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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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”, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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