Readings RSS feed for this section

Books, articles, fiction and features

Early-American Jews brought elements of Mediterranean diet

When I was in graduate school researching newspapers from the 1780s and ’90s, I was surprised to find Philadelphia merchants advertising olive oil, capers and anchovies. Who ate these foods, I wondered, and what did they make with them? These and other Mediterranean foods, I learned, were Jewish contributions to American cuisine. The earliest Jews …

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

First community cookbook written for fun, started a trend

Long before the Internet, recipes were shared through community cookbooks. These were often called charity cookbooks and were used to raise money for churches, schools and other causes. The first American charity cookbook celebrates its 150th anniversary this month.“A Poetical Cook-Book,” published in Philadelphia in 1864, was written by  Maria J. Moss who never meant …

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Rufus Estes: From unknown slave to eminent chef

Rufus Estes was born a slave, but, as a free man, cooked for American presidents, foreign dignitaries and celebrities. When the Civil War ended, Estes trained as a cook, ultimately becoming a railway chef for the Pullman Co., a prestigious position for a black man so soon after Emancipation. And in 1911, he self-published a …

Read full story · Comments { 4 }

Culinary biography puts Abraham Lincoln in the kitchen

Abraham Lincoln, often considered the greatest U.S. president, was also good around the house. He went marketing, milked the cow and helped with dinner. It is entirely possible that he did the dishes. “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times,” a new book by Rae Katherine Eighmey (Smithsonian Books, …

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

African-American cookbooks open window to the past

Occasionally we have to change history to understand it better. Not the facts, but sometimes the recipes. I recently wrote a piece for NPR’s Kitchen Window about the earliest African-American cookbooks. Readers raised good questions about whether I should adapt recipes from these books for contemporary kitchens. I’ve thought about this as I prepare for …

Read full story · Comments { 3 }
Sweet Potato-Chocolate Cake

The Kitchen Sink: Back to ‘Victory Garden Cookbook’

In January, my husband signed us up for a weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) program. Since then we have been “blessed” with an abundance of winter greens and sweet potatoes. Especially sweet potatoes. Lots of them. Big ones. I’ve put them in soup and in chili, and we’ve consumed more than a few batches of these …

Read full story · Comments { 13 }

Raymond Sokolov’s 40 years in food

Raymond Sokolov is a veteran of the American food revolution. He was there when “continental” food was haute cuisine, he was there when Julia Child first cut up a chicken on TV, he was there for fast food and slow food. He ate at rarified food temples as well as a Chinese restaurant attached to …

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

‘Key West Cook Book’ offers more than recipes

“It is morning – sunlight already brilliant on coral roadway and garden wall … an emerald lizard stalks his prey on the palm … The patio is still shady, so put a pale green cloth on the old iron table, and let me bring you some chilled papaya, your morning coffee Havana style if you …

Read full story · Comments { 10 }

Year of the Snake: Lessons from baba and book

Baba knows best. Kimchi maker Katy Chang found a cookbook in a used-book store that proved it once and for all. The nearly 70-year-old, out-of-print “How to Cook and Eat in Chinese” reinforced what Chang learned as a child in the kitchen of her father (baba in several languages) and in the intervening years as …

Read full story · Comments { 11 }

The (holiday cookbook) List

Everybody likes to find a cookbook under the tree. There’s a good crop this year. If you’re stumped for ideas, we’ve got a few suggestions. “101 Classic Cookbooks” (Rizzoli, $50) The book for people who love cookbooks. This doorstop traces the history of the modern American cookbook with essays from food luminaries such as Laura …

Read full story · Comments { 10 }