Quiet Little Table in the Corner
with your Companion, Gary Allen...
A good place to enjoy a meal, to observe the enjoyment of others (in their meals and in each other), to talk about food and its place in our lives, to laugh (not so loudly that it will annoy the folks at nearby tables), to explain, and to have things explained, to remember the way past meals fit into and defined the moments that made us who we were, and who we were to become.
The couples at some
tables -- especially in places that specialize in coffee -- occasionally
consist of but one person and a laptop. There’s
something about those little tables that attracts and holds on to writers;
apparently it was so long before writers substituted keypads for ballpoints,
or fountain pens, or even well-sharpened quills (Paris’s
Cafe Voltaire has been serving this purpose, along with its coffee,
for centuries -- ’though those writers are
mostly tourists today).
Or maybe it’s just that writing at a quiet little table is more pleasurable than having a regular job.
Always Another Table
Vaguely Historical Writings
A Woolf at the Table: The Food of Virginia Woolf and The Bloomsbury Set, speculations on the dining habits of some famed literati.
Black Cows, an investigation into the origins of root beer floats.
Eating Our Way Through the Holidays: ruminations about why we eat what we eat, when we eat.
In the Chips: truth, justice (or, at least, the history of chips and dips) and the American Way.
New York’s Cheesecake Stands Alone. What does cheesecake have to do with Civil War boots and saddles; or Velveeta have in common with the wonderful, but long-gone, Liederkrantz; and why does a cream cheese named Philadelphia belong on New York bagels? Another version of this article is called Cream (Not "Chester") Cheese.
No Country for New Turkeys, or why this food writer did not publish a turkey recipe for Thanksgiving.
Pacific Rim on the Center of the Plate. An explanation, of sorts, of how and where this culinary genre began -- that manages, unlikely as it may seem (at least to those who don’t know the author), to slip in an allusion to geology.
Preserving Apples: peregrinations around pommes perdu.
Service, an overview of the history of table service, delivered at the IACP’s food history symposium, “Innovations at the Table,” at the Hagley Museum and Library, new Wilmington, Delaware, 29 September 2007.
Shad, an old-time seasonal food swims this way every spring.
The Coriander Complex: how cilantro conquered America... mostly.
The Green Fairy Flies High , an exploratory sip of absinthe.
The History of Chicken Fingers, or "exactly where do they find chicken fingers?"
U.S. Helps in Locating U.K. Celebration Cake, or how to survive food-rationing in style.
Why Wait for Wedding Cake?, a little investigation into the history of what Thurber once described as “the most dangerous food.”
The following articles
originally appeared in Scribners’
of Food & Culture, but they can now be found at answers.com
(in the midst of several other articles on the same subjects, collected
all over the place):
Slightly Scientific Musings
High School Chemistry Pays Off -- in Ice Cream. It’s the berries.
The Naked Truth About Aphrodisiacs, a discourse on wishful thinking.
Search for Silky Sorbet Doesn’t Go Smoothly, in which we explore
some possible approaches to making a frozen chocolate treat.
Dishing on Dishes
A Hunt for Icebox Cake Leaves a Cold Trail, waxing nostalgic over a dessert of yesteryear.
Carbonara, an attempt to untangle some of the myths about this not-quite classic dish of pasta.
Creamsicles, Re-imagined, more nostalgia -- and an attempt to recapture the magic, if not the Ding an sich, of the past.
Much Ado About Mush, how ancient Roman pulmentum became our polenta.
No Puppy-dog Tails, Please -- what you need to know before buying snails.
Pancakes, ostensibly about making pancakes (oddly enough), but also about the way recipes evolve, or are transmuted through no fault of their own.
Roquefort Dressing, a partial history of the tangy white salad dressing that isn't Ranch.
Sage Advice, how to turn garden waste into a crowd-pleasing dish (complete with recipe).
Seeing Red Over the Origins of Red Velvet Cake, lost in the mists of urban legend.
Seeing Red, a totally different article, about the origin of chili cook-offs.
Something Like Grandma Used to Make, in which we re-learn the fact that grandma was no fool.
Thanks, Euell, a revelation resulting from an encounter with wild asparagus (and a recipe).
What, Exactly, Are Herbs?, -- an excerpt from Herbs: A Global History.
Worth A Hill of Beans, tracking down Cape Verde’s national dish.
Going Bananas for Beefsteak Stanley, a variation of Salisbury Steak -- with an unexpected ingredient.
Hoppin’ John for the New Year Celebration: Hope For a Rosy Future, a holiday tradition.
Speaking of Ingredients
Many of these have appeared on LeitesCulinaria.
On Seeing Morels is yet more blather about our fascination with the first mushrooms of the season.
Writing About Writing
Who, if I Cried -- an inconsequential bit of literary jetsam.
Writing about Food Memories is a brief exploration of some approaches to the subject. What Memory Tells Us is a slightly more introspective look at food memoir. If you scroll down a little further on the same page, there's an example of food memoir called "Water, Cool Cool Water."
Unrequired Reading -- the sort of books you’re not likely to find listed in the syllabus of any respectable food studies course.
A Wine Epiphany on the Cheap, proof that one doesn't have to know much about wine to enjoy it, or even write about it.
A Revelation of Sorts, in which Dr Sanscravat discovers a connection between writing and his bodily fluids.
Adventures in Gastronomy, which might lead an inquiring reader to wonder how some people survive long enough to become foodies.
A Wreck of Hesperus, an example of what happens when word-fanciers let their imaginations overrule their better judgment. This article was later expanded into a lavishly-illustrated Kindle book, with over 200 entries. It's called Terms of Vegery.
An Introduction of Sorts provides some background info on the notorious Dr Sanscravat. It is, admittedly, somewhat vague in its details.
BBQ: How to Do Culinary Research, a discourse on certain academics’ approach to the subject.
Collegiate Mixology, a reminiscence of the sort of event that gives college students their well-earned reputation.
Chez Joey, in which the good doctor recalls the sandwich of his dreams, and one of the few things he learned in college.
Chili Cook-off Judge, yet another adventure in extreme (or extremely thoughtless) eating.
Dinner Date, a bittersweet tale -- all-too-common, alas -- of young lust gone messily awry.
Fat Lady Burrito, has a moral of sorts -- it’s that bliss can often be achieved only by willingly courting bodily harm (as in “deciding to risk life and intestinal well-being”).
Give Me Insurrection or Give Me Indigestion, an account of an early rebellion against the forces of gastronomic tyranny.
Hot Wings, or why being half-Texan may not be enough.
My Cynara, a tale of artichokes and thwarted lust.
My Dinner with Zal, in which a Lovin’ Spoonful plays chopsticks.
New Coffee Threat, was an April Fool’s joke (in an unmarked page so that you can use it to victimize unsuspecting friends).
A little something for the ladies: On Asking for Directions, in which Dr Sanscravat attempts to answer an age-old question.
On Healthy Living, another of Dr Sanscravat's un-asked-for -- and unjustifiable -- speculations about the nature of the good life.
On Sweetening Tainted Meat, one more idle and historically ill-informed ramble from Doc Sanscravat.
Remembrance of Shellfish Past, a travel saga involving crustaceans.
Smidgens on the Grass, Alas, a little diner etymology.
Stop Playing with Your Food! -- or how to frighten and disgust children for fun and profit.
Thanksgiving -- our private detective seeks, in his usual long-winded fashion, to explain the reason marshmallows are found amongst the sweet potatoes.
The Mating Habits of Coconuts. Which, alas, is not nearly as salacious as one might expect.
The Hunting of the Snipe. A Yankee learns too much about Texas wildlife.
The Way of All Frogs, a cautionary tale about boys that can be decribed as food writing only of the most tangential sort.
A Brief Rant About Education, a cranky old complaint about how some things just aren't as good as they used to be.
Caddis, a fictonal look at the vagaries of memory.
Some of Dr Sanscravat’s stories (“Fat Lady Burrito” and “Bananas”) can now be heard online. While you’re visiting, check out the other readings -- we guarantee that you’ll be amused.
Some of Gary’s
radio interviews are available as podcasts, including a panel discussion
on the “Culture
of Food,” on Town Hall Ohio; as a guest on Evan Kleiman’s
Food,” KCRW in Los Angeles; together with the “Restaurant
Guys,” on WCTC in New Brunswick, NJ; and, twice on “On
the Menu,” on WLFP in Pittsburgh, PA.The latest appearance,
that aired on 17 June 2012 can be heard here
(it's the last segment of the show).
A number of interviewers have chosen to sully the pages of their respective publications with self-absorbed blather from yours truly. One of these pieces appeared in Chronogram, another in Foreword, another in The Glens Falls (New York) Post-Star. and yet another in the Kingston Times.
A wise man once wrote, in impeccable Latin, “Dere’s no accountin’ fo’ taste.” The astonishing thing is that he was able to create that chestnut never having had an opportunity to meet Gary...
Contrary to all expectations, Gary has been dragged, kicking and screaming, into something very much like the current century. He has actually begun...
wait for it...
Unexpectedly Useful Stuff
Books in Print, or in Progress
The Herbalist in the Kitchen has been published by The University of Illinois Press. In the Spring of 2012, a very different book on the subject, Herbs: A Global History, was published by Reaktion Books -- as part of their Edible Series.
Human Cuisine, an anthology of literary cannibals (or literature about cannibals), co-edited with Ken Albala, is finished, and is finally available. What do we have to say about this momentous event? “It’s about bloody time!” (You can read an interview about the book here. It's PDF, so you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industry
-- was also co-edited with Ken Albala. Both
of these joint efforts are available in print or as Kindle books.
Still another Kindle book, Terms of Vegery, is a collection of collective terms for plants --generally in the form of atrocious puns and crass allusions -- but the severity of its literary offences are reduced by the presence of hundreds of lush photographs.
We've written about twenty articles for the new edition of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.
Information about the authors other published materials -- “literature” is something of an exaggeration -- can be found in the bibliography at the ASFSs website.
We're generally have several book projects going, in various stages of completion:
Sausage: A Global History, a second book for Reaktions Edible Series -- is currently in the hands of the publisher. It will probably appear in the Fall of 2013.
There are always a few
other books simmering -- or possibly fermenting -- just out of sight. Not all of them are food-related. We'll let you know when any of them seem to be getting closer to completion.