Perspective: The Cultural (and Emotional) Side of Food; or, “if they complain, I’m never cooking for them again.”

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Food is often exalted as an important aspect of heritage, of culture, and even emotion. Yet, many times, underlying this exaltation is an assumption that food, and especially taste, is inherently biological, that what I think is good to eat is the same for all people. What taste good to me, what looks good to me, tastes and looks good to everyone else. Since I like chocolate and milk and bacon, all others must. These things taste good to me, so they must taste good to you. As such, we are quick to call attention to those foods that are strange or seem even inedible to us as disgusting or gross, and we never think twice about it. By viewing food and taste as inherently biological, we treat these negative words as facts, and not what they are–judgements. Continue reading

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Food History and Recipe: Hominy Muffins (Rufus Estes, 1911)

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes's book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

On the left, the cover from the first edition of Estes’s book; on the right, a later edition with the misnomer that Rufus was the first African-American cookbook writer.

Despite recent misinformation regarding Rufus Estes (he was, in fact not the first African-American cookbook writer, but he was the first African-American railway cookbook writer), this recipe for hominy muffins, as well as the life and occupation of its author, provides a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural associations attached to hominy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Continue reading

Soured Corns (1922, 2015): A Tale of Two Fermentations

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Sour sweet corn, from Garden & Gun.

Many people are surprised when they find out that the native groups who lived in the prehistoric and early historic Eastern Woodlands did not make their own fermented, alcoholic beverages. This wasn’t for lack of suitable materials–corn, as many know, makes a fine beer and liquor. History and culture are likely the culprits. Continue reading

Ode to Maize (1952), Pablo Neruda

Chilean, Pulitzer winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Pulitzer winning, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

While Pulitzer-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda is well-known internationally for his love poems, he also wrote many odes which were celebrations of ordinary things–an artichoke, salt, a large tuna in the market, his socks. Some of the odes are dedicated to important influences in his life, such as the poet Walt Whitman, or the act of aging. Continue reading

Food History: 1993, New York Times, “Hominy Still Has a Place In American Cooking”

In this article, published in the Food section of the New York Times on March 7, 1993, food critic Florence Fabricant suggests that there is a “renewed interest” in dried corn in American cuisine. While this renewed interest and, for many, introduction to dried corn stems from an interest in Southwestern and Mexican cooking, Fabricant indicates that hominy has been a part of the American culinary tradition for quite sometime. Continue reading

Food for Thought: You’re Eating Fake Tortillas!…But, Why Don’t You Care?

homemade blue corn tortilla, mexican traditional food

Blue corn flour tortillas.

On May 7, 2014, Vice News published the piece, “You’re Eating Fake Tortillas, and Diana Kennedy Is Pissed About It.”  A world-renowned authority on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy offers a familiar polemic–food today just isn’t as flavorful as it used to be. Ingredients are becoming more and more standardized everyday, and varieties of vegetables are becoming less and less. It’s the fast food, industrial world we live in. Countless varieties of fruits and vegetable become one or two available in your local grocery story, to the point at which “cows” become “cow,” “bananas” become “banana.”   Continue reading