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...

The Cult of the Chafing Dish

Convenient and easy to use, this storied piece of cookware won the devotion of everyone from confirmed bachelors to college co-eds
Bachelor, spinster, pensioner, penniless artist, yachtsman, marksman, shift worker, stockbroker, picnicker -- each prized his chafing dish. A forerunner of the fondue pot, the chafing dish, with its small spirit lamp and nickel-plated pans, catered to those whose needs were modest. Though it rendered Lilliputian portions, it could cook anything from deviled lobster and macaroni rarebit to fig cups, peanut drops and wine punch. This versatility made the chafing dish the favorite of lonely hearts, transients and other solitary sorts, who esteemed its ability to elevate dinner from mere utility to true tastiness. (more…) Read More...

Iambic Spooktameter

Nothing says Halloween like hauntingly bad doggerel
"Bring forth the raisins and the nuts -- To-night All-Hallows' Spectre struts Along the moonlit way. No time is this for tear or sob, Or other woes our joys to rob, But time for Pippin and for Bob, And Jack-o'-lantern gay." -- J.K. Bangs, "Hallowe'en" (1910) Read More...

Morpheus Descending

The various sleep-inducing beverages drunk throughout history represent humanity's quest for an effective knockout punch
Those winter nights on which Benjamin Franklin couldn't get to sleep, he'd hop out of bed, open the windows, turn down the bedclothes and wait until both they and he were thoroughly chilled before climbing back in. (more…) Read More...

Core Values

Peeling back the layers of the Johnny Appleseed legend reveals a curious tale of environmentalism and real-estate speculation
In 1820 a Quaker nurseryman and farmer in York, Pennsylvania, cultivated a deep red, lopsided apple that he christened "Jonathan Fine Winter." His neighbors savored its sweetness and appreciated its shelf life (it kept through the winter). These qualities quickened demand; Jonathan Jessop's Jonathan became the most sought-after apple in the area. With it the mild husbandman could be said to have struck gold. (more…) Read More...

Potent Ingredients

The writer and unregenerate hedonist Norman Douglas concocted dishes designed to stiffen an old man's romantic resolve
This post is the first in a series of articles that explore the stories behind history's more peculiar cookbooks. The courtship rituals of Southern Italy captivated the writer and notorious sybarite Norman Douglas. Each evening he watched as young Calabrian men would lean against the railing of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a promenade that skirts the south side of the old town, their backs to the sea and their eyes fixed on the houses across the road. There even younger women would pose in front of windows or on balconies to display their charms. Not a word did either side exchange; the men only stood staring like lovesick dogs, while the women afflicted them. (more…) Read More...