-known trading route of ancient Chinese civilization. Trade in silk grew under the Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220) in the first and second centuries AD. Originally, the Chinese traded silk within the empire and caravans from the interior would carry it to the western edges of the region. Often small Central Asian tribes attacked these caravans, hoping to capture the traders' valuable commodities, so the Dynasty extended its military defenses further into Central Asia to protect the caravans.

Chan Ch'ien, the first known Chinese traveler to make contact with the Central Asian tribes, later expanded the silk trade by including and forging alliances with them. The route grew with the rise of the Roman Empire because initially the Chinese gave gifts of silk to the Roman-Asian governments. The 7,000-mile route spanned China, Central Asia, Northern India, and the Parthian and Roman Empires. It connected the Yellow River Valley to the Mediterranean Sea and passed through the Gobi Desert in China's Xinjiang Provence and the present-day nations of Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Merchants in Northern India played prominent roles as middlemen in the China-Mediterranean silk trade because of their early recognition of its lucrative possibilities. They traded Indian gemstones and precious metals for Chinese silks and then traded the silks with the Roman Empire.

While the silk trade played a minor role in the Chinese economy, it did increase the number of foreign merchants present in China during the Han Dynasty, exposing both the Chinese and their visitors to different cultures and religions. Buddhism spread from India to China along the Silk Road. By 760 AD, during the T'ang Dynasty, trade along the Silk Road declined. It revived during the Sung Dynasty in the 11th and 12th centuries when China became largely dependent on its silk trade. In addition, trade with Central and Western Asia as well as Europe recovered for a period of time from 1276 - 1368 under the Yuan Dynasty when the Mongols controlled China. As overland trade became increasingly dangerous and sea routes developed, trade along the Silk Road had all but disappeared by the end of the 14th century.

For those who want to learn more about the fabled Silk Road, the Smithsonian Associates is offering, under the auspices of the Embassies of the People's Republic of CHina, Arab Republic of Egypt, India, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, and Pakistan, a course, "Golden Lands of the Silk Road." On six Thursday evenings, April 18 to May 30 at the varioius embassies. For information: 202 357-3030.

Julia's Kitchen

Several CHoW members are already working as volunteers at the National Museum of American History, helping to unpack and catalog items from Julia's kitchen: Susan Riecken, Jane Finn, Susan Stutter Helm, Randy Clarke, Shirley Cherkasky, Claudia Kousoulas, and Katherine Livingston. More of those who volunteered for one day per week will be called as time goes on, and a new cadre of volunteers will be contacted to work on the project for the next three-month period beginning in May. It's not too late to call or e-mail Rayna Green to let her known when you might be available.

News From Other Organizations

March 20-24, 2002: "Charleston Cuisine," a Smithsonian Study Tour led by Matt and Ted Lee of the Southern Food Alliance also will include the Low Country and material on antebellum rice cultivation. For further information: www.smithsonianstudytours.org.

April 5-6, 2002: "Know Thyself: Philosophy and the Human Condition," the first annual Philosophy and Food conference, will be held on the Mississippi State University campus.

April 13, 2002: "Health Benefits of Tea," a program at Green Spring Gardens Manor House by Lisa Scruggs, former dietitian and tea consultant, will give current findings and tips on how to brew the various types. By reservation only, a $20 nonrefundable prepayment is required. For information: 703 941-7987.

October 17-20, 2002: Southern Foodways Symposium on the University of Mississippi Oxford campus. The theme is barbecue culture. Registration opens in late summer. For further information: www.southernfoodways.com; 662 915-5993.

Food in the News

"Hints From Heloise" in the Washington Post of 2/20/02 reported the results of her "Oldest, Still-Working Appliance Quest." Photographs of the ten winners, from a 1906 toaster to a 1935 Sunbeam Mixmaster, can be viewed on her web site ( www.Heloise.com). Shirley Cherkasky's 1950 Sunbeam Mixmaster is still in constant use but it's not easy to get replacement parts these days. Any CHoW member still using an appliance older than that?

Food in Museums

Katherine Livingston has provided information on the following two food exhibitions:

Recently opened at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is an exhibition entitled "Chocolate." The exhibit covers 1500 years of the subject, from the cacao tree in its rain forest habitat to current marketing and manufacturing. The museum's web site (www.fmnh.org) gives extensive information about the exhibit itself and the subject in general, with listings of related leactures and course offerings and relevant books. The last include a pictorial history conceived in connection with the exhibit, Chocolate: The Nature of Indulgence by Ruth Lopez (Harry N Abrams, $29.95) and a book for older children to be published this spring. After closing at the Field on December 31, the exhibit is expected to tour ten cities in the United States, but tour plans are not yet complete.

Currently showing at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris is an exhibition entitled "A Table au XIXeme Siecle" (The Art of Eating in the 19th Century). The exhibition, which combines objects and works of art, is to close on March 3 but an account of it is available (in English and French) on the museum's web site: www.musee-orsay.fr. A catalog (in French) also is available from the museum (vpcmo@rmn.fr) for 40 Euros (about $35) plus 23.45 Euros for shipping.

While in Paris earlier in February, Francine Berkowitz stumbled upon the exhibition at the Musee and reports that seeing it was a total delight despite all the labels being only in French.

The Book Forager

For those of you who enjoy estate sales, used book sales and other inexpensive sources for culinary history books or very old cookbooks, a list of the books we are still seeking for the Eckles Library Culinary Collection is included with this issue of CHoWLine. Originally the list included about a hundred books but many of them have been found. If you wish to suggest any books for the list, please call 703 684-5861; shircher@cs.com.

Katherine Hayes has alerted us that the Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum are collaborating to digitize a major collection of important American cookbooks published between 1798 and 1923 and to produce interpretive materials explaining their historical significance.
Exhibit: digital.lib.msu.edu
Cookery Collection: www.lib.msu.edu/coll/main/spec_col/cookery/aboutcoo.htm

Further information below is reprinted from the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor Fall 2001 newsletter.

"Feeding America" Digital Archive
The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have received a two-year, $249,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to create an online collection of 19th- and early 20th-century American cookbooks.

The "Feeding America" online collection will highlight an important part of America's cultural heritage for teachers and students at the K-12 and college levels, researchers investigating American social history, professional chefs, and cooking enthusiasts of all ages. The two-year project will be completed in September, 2003.

"Feeding America" will include page images of 75 cookbooks in the MSU Library's collection as well as searchable full-text transcriptions. The site will also feature a glossary of cooking terms, essays by culinary historian Jan Longone, and multidimensional images of antique cooking implements from the collections of the MSU Museum.

The full-text search capability of the site will enable students and scholars to locate passages on topics as diverse as 1890s nutritional advice, the uses of nutmeg, Civil War-era apple pie recipes, and descriptions of kitchen appliances. The 3-D images will help users visualize the technology of 19th-century cooking by linking descriptions of unfamiliar cooking processes to images of the utensils and implements used to carry them out.

"Many of the older cookbooks are more than a collection of recipes," notes Yvonne Lockwood, curator of folklife at the MSU Museum. "In addition to recipes, some also were manuals on what constitutes a meal, on how to run a kitchen, serve meals, feed a family, and much more," she said. "They provide a glimpse into women's lives not 'seen' elsewhere. Gleanings from the recipes in cookbooks, such as those that cover a period of time, for example, also suggest influences on food and food habits and document changing food fads."

The MSU Museum owns over 1,000 food-related artifacts, and the Library contains 5,000 cookbooks from six centures, including Tunis Campbell's Hotel Keepters, Head Waiters and Housekeepers' Guide (1848), one of the earliest Black-authored American cookbooks; Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (1798), Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife (1838), and The Woman Suffrage Cookbook (1886 or 1890).

The project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library services, an independent federal agency that supports the nation's museums and libraries.

On The Reading Table

Meeting notice, Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin, March 2002

Cornbread Nation, newsletter of the Southern Foodways Alliance, No. 6, Winter 2002

Meeting notice, Culinary Historians of Boston, February 2002