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Carol Guensburg has been cooking family meals since she was 9, the bossy second of six kids in central Wisconsin. From there, it was just a few steps to a career-long interest in the science and sociology of food. Just out of college, she became features editor of the Kingston Daily Freeman, a small daily in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she looked into everything from the socioeconomics of family farms to the science behind clear consommé. She developed a passion for Cuban food and other Florida fare while working for the Miami News, then eventually became the Milwaukee Journal’s food editor. She also ran a University of Maryland program for working journalists, where she oversaw projects on subjects including school food and childhood obesity. She is an editor at Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. She once baked for Julia Child – a decadent chocolate cake on which Carol flubbed the finale of piping whipped cream from a pastry bag in front of a classroom of Julia fans. Mais oui!

By Carol Guensburg

A mom who could tame the wild rhubarb

I associate rhubarb with a certain primitivism – and my mom’s civilizing effects. My earliest memories of the stuff date to around age 6 and involve contentedly gnawing on a fresh-picked stalk while hiding in a patch of tiger lilies, studying the greenery and its patrolling ants and reveling in a rare moment of solitude. …

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From a little blue box, tradition in a Jiffy

A biscuit resembling a white hockey puck led Mabel White Holmes to start a revolution in home baking with a  packaged dry mix. Back in the 1920s in Chelsea, Mich., a neighbor boy visiting Holmes’ young twin sons had brought a bag lunch prepared by his dad, a single parent. Right on top was that biscuit. …

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For fans of fish fry, Lent brings little sacrifice

For Christians, Lent is the season of reflection and sacrifice leading up to Easter (April 20 this year). But there’s nothing penitential about one rite observed in some heavily Catholic regions of America: the Friday fish fry. It’s a festive indulgence of deep-fried fish, accompanied by potatoes (fries, pancakes or salad) and a tangy cole slaw, served in …

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Hospital food and ‘invalid cookery’ get healthy makeover

What do you feed someone who’s been laid low by illness, injury or surgery? American caregivers once spooned out porridge, gruels of milk and mushed bread or crackers, soft-cooked eggs and custards – forerunner of the popular BRAT diet, the bland repertoire of bananas, rice, apples and toast. “Common Sense in the Household,” a best-seller in …

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Artist relishes a comic take on food

  Comic artist Lucy Knisley, who de­scribes herself as a “child raised by foodies,” knows she’s had a somewhat rarefied view of America’s growing culinary sophistication. Now 29, she recalls scribbling in her coloring books in the kitchen of Bouley, the acclaimed Manhattan restaurant, where her caterer mom sometimes prepped sauces. Or learning to slurp …

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Make molasses your valentine

Most of us load up on chocolate and other sugary confections for Valentine’s Day. But this holiday, how about showing a little love for a humble sweetener that has fallen out of fashion? Molasses certainly deserves Americans’ affection. “I know not why we should blush to confess that Molasses was an essential Ingredient in American …

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Eating on the wild side in Alaska

The hardy Alaskan homemaker can “depend on the bracing, exhilarating outdoor life to whet the appetite for plain, wholesome food” – which, in the depths of winter, can mean canned or frozen provisions such as tomatoes, beans, sauerkraut, salmon and moose meat. So pronounces “For Wilderness Wives,” an early 1950s booklet from the University of …

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Jerky’s long history is something to chew on

To jerky lovers, it must have seemed like manna when the makers of Jack Link’s air-dropped hundreds of little jerky packets, via miniature parachutes, over a championship youth baseball game in the meat-packing capital of Omaha, Neb. Last year’s “Operation Sky Meat” marked the first National Jerky Day, June 12, in a thoroughly modern American …

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Kitchen Sink: ‘Tis the season for bourbon balls

While touring several Kentucky bourbon distilleries this summer, I learned more about the pleasures of the spirit — in a glass and, unexpectedly, in a confection. Tours of Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace each end with a sampling of bourbon for visitors 21 and older. But every tourist, no matter the age, gets …

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Holiday Drinks: The coquito

Many Spanish-speaking cultures have a holiday eggnog or milk punch. In Puerto Rico, it’s the coquito. “We make it with coconut milk because that’s so readily available,” says Giovanna Huyke, a native of that U.S. commonwealth and chef at Mio, a Latin American restaurant in Washington, D.C. The drink also showcases rum, a key Puerto …

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