Archives for posts with tag: Historical Food

IMG_20171125_185538.jpgHope you like the picture of my cranberry sauce, the one made with the the recipe that used to be (still is?) on the packaging bag– cranberries blended with a whole orange, and sugar. This year I made it in advance with a little kombucha to enliven, in the hopes that it would keep longer without fermenting alcoholically… and be a bit probiotic.

Every year I celebrate Thanksgiving here in Britain, as a touchstone with my kids to the traditions I grew up with. For a decade now at least I’ve made a discussion of the history of the colonisation of the Americas part of what goes on– exploring the myths and lies of the holiday, and the shared experience of native peoples there.. I can’t really sit with the historic (and contemporary) violence without acknowledging it. When I read Anna Brones’s piece below, it was so spot on, I wanted to share it here on my blog.

As people in Britain increasingly celebrate this holiday, feeling grateful and loving with friends and family, enjoying the seasonal foods of autumn, gathering to feast, I hope there will not be here the same mistake as in the US– feeling grateful for everything we have at the expense of what people have lost, often horrifically, to make that happen for “us.”

anna brones

For many of us, our associations with Thanksgiving are mostly about food. Cranberries, pumpkin pies, stuffing and all those other things that turns the food media world into a seasonal frenzy of recipes and roundups. It’s a holiday where we’re encouraged to gather with our friends and family and be thankful, showing gratitude for what’s on the table and the people we share it with.

These are admirable ideals, however when we talk about Thanksgiving, share iconic recipes, gather around the table, we avoid the harsh reality of a holiday with a dark past, one of slavery, plague and massacres. At its core, Thanksgiving is a story of genocide, and instead of facing that reality, it’s a holiday that we have chosen to mythologize, erasing real stories and people along the way. Instead of the truth, the false narrative around Thanksgiving allows us to focus on the easy stuff…

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Through all these years fermenting vegetables, I have often wondered why there is so little a tradition of this kind of food preservation in Britain.  Did the prevalence of beer easily make malt vinegar available for vinegar pickling? Perhaps the relatively mild winters meant less of a hunger gap than in colder climes eastward? Maybe the early entrance of rural workers into a wage economy cause an earlier loss of indigenous food traditions? Might there be foodways left to be discovered? I’d like to believe this last, but I don’t have an answer.

I scour old cookbooks and find not much– perhaps an occasional mention of making fizzy drinks with “yeast” (which of course could so easily be wild rather than derived from baking and wine making)  — elderflower champagne, for example, or bottled drinks of burdock and dandelion, or nettle.  But these are sugar ferments, and different from preserving in brine with bioactive bacteria– i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles. Somewhere in Hannah Glasse I once read a reference to wedges of cabbage in salt brine– but that didn’t feel like a common cultural practice.

It was a thrill when I learned about Beetroot Stout, a delicious, nourishing, medicinal vegetable-based cocktail.  When I queried Glyn Hughes of the incredible site The Foods of England Project, he responded  that the only thing  that came to mind for him was  Potato Cheese (to England– only hypothetically– via Germany):

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http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/potatocheese.htm/ Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 19 July 1855

The immediate association was with Kishk, a Middle Eastern cultured milk and bulgur wheat ferment, Read the rest of this entry »

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“Mum, I’m not very excited about this meal,” my 11 year old son confided, when I told him I was making a WWII ration recipe for Lentil Sausages. I mustered a tone of enthusiasm to explain that today is the 100th birthday of the great food educator and cookery writer Marguerite Patten, and that people all over the world are cooking from her great oeuvre.  And because it’s also British Sausage Week (to coincide with Bonfire Night tomorrow) and there’s a climate crisis in which meat plays a not insignificant role, I find myself especially interested in mock-meat kinds of meals.

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So it was that earlier in the day I’d set out to join in on #Marguerite100, an international cook-along networked through social media and documented in this Storify. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ah, the marrow.  Kind of seemed like a monstrosity of a vegetable to me when I first encountered it.  So huge, so flavourless, so… perverse? lazy? wasteful? to grow your courgettes so big that they became unappealing. And yes, you can stuff them (as I’ve done) and yes you can make jams and chutneys (as I’ve done) and yes you can grate the flesh into sauces and stews (as I’ve often done) and yes, you can even lacto-ferment them (as I’ve often done and am about to blog on).  But marrows have nonetheless remained “other” to me.

At the same time, I’ve been moved by how some friends genuinely LOVE marrows, and by the way you can hold a huge one like a baby, rocking it in your arms, and by the way people who grow them in their gardens and allotments always go around asking you if you would like one?  And of course you say, “Yes please!”

Apple is for size comparison only.

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This time I was thrilled to have happened upon an old recipe recorded in the 70s on Bardsey Island for a Marrow Tart in my treasured copy of S Minwel Tibbot’s 1976 Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes.  To my mind this is the most beautiful record of “traditional” food of Wales, because as a historian and ethnographer, Tibbot’s work reflects respect and affection for the women sharing their old recipes in their old kitchens.  She worked for the National Museum of Wales’ Welsh Folk Museum, who published the book.

Like the Plum Tart in the Wales Gas Board pamphlet, this is a recipe that illustrates a kind of culinary simplicity in the sense that its guided by austerity (basic staples, seasonal eating) which is the beauty in much traditional Welsh food.  It’s so different from the world enabled by supermarkets in which everything is available year round, without any references to a seasonal calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A beautiful confluence of events: Coming back from collecting plums from (and beneath) my friend Pippa’s very laden trees, I stopped to drop a bag of outgrown school uniforms at one of our much-appreciated local charity shops.  And what should be there, just on the counter before my very eyes– a water-stained, truly-in-tatters, mended-with-yellowing-tape, pages-in-the-wrong-order copy of Croeso Cymreig, A Welsh Welcome, a small book of traditional Welsh foods, first published in 1953, my copy a revised 1959 edition.  Published by Wales Gas Board (Bwrdd Nwy Cymru).  A true treasure for 30pence!

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This is the kind of book that lifts my heart, even if I felt a brief pang of disloyalty to S Minwel Tibbott, whom I’d pledged would be my guide to old fashioned Welsh cooking through all her wonderful writings and ethnographic gatherings.

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 SPROUTING POTATOES, HOMITY PIE, SOURDOUGH PASTRY, EATING LOCAVORE, POTATO DESSERT RECIPES —  IT’S ALL HAPPENING HERE…

I am overwhelmed by potatoes. This is because there are sacks of sprouted organic ones I am getting for free because no one else wants them, neither to buy nor be given, at our local organic vegetable shop /community enterprise.  I feel a personal resolve to rescue them.

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Here is a little armchair travel for someone who has committed herself to reduce her involvement with the very Greenhouse-Gas intensive aviation industry. This means, though I LOVE going places and seeing things and meeting people and having adventures and eating delicious food, I don’t really venture far away it as much as I would in a different world-historical scenario.

But: I can stumble upon wishes on the internet, and this, quite strongly, is one.

Read about this amazing Pre-Hispanic soup and the people who make it.

If you are on Facebook, read about an exciting documentary The Path of Stone Soup that examines the history and ritual of this very beautiful and delicious sounding soup.

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