H.D. Miller
H.D. Miller
Historian, Writer, Blogger, Bon Vivant

The Fattest Man in Tennessee

Sam Riddleberger, the Prince of Nashville Caterers

No, I am not the fattest man in Tennessee. I know this conclusively because I have recently been in a Super Wal-Mart in Mufreesboro. More surprising to me, however, is that even 160 years ago, I wouldn’t have been the fattest man in Tennessee, probably just in the top ten.  In 1857, the fattest man […]

H.D. Miller 0 Comments 22 min read Continue reading

Chicken and Waffles: The Most Complete Expression of Southern Culinary Skills, Part 2

In Part I–published lo these many months ago–I noted that chicken and waffles is historically three different dishes: creamed chicken and waffles, broiled chicken and waffles, and fried chicken and waffles, each of which has had its moment in the sun.  Of the three, it’s probably broiled chicken and waffles that had the greatest fame in the mid-19th century. […]

H.D. Miller One Comment 25 min read Continue reading

Chicken and Waffles: The Most Complete Expression of Southern Culinary Skill, Part 1

Chicken and Waffles are bacon and eggs: not so much a single dish as an inspired combination of two different things forever joined in glorious union. As with bacon and eggs, finding a single origin point for this combination is a fool’s errand, a silly task made triply difficult by the fact that, often enough, historical sources could be referring to any of […]

H.D. Miller 0 Comments 20 min read Continue reading

A History of The Last Time I Ate at a Chinese Buffet

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing an intermittent fasting-style diet, in which I don’t eat from roughly six in the evening until two in the afternoon the next day. The idea being that if I abstain from food for twenty or more hours at a stretch, my ravenous blubber will consume itself in a fit of “autophagy”, […]

H.D. Miller 17 Comments 9 min read Continue reading

The Great Sushi Craze of 1905, Part 2

In Part One of “The Great Sushi Craze of 1905” I introduced to you what might have been the first real Japanese restaurant in the United States, a bare-bones place that opened in the summer of 1889 at 84 James Street in downtown New York City. That year’s August 31st issue of Harper’s Weekly gave this unnamed restaurant a five-star review, complete with […]

H.D. Miller 12 Comments 24 min read Continue reading

The Great Sushi Craze of 1905, Part 1

The official history of Japanese food in the United States says that Americans didn’t get a taste of raw fish and vinegared rice until the late 1960s, when groovy Hollywood stars and trendy Buddhist humbugs began turning the squares onto the best thing since sliced bologna: sushi. But that’s wrong. The truth is that two […]

H.D. Miller 12 Comments 19 min read Continue reading

The California Slipshod Method: Poultry Farming in 19th Century California

  In my last post, “California’s Vanishing Lakes and the Hunger of the Mines”, I made frequent reference to the one dollar eggs of the Gold Rush, a staple of 49’er anecdotes and 19th century California culinary history. In fact, while doing the research for what would turn into a 5,000-word article, I found more information about […]

H.D. Miller 5 Comments 16 min read Continue reading

California's Vanishing Lakes and the Hunger of the Mines

If you drive the long stretch of Interstate 5 known as the Westside Freeway, from the foot of the Grapevine through Buttonwillow and on to Los Banos, you’ll be cruising along the edge of the richest and most productive farm land in the world. If, halfway through that journey, you stop at a place called Kettleman City […]

H.D. Miller 17 Comments 28 min read Continue reading

The End of the Mason Jar

Ten years ago, serving a drink in a Mason jar was something only done in the privacy of your own home, where your neighbors couldn’t find out, or at the Cracker Barrel, as a way of getting into the Hee Haw spirit of  biscuits, country ham and Chinese-made Americana gimcrakery. Then… suddenly…Hipsters! Southern Hipsters! Next thing […]

H.D. Miller 28 Comments 4 min read Continue reading

Basque-American: The Authentic Cuisine of the Intermountain West

This story begins in the middle of 19th century with a young man trailing sheep through the washes and up the gullies into the hidden mountain meadows of the desert west. The young man is Basque, maybe 17 years old, poor, lonely, probably illiterate, and likely knows no language other than Basque, which might as well be no […]

H.D. Miller 11 Comments 11 min read Continue reading

Taming the Wild Auroch, Bull Dancing, and the Beef-Eating Greeks

An excerpt from the first book of the Iliad: His prayer went up and Phoebus Apollo heard him. And soon as the men had prayed and flung the barley, first they lifted back the heads of the victims, slit their throats, skinned them and carved away the meat from the thigh bones and wrapped them […]

H.D. Miller 4 Comments 14 min read Continue reading

The Cult of Prime Rib

N.B.  I first published this piece in the summer of 1997, in the first issue of my zine Travelling Shoes. The issue was titled “Las Vegas: Carnival of Fools”. It’s hard to credit now, but as recently as 20 years ago, Las Vegas was not a major dining destination. Back then, Joël Robuchon was still some unknown […]

H.D. Miller 6 Comments 5 min read Continue reading

A Curanto in Ancud

The first time I saw the island of Chiloé was from the deck of cruise ship heading out of Puerto Montt and up the Chacao Channel. We’d spent much of the day on a bus, going to Petrohue Falls and around Lake Llanquihue in the shadow of Osorno, the Mount Fuji-like stratovolcano that towers over […]

H.D. Miller 4 Comments 13 min read Continue reading

Cooking Cuscus, But Not the Kind You're Thinking About

I like to read and I like to chase after odd bits of knowledge. For example, when I was in Chiloé, the island off the coast of southern Chile, our guide claimed that curanto, the Chilote version of a pit bake, was brought to the island by ancient Polynesians, to which I replied, ORLY? I […]

H.D. Miller 4 Comments 10 min read Continue reading

Mote con Huesillos on Cerro San Cristobal

Few things are more distressing or funny than watching a fat man labor up a steep hill. And at the end of February of this year, at the height of the Chilean summer, when temperatures in Santiago were in the mid-90s, I was that fat man. I was dragging myself up Cerro San Cristobal, the tall hill with […]

H.D. Miller 0 Comments 12 min read Continue reading

Nixtamalization: Chemistry and Nature in Sweet Hominy

Nixtamalization is the first step in making a tamale, a taco, or hominy. It’s a 3,000-year-old method of removing the pericarp, that thin outer layer, from a kernel of corn. Dried corn is soaked in an alkaline solution, a soup of water and wood ashes, slaked lime, or lye, for a few hours, rinsed in cold water […]

H.D. Miller 8 Comments 11 min read Continue reading

A Bowl of Patasca in the Vega Central

Tuesday nights were taco night in Santiago, a chance for a small group of students to come up to my apartment and watch me eat a prodigious number of chicken tacos, which meant that Tuesday afternoons were spent shopping, a chance for me to wade into the Vega Central and buy a prodigious quantity of […]

H.D. Miller 10 Comments 9 min read Continue reading

Merkén: The Mapuche Spice

Merkén: The Mapuche Spice It’s best to think of colonial Chile, prior to the 19th century, as being on the far side of a distant mountainous moon, isolated and cut off from the rest of the world by the Andes, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atacama Desert. Without the silver mines of Potosi or the […]

H.D. Miller 3 Comments 11 min read Continue reading

Of Love Locks and Bridges and New Old Customs

Here in Santiago, Chile, young lovers have a curious habit of consecrating their affection by placing a padlock on the railing of a local bridge and tossing the key into the Rio Mapoche, thus supposedly insuring that their amor will endure forever. I discovered this in January, shortly after I got here, when during one […]

H.D. Miller 2 Comments 4 min read Continue reading

Pan Amasado and the Chilean Carb Face

One of the things that most distinguishes the Chileans from their Argentine neighbors and rivals is the centrality of bread in the Chilean diet versus the centrality of beef in the Argentine. Chileans, simply put, are carb loaders extraordinaire, shoveling massive amounts of bread into their shopping bags and mouths every day of the week. […]

H.D. Miller One Comment 6 min read Continue reading

A Note on Moroccan Plumbing

N.B. This piece appeared in the second issue of my old zine, Travelling Shoes, “Fun in Old Morocco”, first published in the Spring of 1998.  I sing the praises of the Moroccan squat toilet; that Middle Eastern plumbing fixture usually misidentified as a simple hole in the ground with a pair of slightly-elevated foot-rests for leverage. As […]

H.D. Miller 3 Comments 6 min read Continue reading

The Chilean Army: Boldly Goose-Stepping into the Future

Whenever I want to explain the lingering influence of Germany on the militaries of South America, especially Chile, I show people this video… The Chilean Army comes by its German influences and traditions honestly, from a decent-sized influx of German immigrants during the second half of the 19th century, most of whom settled in the […]

H.D. Miller 8 Comments 5 min read Continue reading

Una Hambuguesa Americana

N.B. This piece  appeared in the final issue of my old zine, Travelling Shoes, “Authentic Seville”, first published in the summer of 1999. The last few times I’ve visited Spain, I’ve not eaten a hamburger, operating on the unforgiving principle of “fool me once.” There’s a joke in Whit Stillman’s film Barcelona about the awful­ness of […]

H.D. Miller 4 Comments 7 min read Continue reading

About Me

H.D. Miller and the Pleasures of Consumption In the summer of 1997, in a scenario familiar to most graduate students, I decided that I would start a small, self-published magazine devoted to travel rather than work on my dissertation. And from that moment of dereliction and work avoidance was born Travelling Shoes: An Eccentric Journal of […]

H.D. Miller 0 Comments 5 min read Continue reading

Previous page Next page