Monday, February 15, 2010

"I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food."

HAHA, who am I kidding, we all know me cooking means it must be Christmas!

That's not to say I don't think about food all the other days. Usually what will pop into my head as I wait impatiently for the 3 minute count-down on any given microwave is something like this: "oh my god could that timer be any slower why does it have to be so long do I have time to go to the bathroom before it finishes holy cow what would I do if I had to actually COOK this".

Cooking used to take a long time (and if you do it right, it should be a chunk of time (as in: more than 3 minutes), just like you should leisurely sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor). I often consider what my ancestors did for meals while I do my genealogy research. Beyond genealogy, I just enjoy history in general, but not the boring old "on this date this happened" kind of thing - I like to figure out how people actually lived day to day, those little clues to how life is different now.

Here's an example. A couple years ago I watched the movie "Gaslight" for the first time. Great movie!!! But here's a little clue I picked up (I promise I won't ruin it for you if you haven't seen it). Back when people used gas to light their houses, when you turned on an additional lamp somewhere else in the house, the one's that were already going would dim for a second. Makes perfect sense right? You have your flow of gas into the house and when suddenly it has another outlet, there's a disruption in how it's flowing. But you would always know when someone else in the house turned on a lamp, how about that? I know I know, not significant, but still, a tiny little detail of life I tucked away in my memory.

But back to food. How people like their food to look and taste changes a lot from generation to generation. I would love to taste a meal from a couple hundred years ago, I imagine I would probably be stunned at how much I didn't like it, but I'd still like to taste it!

A few years ago I came across a wonderful book that I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in how people prepared food throughout history. It's not too scholarly, I found it very readable and interesting. It's called "Food in History" by Reay Tannahill. Certainly in one book all topics can't be covered, but I came away knowing more and feeling more aware.

There's also a few blogs I follow that focus primarily on historical food that I'd like to recommend if you are interested:

1. Medieval Cookery -

The author is not a prolific poster, but there have been some really interesting posts, one for instance showing a 17th century German etching of a woman selling hot dogs! Take that Oscar Meyer!

2. The Old Foodie -

I really enjoy this blog - there's actual recipes, discussions on spices that are little-used today; and it's not just medieval, it's all over the place in history. Very interesting!

On the topic of colonial American food, I came across an interesting article entitled: "Fast Food in Colonial America". This touches a bit on foods you might find in taverns or would take on the road with you.

Finally, another bookmark I like to keep close is to "The Food Timeline: Colonial America and 17th/18th Century France". There is an interesting note on how our meals have changed - our current idea of breakfast is nothing like an american from the 18th century would have known - and our big sit down evening dinner wouldn't have made sense either. This page also has links to other sites on the same topic.

That's it for now! I'll stop rambling. If you're interested, do check out the sites, it's amazing how different our cooking is now - I'm such a wuss, I know I'd probably die of starvation if I actually had to pluck the feathers out of my own chicken. Yikes! All the cooks of yesteryear have my utmost respect!

Finally, to circle back to the quote at the start of the post, if you aren't familiar with W.C. Fields (you young whippersnappers you), not only was he a great comedian, but check out this juggling:

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