The Austerity Kitchen at Large

Medieval cuisine, the wonderful Land of Cockaigne, and modern notions of a balanced diet -- all in my article for Max Joseph
Oh, that land of Cockaigne is so good. It rains there in all fair parts Sweets, pastries and cooked tarts. In that land flows a river Of good wine, of good beer, Muscatel and fine claret, Sherry for men as well This may men drink at no expense Whether wine or whatever they want With ginger and with nutmeg Are what they use to pave the street Everything there is going well There of riches man has no need. So what men there in the land find lying That may take men without asking twice. And do it like it is deserved Sure that it truly is their own. --From "The Land of Cockaigne" (Dutch version, ca. 15th century) If you can read German, I invite you to check out my article, entitled "Woher Kommt das Schlaraffenland?," which you can… Read More...

Hunger Gamesmanship

At some point they come for the butter, so you better grab your guns
Thanks to the new machines, the money that had allowed a hundred weavers to live safely and comfortably could now be saved by the factory owner, or spent on himself. Of course, he still needed workers to manage the machines. But only unskilled workers, and not many of them. (more…) Read More...

Serving the Rich

The meek shall inherit the earth -- if the mighty don't consume it first
The meek shall inherit the earth -- if the mighty don't consume it first One midsummer evening in 1947 a Seattle policeman named Bill Hill entered a steak-eating derby. He decided this on a whim. His great appetite, he figured, made him a formidable contestant. In little more than an hour he wolfed down seven steaks and chased them with a strawberry sundae. When the derby official declared him the victor he blushed and said: "I could have eaten more, but I didn't want to show off." (more…) Read More...

The Austerity Kitchen on the Radio

Home ec table talk coming to you from Bushwick
Today I spoke with Linda Pelaccio, host of Heritage Radio Network's A Taste of the Past, about my article on Juliet Corson, community-supported agriculture, and home economics -- its history and amenability to progressive politics. You can hear the interview by clicking here or by visiting the page for the episode that features me.     Read More...

Chestnut Economics

When this staple food didn't roast on an open fire, it sparked an urge to increase profit and stoked flames of popular revolt
Chestnut season has passed. No more do the dusky, burnished hulls brim from bins in supermarkets and gourmet shops. No longer does their sweet, musky scent tempt passing shoppers to buy them -- a good thing, perhaps, when today they command a price too high for the budget-minded; but a strange development when you consider that for centuries chestnuts fed hapless farmers, friendless students, luckless gamblers and helpless children. (more…) Read More...

Poet-Taster (1): James Arthur

Culinary verse to nourish you through the work week
New for 2013, The Austerity Kitchen's "Poet-Taster" series features culinary verse from contemporary poets.   The Kitchen Weeps Onion The kitchen weeps onion because the cook is dead. Pans strike chorus and the ladles keep a knock-kneed stride. Burners gleam more brightly. Chives, chives, and chives. Everyone seems so tired but the diners can't sleep. The kitchen tonight weeps onion, so everyone else must weep. What's the use in talking? Let's touch, and turn apart. The cook is quiet, cold, unearthly, and the turnip breaks its heart.   "The Kitchen Weeps Onion" appears in Charms Against Lightning, the debut collection from James Arthur published in November 2012 by Copper Canyon Press (reprinted with permission). Read More...

Gut Reaction

The pleasure of the table surpasses even that of the text
"Food provokes an internal pleasure: inside the body, enclosed in it, not just beneath the skin, but in that deep, central zone, all the more primordial because it is soft, tangled, permeable, and called, in a very general sense, the intestines." -- Roland Barthes Read More...

Hive Minds

The many honey hunters swarming the American frontier present a classic case of failing to see the forest for the bees
Of the various sorts of men blazing trails through the American frontier the honey hunter stood out as unique. Bold, elusive, secretive, he wandered much of the year, living off the land as he searched vast unclaimed forests for the pine stumps and oak hollows whose recesses harbored his liquid gold, and whose location, once discovered, he jealously guarded. (more…) Read More...

Turkey Day in the Land of the Garuda

A New York medical woman of the fin de siècle recalls her first Thanksgiving among Indians of the non-American kind
No visions of turkey cutlets, mashed potatoes, jellied cranberries, rum punch or pumpkin pie danced in Arley Isabel Munson's head one Thanksgiving morning at the turn of the last century. Rather, her day's duties filled her thoughts as she rose before dawn in a small Indian village. (more…) Read More...

Bun of Contention

"The people will never listen to reason on the subject of dear bread."
Pass some dinner rolls their way and today's weight-obsessed gastronomes, ever mindful of carbohydrates and calories, will likely demur. Yet such reticence history shows to be unusual; the attitude prevailed for centuries that a meal without bread was no meal at all. Peasants, burghers, artisans, beggars -- each alike clamored for a crust to munch with their meat. Two to three pounds of bread the typical working-class Parisian would consume, the typical Spaniard even more. Any fruit or vegetables on their tables appeared as accents, barely more than condiments. (more…) Read More...