History

The Fattest Man in Tennessee

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 eggs […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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