America Eats! is newsletter for people curious about American food, its culture and history, and the delights of cooking in our everyday life. You'll find a lot of interesting stories to read and recipes to cook.
Eudora Welty’s Southern Cooking is a collection of recipes she gathered in the 1930s for the Works Progress Administration. The manuscript is part of the Library of Congress’s WPA papers and has never been printed before. The booklet is handsomely printed and full of interesting recipes that, as Welty wrote, were “gleaned from ante-bellum homes in various parts of Mississippi, nothing is held back. This is guaranteed. Yankees are welcome to make these dishes.”
I researched saffron for nearly two years, seeking to understand how such a little flower traveled from its native land, Iran, and along its way around the globe became the most expensive spice in the world. I even hauled my sister, Sue, to a small Spanish town that every fall during the saffron harvest hosts a three-day pageantry of eating, drinking and a highly competitive contest to see who is the fastest at gently picking out the bloom’s stigma that dries into a saffron thread. I returned and began to write a book that I couldn’t finish until I really knew the true nature of the spice. This is when I decided it might be a good idea to plant my own saffron field in my Brooklyn garden.
Cookbooks are always more than a gathering together of recipes. They are stories revealing a particular time and place. "In Memory's Kitchen, A Legacy from the Women of Terezin," written by doomed women imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, is a triumph.
Oscar, the butcher, ignored me for years. I was not Latino in his Latino neighborhood and would clearly never learn or be interested in his native cooking. And then on what seemed to be a regular visist, he revealed the secret to Puerto Rico's national dish, then came around the counter and attempted to teach me salsa dancing.
I’m on a demanding narrow road curving through a thick forest, contemplating the possibility that I may be lost. To clarify the situation at hand: Single woman, not from North Carolina, lowering sun. Lost cell signal, impossible to find a decent radio station for some lively distraction. Need to find some kind of refuge...fast!
It is a harsh but true culinary fact that nothing is so stimulating to the art of cooking as a good long foreign occupation. Little else accomplishes the creative intermingling of flavors and techniques that transpire when one civilization overpowers another. Take, for instance, empanadas.