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The Austerity Kitchen
By Christine Baumgarthuber
Where the alimentary is elementary.
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Bon Appé-teat

Guernon on Milch Cows

“I dined at the Chaplain’s table upon a roasted Tongue and Udder. N.B. I shall not dine on a roasted Tongue and Udder again very soon.” –James Woodforde, diary entry, 17 February, 1793

 

Varsity Voracity

Higher learning and higher caloric intake have long gone hand in hand

Students in Dining Hall Miami

My first year of college I managed to keep off the dreaded “Freshman 15″ by living on Grape Nuts, soy milk, orange juice, and gin. Not exactly brain food, I admit, but I faced limited options. In my dorm room I had a minifridge and microwave, and that’s it (no hotpots or -plates allowed). I didn’t own a car, and the closest supermarket was miles from campus. The student union was your typical gauntlet of fast food stands complemented by serving lines ladling out overpriced tray-fuls of mashed potatoes, corn niblets and chicken parts. A food co-op operated nearby, but its horn o’ bowel-quickening plenty — carob almond mounds, sprouted spelt bagels, tempeh salad sandwiches — asked prices that meant only the very rare splurge. Chronically short of cash, I decided that a nice buzz was as important as a full belly and took the practical expedient to achieving both.

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Holiday Spirits High and Low

Colonel Crocketts

“As to the dinner, it’s perfectly delightful — nothing goes wrong, and everybody is in the very best of spirits, and disposed to please and be pleased. Grandpapa relates a circumstantial account of the purchase of the turkey, with a slight digression relative to the purchase of previous turkeys, on former Christmas-days, which grandmamma corroborates in the minutest particular. Uncle George tells stories, and carves poultry, and takes wine, and jokes with the children at the side-table, and winks at the cousins that are making love, or being made love to, and exhilarates everybody with his good humour and hospitality; and when, at last, a stout servant staggers in with a gigantic pudding, with a sprig of holly in the top, there is such a laughing, and shouting, and clapping of little chubby hands, and kicking up of fat dumpy legs, as can only be equalled by the applause with which the astonishing feat of pouring lighted brandy into mince-pies, is received by the younger visitors. Then the dessert! — and the wine! — and the fun!” –Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Dinner” (1836)

The General Store of Yore

These fixtures of American towns dominated local markets but were later liquidated by corporate competitors

I’ve been shopping at a certain store known more for busting unions and bloating welfare rolls than for peddling quality goods. It’s pretty much the only mercantile action in my small Rust Belt town. The mom-n’-pop shop hale enough to have withstood the Walmart Wehrmacht is rare in even the biggest burgs. Where I live they’re like snow leopards or skunk apes: rumored to exist but seldom seen. So with a heavy heart I step into the fluorescent glare to sift piles of shoddy junk to find whatever it was I thought I needed that day. I guess you could say I’ve been big-boxed in.

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