Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food Culture’ Category

2810998603_3d1f0f5772

No, I’m not suggesting that you eat the refrigerator – I was just looking for an excuse to use the illustration. But it does raise the question of whether we ‘understand’, or know, or experience, our food in the same way if that food is an icy plastic-covered super-industrialized product created by a corporation for mass consumption or if that food is rather the odd turnip or potato pulled up at the farm by Pappy then carefully washed, sliced and stewed by Mammy with the bit of salt pork from the pig slaughtered each autumn by Uncle Wilbur.

Have you ever considered eating something unusual for the purpose of ‘understanding’ it? (This is not the same thing as eating something strange for the purpose of  bragging about it afterwards to all your eagerly disgusted friends!)

One family in particular of a studious nature took to this idea. Their tables were graced with some very interesting foodstuffs.

Not only was his house filled with specimens – animal as well as mineral, live as well as dead – but he claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom: zoophagy. The most distasteful items were mole and bluebottle; panther, crocodile and mouse were among the other dishes noted by guests. Augustus Hare, a famous English raconteur and contemporary, recalled, “Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.” The heart in question is said to have been that of Louis XIV. Buckland was followed in this bizarre hobby by his son Frank.

Like father, like son – Francis Trevelyan Buckland followed his dad William in the ways of the table.

Buckland was a pioneer of zoöphagy: his favourite research was eating the animal kingdom. This habit he learnt from his father, whose residence, the Deanery, offered such rare delights as mice in batter, squirrel pie, horse’s tongue and ostrich. After the ‘Eland Dinner’ in 1859 at the London Tavern, organised by Richard Owen, Buckland set up the Acclimatization Society to further the search for new food. In 1862 100 guests at Willis’ Rooms sampled Japanese Sea slug (= sea cucumber, probably), kangaroo, guan, curassow and Honduras turkey. This was really quite a modest menu, though Buckland had his eye on Capybara for the future. Buckland’s home, 37 Albany Sreet, London, was famous for its menagerie and its varied menus. [4]

His writing was sometimes slapdash, but always vivid and racy, and made natural history attractive to the mass readership. This is an example:

“On Tuesday evening, at 5pm, Messrs Grove, of Bond Street, sent word that they had a very fine sturgeon on their slab. Of course, I went down at once to see it… The fish measured 9 feet in length [nearly three metres]. I wanted to make a cast of the fellow… and they offered me the fish for the night: he must be back in the shop the next morning by 10 am… [various adventures follow] I was determined to get him into the kitchen somehow; so, tying a rope to his tail, I let him slide down the stone stairs by his own weight. He started all right, but ‘getting way’ on him, I could hold the rope no more, and away he went sliding headlong down the stairs, like an avalanche down Mont Blanc… he smashed the door open… and slid right into the kitchen… till at last he brought himself to an anchor under the kitchen table. This sudden and unexpected appearance of the armour-clad sea monster, bursting open the door… instantly created a sensation. The cook screamed, the house-maid fainted, the cat jumped on the dresser, the dog retreated behind the copper and barked, the monkeys went mad with fright, and the sedate parrot has never spoken a word since.” [5]

Now that sounds like a fun place to visit! I never before thought the Dean of Westminster and his family so very exciting!

The only thing I feel really badly about is that I have not (yet) located their recipe for Rhinoceros Pie. Do you think perhaps Rhinoceros Pies is the magical thing inside the Holy Refrigerator illustrated above? Or is it a TV dinner in there? Or that famous organic turnip? Or some leftover canned spaghetti? Or . . . . ? What could it possibly be?!

And having eaten the things we eat, do we then understand them? Or do we write our own stories about them to suit our own pleasures and to fit our own mindsets . . . .

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

3555091580_2e36f4a23b

Radical Chic, after all, is only radical in style; in its heart it is part of Society and its traditions. (Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers -1970)

Ramps. I’m sick and tired of ’em. You hear about them here there and everywhere. They are the new Darlings (or rather they are hanging on by a thread to being the new Darlings, but that is merely because there has been no contender for the title) of the Hip Veggie world.

For the past several years, ramps have been vociferously promenading the Red Carpet that was previously pranced upon by arugula merrily towing its attendant baby veggies.

Surely the time has come for a change. Ramps, my dears, are passé. I do not want to read of ramps anymore in drinks, salads, crusts, and soups. Soggy old ramps! Your day is past.

It is time for a New Star on the Red Carpet and it really should be Creasy Greens. From Dave’s Garden:

At the first hint of spring in the Appalachian Mountains, folks start looking for “creasy greens”. They are the earliest of any of the wild greens, often poking through the snow, and although traditionally hunted by foragers they are now grown commercially. Creasy greens are usually cooked long, like kale, mustard or turnip greens but they are equally good raw in a fresh salad.

Here’s a personal story about the Soon-To-Be-Star from The Herbwife’s Kitchen

When I was a tiny kid I used to love climbing around the hillside above our pasture looking for creasy greens in the early spring.

I still love creasy greens.

Creasy greens are Barbarea verna, in the mustard family. They taste a little mustardy, a little sweet, a little bitter. Reminiscent of very young collards, but wilder.

I like to pick them when they’re about to bloom, when they’re a lot like “wild broccoli” (or broccolini, rapini, broccoli raab, or whatever they’re calling it these days).

This season’s Spring Fashion is done with. Let’s get Cutting Edge. Start to think Creasy Greens.
You can even grow your own from Heirloom Seeds! To be ahead of the crowd!

Creasy Greens. Watch out for them. My fashion prediction is that you’ll see  them everywhere next Spring. And they won’t be cheap, dressed up in their new Red Carpet attire!

Read Full Post »

11358992_26493daf69_o

Like any other thing we eat, there is the question of ‘why’? Why do we eat this particular thing? Do we eat it because we are really hungry? Or do we eat it because it just happens to be in front of us and available to eat? Or maybe simply because it happens to be the set time for a meal? These questions are the simpler ones. The more challenging questions have to do with tradition, history, culture, and power.

Power is not the least of things affecting what we eat – though in our culture that fact is not as apparent as it may be in other cultures.

In this short online documentary from National Geographic, the bush meat trade is summarized in a way that brings attention to some of the power issues circling around the eating of wild game or bushmeat such as rhinoceros in Africa. There was no mention of the lumber companies which have a hand in the story, but the players in this game – and the histories and traditions – all combine to create a not-so-small battle of ‘whose reality is the right one here’ – with very real results of the battle showing in day-to-day life in this place faraway from where we live and eat.

There is real hunger in some places. Hunger for food to stay alive. Then there are the other sorts of hungers. The complex hungers of status that play out in a number of ways.

Why would we want to eat rhinoceros? Or lion or tiger or bear? These things are not part of our cultural norms as edible things. Is the answer ‘I just want to know what it tastes like,’ a real answer – fully true and valid with no squirrelly levels of additional or alternate meaning underneath this flat-stated claim?

Perhaps in some cases it is for mere entertainment value.

We can buy wild game, including lion meat – online. Here, at this link, is a source. It is called ‘exotic meat’. Which of course has a different feel to the mind than ‘bush meat’ does. One of the satisfied customers giving testimonial on the website of this online exotic meat store was the pastor of a church in California, who states

“Anshu, The Lion Meat and the Python Meat was a hit. The guys found ways to cook it that were appealing. 500 people had a taste. Thanks for all your help.It was very nice to meet you and visit with you on the phone.” Yours, Jeff Beltz, Pastor, Hydesville Community Church

Dining upon the rhinoceros is certainly something to muse upon. We’ve come up close to the beast and have a few recipes ready if the need or urge arises.

The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he’s not a feast.
Farwell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I’ll stare at something less prepoceros.

I think the rhino is rather cute, though Ogden Nash would disagree. Prepoceros, though – for sure.

Read Full Post »

2529966838_95ab9af58f

In studies of food and culture one fact crops up time and again: We do not like what the ‘others’ eat. We only like what ‘we’ eat. That is, until the ‘others’ become lovable to us in some way – acceptable companions at table. As the rhinoceros comes to the table to be eaten, it may be worthwhile to investigate who loves him before we cook him. Will he make the grade to be happily placed upon our tables for merry feasting?

The illustration above is from a 1959 children’s book titled ‘Rupert the Rhinoceros’. We can see that the dolphin loves the rhinoceros called Rupert but the story goes deeper than that. In this newspaper article from the Telegraph we learn of the tale of Rupert the Real Rhinoceros – who was for some time a family pet.

The question of whether one can eat a pet is a curious one. We eat things we love but not things we keep as pets, in most cases.

Other examples rhinoceros-as-dinner do exist. The Munster Family liked a bit of rhino for dinner – most particularly the tongue.

When it comes time for dinner, Lily is a whiz in the kitchen and always finds time to prepare a nice hot meal for Herman and family .Their mealtime included such delicacies as chopped lizard livers, cold rhinoceros tongue sandwiches, fillet of dragon, eggs (Gloomy side up), cream of vulture soup (Herman’s favorite), curried lizard casserole, rolled hyena-foot roast, bird’s nest stew (Grandpa’s favorite), warm ladyfingers with pickled frog ears, Dodo bird roast, cream of buzzard or iguana soup; cactus salad, and salamander salad with centipede dressing.

The New York Times describes a dinner in 1905 where rhinoceros was so devoutly desired that the menu was faked so as to deceive those so eagerly awaiting their bite of rhino.

The Canadian Camp had its annual dinner at the Hotel Astor last night, and the members and guests had a lot of fun despite scurrilous stories that the piece de resistance, which had been advertised as “filet of Bornean rhinoceros, sent from the Berlin Zoological Gardens with the compliments of his Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia,” was ordinary bear’s meat, or moose, or even plain, everyday beef.

The disillusionment must have been terrible.

The love of rhino can be very deep indeed. I leave you with a final story as example of a man who ‘glued himself to a rhinoceros’ buttocks’ to consider in the quest to decide whether rhinoceros is indeed loved (and if so, loved in the right sort of way to put it on the table for dinner).

Read Full Post »

Our important discussion of dining on the hippopotamus – the subject matter of which has so much to do with current and vital issues of culture and society – will have to be briefly interrupted for the annual Parade of Men in Aprons.

2378232564_a5480dd1b2

2377444209_a38e324553(2)

369296409_4ff9ee511d_oWe are sorry that these are the only clips we can provide you with, as the entries have been fewer this year than expected.

Read Full Post »

I had promised some hijinks to a friend. But then I had none ready. What to do? Why, put on the hijinks apron and whip some up of course!

2867052640_3745700b28

As you see I am ready to rock! My apron starched and laundered. And there are seven of me. Just to be sure the job gets done.

What I didn’t know, when I promised hijinks to my friend, was that ‘hijinks’ is a drinking game.

High jinks, a somewhat dated expression for fun and pranks, was originally the name of an ancient drinking game played wih dice, and the antics of the players gave birth to the phrase. Sir Walter Scott describes the game in his novel Guy Mannering (1815): “Most frequently the dice were thrown by the company, and those upon whom the lot fell were obliged to assume and maintain for a time a certain fictitious character or to repeat a certain number of fescennine (obscene) verses in a particular order. If they departed from the character assigned . . . they incurred forfeits, which were compounded for by swallowing an additional bumper, or by paying a small sum toward the reckoning.” (Word and Phrase Origins Third Edition, Robert Hendrickson)

Why, this seems perfect for me! I can throw dice and drink with the best of them! And as there are seven of me (already dressed in aprons and ready to work at this thing, feather duster in hand!) the game is on! I shall have to invent a few more fictitious characters because swallowing a bumper sounds like a bad idea. The only bumpers I know (well, aside from those guys on the subway and I wouldn’t want to swallow any part of them either) are the heavy steel things on cars. Horrible to swallow.

I’m off to gather my chickens and hijinks. See you soon!
3351401637_2845cf762b

Read Full Post »

3256074454_4fc1eddb98

Watch the dancing pickles then listen to the song!

I’ve heard this song before, often – but never did I know it was called The Dill Pickle Rag!

(Do you think the pickles were deep-fried?)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »