If you plan to go, please let Claudia know as soon as possible. If we don't know that you're coming, the Waltzes can't include you in their plans and we won't be able to notify you about carpooling arrangements.
Refreshments provided by members followed a farmers' market theme: Rhubarb Custard, Sally Waltz; Chocolate Nut Cookies, Julia Abrahams; Penny Loaf Bread and Fresh Spring Vegetables (Farmer's Plate), Sophie Frederickson; Allegheny Chevre, Katherine Livingston; Strawberry Cheesecake Squares, Felice Caspar; Amish Peach Praline Pie, Bryna Freyer; Straun Bread with Chocolate Apple Butter, Kristen Donnelly; Polish Cheese-Filled Easter Bread, Zina Pisarko; and Mushroom and Green Onion Quiche, Kari Barrett.
Laura Gilliam reported that members of Les Dames d'Escoffier have been unsuccessful in finding a new home for their culinary collection that the George Washington University has requested be removed from the Eckles Library and so they have decided to sell all the books at a book sale for which there is no information yet on time and location. The CHoW Board notified Les Dames that we would be retrieving those culinary history and other books that we have contributed to the collection. Laura, with the help of Dianne King, Shirley Cherkasky, and Francine Berkowitz, completed that work on April 9-11 and the books are now boxed and temporarily stored until we can find a location where they will be cared for and made accessible to those interested in using them. We will keep you informed. Laura also reported that fewer culinary collections are now open to the public than in the past.
In response to our e-mail inquiry, Sandy Oliver of Food History News replied that although she doesn't know what a 5-pail kettle is, an answer will be forthcoming.
Ann Yonkers of FreshFarm Markets and Robin Shuster of Local Foods spoke about the farmers' markets they have established in Washington, DC, and St. Michaels, Maryland, giving an overview of the history of such markets, and a picture of what the products mean to those who produce and consume them. See the introduction from Ann's recent book, Eating Fresh, appears at the end of this issue of CHoWLine.
May 1 & May 2, 10-3: Advanced Hearth Cooking Classes at Gunston Hall. One-day, hands-on program on complex period recipes, with discussions of the region's culinary history, seasonal uses of varioius ingredients, and popular foodway myths. Pre-registration required, $119. Call 703-550- 9220.
May 1-2 or May 8-9: Sheep and Wool Festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Free admission. Recommended by Sally Waltz. Check the newspaper for the correct dates and times.
May 20, 7 p.m. "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog," a lecture by Lisa Grossman Thomas, co-author of the book by the same name, is part of the 150th Anniversary Speaker Series being sponsored by the USS Constitution Museum in partnership with the Maryland Historical Society. "Thoughts of dining at sea bring forth images of formal rows of tables covered with fine linen and laden with culinary delights, but there was a time when nutrition and sustenance aboard ship came in the form of slush junk and dandyfunk." Ms. Thomas will share recipes and food preparation techniques from her book that was inspired by Patrick O'Brien's novels. At the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument Street, Baltimore. Advance Tickets: $8/members; $10/nonmembers. $12 at the door. Call 410 539-1797 x422 for information.
Historic Green Spring will have four programs during the summer on The Essence of Tea: June 13 - Green Teas; July 18 - Oolongs; August 1 - White Teas; August 8 - Black Teas; and June 27 - Tisanes and Other Cooling Beverages. All from 1-3 pm and accompanied by an English-style Tea. Reservations and a $22 prepayment required. Call 703-941-7987.
These lands supported permanent and thriving communities of Native Americans who fished with weirs in the rivers and bays, burned clearings in the forests where they hunted the abundant game, and planted the sustaining trinity of corn, beans, and squash. These were the beginnings of American agriculture.
The new chapter of agriculture began when the Europeans, who initially huddled in primitive settlements along the coastlines, moved out into the landscape, clearing forests with fire and axe, and plowed and planted not only to feed themselves but also to trade with the mother country, England. America's first commercial agricultural crop was tobacco, and the African slaves, imported to work the vast waterside plantations, were human hostages to that crop and way of life. Agriculture was already shaping the new America.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries when more than 90 percent of American citizens were engaged in agriculture, the patterns of settlement mapped their close relationship to - and reliance on - the land. Cities and towns were located on rivers and streams surrounded by farmland that fed and clothed the growing population. For the early settlers, living in the Mid-Atlantic meant "eating your landscape," living off and depending on the nearby landscape. Even today, when we have relentlessly cut through and paved over too many of these fertile fields and dammed too many of its rivers, the land reminds us of the seasons and provides great seasonal sustenance.
In early spring, when the chill is barely gone from the air, the athletic, iridescent shad swim upstream to spawn in quiet inland creeds and the serviceberry bush, called the shadbush by the locals, puts out white blossoms on bare branches to echo the miracle of spring from the land. The first full moon of May usually means the first big harvest of soft-shell crabs as the Atlantic blue crabs emerge from the muddy depths of Chesapeake Bay to search out eelgrass where they can shed their shells. Summer means plump ears of sweet corn boiled, buttered, and on the cob, and fat slices of the pinkish and deeply flavorful Brandywine tomato named for and prized by the citizens of the valley of the same name in Pennsylvania. Pears from the foothills of the Appalachian mountains announce fall. Most bear foreign names and pedigrees except the early-ripening Bartlett named for Yankee Enoch Bartlett who brought them from England, and the diminutive Seckel whose lovely green-to-russet-tinged skin make it picture-perfect for preserving whole. Winter means country hams, cured and smoked in the old-fashioned way over hickory or fruitwood, and a plate of sweet and milky Chesapeake Bay oysters eaten overlooking the Baltimore harbor.
Today all these vast resources are threatened, from the great "protein factory" of the Chesapeake estuary to the fertile farms and rivers of the region. The Mid-Atlantic region is the second most threatened area of farmland in the United States where, as a nation, we are losing 1.2 million acres of farmland per year. Instead of "eating our landscape," most of us now live in developments named for farms destroyed to build our houses. Instead of relying on farmers and fishermen just down the road, we rely on farmers and fishermen 1,500 to 3,000 to 9,000 miles away to provide our food.
There is another way. We do have options. As Wendell Berry said, "Eating is an agricultural act," and each time we eat, we can choose to vote with our food dollars for another way of life. We can shop at our farmers' markets, join a Community-Supported Agriculture arrangement with a local farm, purchase local produce offered by major regional grocery stores, or patronize restaurants serving local food, and when we shop or dine out and don't find these choices, we must ask for them. Remember, nothing is more persuasive than an informed and committed consumer.
As for a vision for the future, we have only to consult our past. George Washington recognized "the great advantage which nature and circumstances have placed within our reach." In plain speech, much of our success as a region derives from the rare resources we had at our disposal. It is now time to reconnect to that land. We must protect and restore those resources and recognize how interdependent we are.
Vice President - Dianne Hennessy King, a cultural anthropologist, is a television producer, lecturer, and teacher. Recent projects have included a television program on "Domestic Violence Across Cultures," lectures on "Food Diversity and Globalization," and classes on "Cookbook Writing A-Z." Formerly editor-in-chief at Pillsbury where she edited ten cookbooks, and writer and associate editor for Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, she served as CHoW president for two years and vice president for the past year.
Secretary - Francine Berkowitz is director of the Office of International Relations for the Smithsonian Institution. She collects cookbooks and menus and has traveled extensively and photographed food markets on five continents. She has served CHoW as treasurer, as president, as a director, and for the past year, as secretary.
Treasurer - Laura Gilliam teaches recorder and flutes, and, before retiring, was a librarian at the Library of Congress. She is an avid cookbook collector and her lifelong interest in foods has resulted in adventures such as helping to kill a rattlesnake in order to taste it [cooked], and growing corn smut to try one of Diana Kennedy's recipes. For the past year she has been CHoW treasurer, and also has devoted countless hours to organizing the Les Dames culinary collection.
Director - Kari Barrett addresses food policy issues in her work as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Legislation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Her interests include foodways (particularly Southern foodways in the Tidewater region), food history, and food writing. She has worked in a number of restaurants and currently assists at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda. For the past year she has served as a CHoW director.
Director - Katherine Livingston was for many years the book review editor of Science magazine. With an academic background in philosophy, she combines a longtime interest in cooking with an interest in social history and the history of science. She has been an occasional contributor to CHoWLine, served as CHoW treasurer for two years, and has been a director for the past year.
Director - Kay Shaw Nelson, a food and travel writer and author of 17 international cookbooks, is a culinary historian, columnist for The Scottish Banner, and a contributor to Washington Woman. Her articles have appeared in several national magazines and newspapers. She has been a director for the past year.