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The Gastronomica Reader

The Gastronomica Reader

edited by darra goldstein
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Gastronomica Reader
    Book Description:

    Described in the 2008Saveur100 as "At the top of our bedside reading pile since its inception in 2001," the award-winningGastronomica: The Journal of Food and Cultureis a quarterly feast of truly exceptional writing on food. Designed both to entertain and to provoke,The Gastronomica Readernow offers a sumptuous sampling from the journal's pages-including essays, poetry, interviews, memoirs, and an outstanding selection of the artwork that has madeGastronomicaso distinctive. In words and images, it takes us around the globe, through time, and into a dazzling array of cultures, investigating topics from early hominid cooking to Third Reich caterers to the Shiite clergy under Ayatollah Khomeini who deemed Iranian caviar fit for consumption under Islamic law. Informed throughout by a keen sense of the pleasures of eating, tasting, and sharing food,The Gastronomica Readerwill inspire readers to think seriously, widely, and deeply about what goes onto their plates.Gastronomicais a winner of theUtne Reader's Independent Press Award for Social/Cultural Coverage

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94575-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. editor’s introduction to provoke and to please
    (pp. 1-7)

    Riots broke out when Luis Buñuel’s surrealist filmL’Âge d’Orwas first screened in Paris in 1930. Right-wing vigilantes threw ink at the screen and set off smoke bombs. Even the pope got involved, threatening to excommunicate the film’s financial sponsor, the vicomte de Noailles. For almost fifty years, the film was suppressed due to its erotic imagery and mockery of the bourgeoisie.

    Times change, fortunately. Seventy-one years later, in February 2001, the charter issue ofGastronomica: The Journal of Food and Cultureappeared with a still fromL’Âge d’Oron its cover. No riots broke out, but people from...

  4. appetites

    • Women Who Eat Dirt
      (pp. 10-22)
      susan allport

      Not too long ago, I received a package from a village in Nepal, high in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was from the brother of the shipping clerk in my husband’s office, and it contained, as clearly written on the outside, two kinds of mud: red and white. These are the muds that the inhabitants of that faraway village use to plaster their houses, red for the bottom and white for the top. They are also the muds that the women of that village are known to snack on, especially during pregnancy. Victor Ghale, my husband’s shipping clerk, knew...

    • Badlands: Portrait of a Competitive Eater
      (pp. 23-33)
      john o’connor

      Badlands was hungry. And by hungry I don’t mean peckish, or pleasantly empty, or that he had that faint grumble you get an hour or so before dinner. No, this was a different breed of hunger altogether. It was a murderous, desert island hunger, the kind you feel deep in your eyeballs, when all of your rational faculties have atrophied and your brain feels like it’s dribbling out of your nostrils and the only thing you desire in this world is FOOD, any kind of food, RIGHT NOW.

      Let it be said that Badlands is not accustomed to this kind...

    • “Don’t Eat That”: The Erotics of Abstinence in American Christianity
      (pp. 34-50)
      r. marie griffith

      Monks fasting in the desert, saints beating their bodies and sleeping on nails, apostles renouncing all pleasures and subsisting on the charity of benefactors, pious men and women starving their senses in emulation of Christ: It is by now a truism to note that devout Christians of earlier eras displayed profound ambivalence about food and flesh. For both patristic and medieval followers of the faith, the body was felt to be a burden that must be suffered resignedly during earthly life while yet remaining the crucial material out of which devotional practice and spiritual progress were forged. Thus the body,...

    • A Shallot
      (pp. 51-51)
      richard wilbur
  5. the family table

    • Delicacy
      (pp. 54-59)
      paul russell

      I am perusing the menu with all the sense of serious purpose a ten-year-old unaccustomed to restaurants can muster. It’s 1966, a restaurant called The Passport in the brand new, sleekly modernist terminal of the Memphis International Airport. What catches my eye is dolphin. I have never seen dolphin on any menu, never heard of anyone eating dolphin, and I am seized by an urgent need to taste this dolphin whose allure is, like the new terminal itself, the beautiful promise of a future in which we shall all travel effortlessly to distant places, dine nightly on marvelous dishes.


    • The Unbearable Lightness of Wartime Cuisine
      (pp. 60-74)
      a. marin

      “The best food i’ve eaten in my life was in Chechenya,” said a veteran un official. “Well, and in Bosnia, of course,” he added quickly so as not to offend me. I was hosting a party for a friend’s sixtieth birthday in my loft in Sarajevo, Bosnia. It was 1993, the second year of the four-year-long war and siege of the city. The guests were “internationals” (the term we used for foreign aid workers and journalists, war zone veterans) and a few friends who were still around. Most of my friends had left at the beginning of the war. The...

    • One Year and a Day: A Recipe for Gumbo and Mourning
      (pp. 75-86)
      james nolan

      Gumbo takes three days to make, if you do it right, although in a kitchen piled with greasy pots and smelling of shrimp heads, it may appear more like a year. According to Hebrew law, a body takes one year and a day to decompose inside a casket. In many cultures the mourning period corresponds to this biblical measure. Here in New Orleans, a corpse buried in an above-ground tomb may not be “disturbed,” as undertakers call it, or shifted below to make room for another burial for one year and a day after it has been sealed inside. Making...

    • The Prize Inside
      (pp. 87-88)
      toni mirosevich

      The recipe went something like this: Get a fish; snapper or ling cod, mackerel or halibut, an everyday fish, a regular fish, not a special fish, not albacore or swordfish or salmon, too fancy for this common dish. Put the fish in a soup pot, cover with water, let it come to a slow boil, like your mother’s slow boil as she waits for your father’s fishing boat to come in, for his ship to come in, for him to make good on his promise to fix the leaky gutters this time he’s in port. Cook until the juices of...

    • Messages in a Bottle
      (pp. 89-99)
      barbara kirshenblatt-gimblett

      First thing in the morning or last thing at night, alert or tired, I release myself into the uneventfulness of my ordinary days. I do not normally keep a diary or journal or write personal letters. What made writing so urgent on this occasion—what made the ordinary luminous—was my sister. I was in New Zealand. She was in Canada. Late at night, when pain would not let her sleep, she would look for me in her electronic mailbox. Like messages in a bottle, my words would wash up on the shores of cyberspace. Writing armed me for the...

    • dinner, 1933
      (pp. 100-101)
      charles bukowski
  6. social constructs

    • Otto Horcher, Caterer to the Third Reich
      (pp. 104-115)
      giles macdonogh

      Among the fine restaurants of europe, Horcher claims an unparalleled status. From 1904 to 1943, it wastheplace to be seen at in Berlin, and from 1943 until quite recently, Horcher wastheplace to go in Madrid. There is no other restaurant in the history of the twentieth—or indeed any—century that has relocated from one European capital to another without losing a jot of its social exclusivity.

      Horcher was the creation of Gustav Horcher, who hailed from the Black Forest, still the source of much of Germany’s best ham, cheese, game, and fish. When he opened...

    • The Cooking Ape: An Interview with Richard Wrangham
      (pp. 116-128)
      elisabeth townsend and Richard Wrangham

      Primatologist richard wrangham might be best known for the 1996 book he coauthored with writer Dale Peterson,Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence,where he used his research on intergroup aggression in chimpanzees to reflect on combative male behavior. Wrangham’s twenty-five years of research have always been based on a deep interest in human evolution and behavior, and recently he’s shifted his focus to the evolution of cooking in humans.

      An anthropology professor at Harvard University, Wrangham, fifty-six, was first mesmerized by Africa when he spent a year working in Kafue National Park in western Zambia before...

    • How Caviar Turned Out to Be Halal
      (pp. 129-138)
      h.e. chehabi

      When the shiite clergy acquired control over the Iranian state in 1979, they found themselves in a position where, in addition to enunciating the prescriptions of divine law (shari’a), they also had to supervise the actual enforcement by the state of the religious injunctions it comprises. Islamic law contains detailed rules about food, drink, and culinary etiquette,¹ and although the actual practice of Muslim societies has never fully conformed to these rules,² the obvious importance of food and drink in the daily lives of people confers upon religious dietary laws a subjective importance for Muslims that helps define the boundaries...

    • “La grande bouffe”: Cooking Shows as Pornography
      (pp. 139-148)
      andew chan

      Tv cooking shows today are, in a word, pornography.

      As in the contemporary pornographic film industry, the modern tv cooking programs appeal to our hidden or perverse side. They seduce us to desire the virtual, while complicating our relationship to what is real (or desired). Media outlets such as the Food Network cable tv channel provide special insight into the perversity of contemporary American culture, yet the genealogy reaches further back, as brilliantly visualized in Marco Ferreri’s 1973 filmLa grande bouffe, in which four men eat, screw, and fart themselves to death.

      Today’s tv cooking shows arouse our senses...

    • Recipe for S&M Marmalade
      (pp. 149-149)
      judith pacht
  7. the art of food

    • Man Ray’s Electricité
      (pp. 152-157)
      stefanie spray jandl

      In 1931 man ray created a portfolio of photographs for an unlikely patron, a French electric company. The client, la Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d’Electricite (cpde), had recently launched a campaign to increase the domestic use of electricity and wanted a special gift for its “art-minded” customers that would give visual expression to its marketing efforts.¹ They boldly commissioned the avant-garde American photographer Man Ray, living in Paris and well-known for his portrait studio and his innovative “rayographs.” Man Ray delivered a stunning portfolio entitled Electricité, which consisted of ten photogravures of original photographic works. Five hundred copies of Electricité...

    • Food + Clothing =
      (pp. 158-169)
      robert kushner

      The juxtaposition of the nude body with food has always fascinated me. Don’t carrot sticks look more inviting when framing a nipple? And what about a glimpse of hair behind the mesh of a hot-dog apron? Our reactions to familiar foods change entirely when the food is displayed on a naked body. By shifting the context from plate to torso, the food, unsurprisingly, becomes sensuous and eroticized. At the same time, the connotations of each costume are radically expanded.

      Sometime in 1972 I began asking myself what would happen if I explored the synthesis of food and clothing by constructing...

    • Vik Muniz’s Ten Ten’s Weed Necklace
      (pp. 170-173)
      vanessa silberman

      While vacationing on the small Caribbean island of St. Kitts in 1995, the Brazilian-born, New York–based artist Vik Muniz befriended a group of local children. Taken by their joy and abandon, he captured them in Polaroid snapshots. The children took Muniz to meet their parents, who were weary and embittered after years of trading toil for meager pay as they labored in the island’s abundant sugarcane fields. The parents’ lack of hope contrasted sharply with the innocent vitality of their offspring.

      Back in New York, Muniz thought about the parents and was bothered by the “sad metamorphosis most of...

    • Zhan Wang: Urban Landscape
      (pp. 174-177)
      john stomberg

      The artist zhan wang constructs cities, most recently Beijing, from a combination of new cookware and hand-molded rock formations, all made from stainless steel. His installationUrban Landscape: Beijingappeals on numerous levels simultaneously, and this multiplicity of meanings and openness to interpretation delights the artist.¹ Zhan knows much of what his work can mean, but he also appreciates that objects and ideas resonate differently in different contexts. When he uses common cooking tools to implement his vision, he removes them from the restaurant or kitchen and attempts to commandeer their meaning—tongs become trains, inverted Sterno frames become ruins,...

    • The First Still Life
      (pp. 178-179)
      lawrence raab
  8. personal journeys

    • Waiting for a Cappuccino: A Brief Layover along the Spice Trail
      (pp. 182-186)
      carolyn thériault

      As i wait for my cappuccino, I subconsciously but quite mechanically begin to play with the salt and pepper shakers on the vinyl tablecloth—pairing them off as ballroom dancers across the checkerboard design, then transforming them into charging bull and lithesome matador. In its zeal, the salt delivers a deathblow to the pepper, knocking it over and spilling much of its contents. Turning my head slightly, I note that I am being watched in disbelief by the server. Embarrassed, I set the pepper shaker aright, affording it (and myself) a little dignity.

      Dignity? What dignity can I offer my...

    • Include Me Out
      (pp. 187-189)
      fred chappell

      There are people who eat cold pasta salad. They enjoy despoiling their greenery with gummy, tasteless squiggles of tough, damp bread dough that are usually made palatable only when heavily disguised with hot tomato sauce and a stiff mask of Parmesan cheese. This salad does have the virtue of economy. Wednesday leftovers can be marketed to Thursday customers of perverse taste.

      It is probably perversity also that accounts for the prevalence of ice tea in our American South. It was Edgar Allan Poe who first diagnosed this immitigable contrariness of human nature in his short story “The Imp of the...

    • Evacuation Day, or A Foodie Is Bummed Out
      (pp. 190-193)
      merry white

      There are many reasons not to eat, but none so humiliating as a day of preparation for that ultimate insult to the flesh, the camera up the ass. Like other boomers, especially those of us who hide sheer gluttony behind our “connoisseurship” in food, I have undergone a colonoscopy. Here, then, is my tale of learned humility, with new realizations about the true breadth of the field of food studies.

      Before Evacuation Day, everything I had ever learned (and taught) about food studies concerned foodways—not the lower end of the digestive process. Thus, in the colonoscopic experience, all my...

    • Ripe Peach
      (pp. 194-195)
      louise glück
  9. how others eat

    • My McDonald’s
      (pp. 198-201)
      constantin boym

      My first encounter with McDonald’s was like a sitcom episode. A young and energetic emigre from Moscow, I arrived in Boston in 1981. By a stroke of good fortune I managed to get a job at an architectural firm, even though I could barely speak—let alone understand—basic English. My greatest desire was to blend in with my new colleagues, to be as normal and socially acceptable as possible. I noticed that the architects would sometimes return from lunch and tell everyone about a new place they’d found for a good sandwich, and that this information would usually generate...

    • Great Apes as Food
      (pp. 202-211)
      dale peterson

      Gorilla meat, so Joseph Melloh, a former commercial meat hunter from Cameroon, once told me, is “sweet, very sweet.” Some people have a strong preference for it. “If you love somebody,” Joseph explained, “you love somebody. If you don’t, no matter how it’s viewed, you know, how beautiful the woman is: no way. Same for those who eat gorilla meat as their precious meat. Just because they love it.”

      Chimpanzee, on the other hand, tastes “definitely different from gorilla. For one thing, chimpanzee meat stinks a little bit.”¹

      That the three African apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas—have traditionally been...

    • The Bengali Bonti
      (pp. 212-217)
      chitrita banerji

      How big is the difference between sitting and standing? A cultural universe, when you examine posture in the context of food preparation. In the kitchens of the West, the cook stands at a table or counter and uses a knife. But mention a kitchen to a Bengali, or evoke a favorite dish, and more often than not an image will surface of a woman seated on the floor, cutting, chopping, or cooking. In the Indian subcontinent, especially in its eastern region of Bengal, this is the typical posture. For centuries, the Bengali cook and her assistant have remained firmly grounded...

    • The Best “Chink” Food: Dog Eating and the Dilemma of Diversity
      (pp. 218-231)
      frank h. wu

      I love dogs. I live with two of them in a canine-centered household.

      Buster is a ninety-five-pound mutt I adopted after he, as an unwanted Christmas gift, had been abandoned at a local pet shelter. He is named after the dog my wife’s cousin raised when he was director of the Peace Corps mission in Tonga years ago. The original Buster eventually vanished, allegedly eaten by the neighbors after he killed their pig. Our Buster has needed extra training to overcome his many anxieties. A deep-chested shepherd mix with gold fur and white paws, a white tip on his tail,...

  10. close to the earth

    • Organic in Mexico: A Conversation with Diana Kennedy
      (pp. 234-246)
      l. peat o’neil

      Diana kennedy is rummaging in a kitchen cupboard. “I don’t like using foil. I use parchment,” she says. “It’s here someplace.” Reaching high up to a shelf on the wall of her rustic kitchen, Kennedy eventually extracts a carefully folded packet of used foil. I watch as she tucks the creased foil over a ceramic tray of stuffedpasillachilies from Oaxaca.

      Diana Kennedy, the culinary historian and cookbook author who explains regional Mexican cuisines to a global audience, has invited me for lunch to talk about agriculture in Mexico. Her Mexican home, designed as an ecologically efficient building by...

    • Mr. Clarence Jones, Carolina Rice Farmer
      (pp. 247-254)
      jennie ashlock

      The cape fear region, a peninsula on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, is surrounded by estuaries, tidal creeks, and marshlands. The soil along the Cape Fear River is dark and rich, and the river itself provides enough tidal energy to flood the area where rice fields once cut through the marshes bordering the river’s edge.

      Rice came to Cape Fear in the 1730s. Searching for new economic opportunities, wealthy planters from Charleston, South Carolina, migrated to the area, bringing well-developed systems of slavery and rice production. Rice became a major enterprise on plantations along the Cape Fear River, second...

    • “GM or Death”: Food and Choice in Zambia
      (pp. 255-266)
      christopher m. annear

      Food is complicated nourishment that feeds more than the belly. As recent events in Zambia have shown, it has the capacity to make (or break) relationships before even a morsel is raised to lips. In 2002 Zambian president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa sparked international controversy when he banned genetically modified (gm) foods from entering Zambia, including in the form of famine aid. Since then, contentious debate has ensued that transcends questions regarding the relative virtue of gm foods, in terms of both nutritional safety and geoeconomic prudence. The potency of President Mwanawasa’s words and the strong international, almost exclusively Western, repudiations...

    • Wine, Place, and Identity in a Changing Climate
      (pp. 267-276)
      robert pincus

      The links among wine, place, and identity are both cultural and agricultural. Local tradition often informs the many decisions made during the growing of grapes (viticulture) and the making of wine (viniculture), but wine also reflects the physical environment in which the grapes are grown—a combination of geology, aspect, and weather that the French callterroir. Thus wine production techniques are (in principle, at least) adapted to local conditions, resulting in wines that can be strongly connected to their particular place in the world.

      Products made on a small, individualized scale are not very practical in the twenty-first century,...

    • Episode with a Potato
      (pp. 277-277)
      eric ormsby
  11. technologies

    • A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food
      (pp. 280-292)
      rachel laudan

      Modern, fast, processed food is a disaster. That, at least, is the message conveyed by newspapers and magazines, on television cooking programs, and in prizewinning cookbooks. It is a mark of sophistication to bemoan the steel roller mill and supermarket bread while yearning for stone-ground flour and brick ovens; to seek out heirloom apples and pumpkins while despising modern tomatoes and hybrid corn; to be hostile to agronomists who develop high-yielding modern crops and to home economists who invent new recipes for General Mills. We hover between ridicule and shame when we remember how our mothers and grandmothers enthusiastically embraced...

    • The Patented Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Food as Intellectual Property
      (pp. 293-301)
      anna m. shih

      The words “invention” and “patent” often conjure images of mad inventors working frantically in their workshops, or of visionary technological developments such as the light bulb, the automobile, the airplane, the radio. A sandwich probably would not be among the objects that the general public would consider worth patenting.

      Yet on December 21, 1999, the J.M. Smucker Company’s Menusaver division obtained u.s. Patent Number 6,004,596 (“the ’596 patent”), entitled “Sealed Crustless Sandwich.” Several months later, Smucker’s released the commercial embodiment of the patented sandwich. Marketed under the name “Uncrustables,”™ the sandwich is a round, crustless, frozen peanut butter and jelly...

    • The Clockwork Roasting Jack, or How Technology Entered the Kitchen
      (pp. 302-313)
      jeanne schinto

      My husband has been collecting antique clocks and other ingenious mechanical things for over twenty years. Two Aprils ago, he came home from the semi-annual science and technology sale at Skinner, Inc., held at its gallery in Bolton, Massachusetts, with two “clockwork jacks,” as the auction catalogue had described them.

      These events at Skinner every spring and fall are a gear-head’s delight, featuring the likes of English pocket barometers and Italian diptych sundials; sphygmomanometers, galvanometers, and ship’s wall clinometers; sextants, octants, and astrolabes; magic lanterns and combination kerosene-powered lamp-and-rotating-fans. I love the brass, mahogany, and real leather ingredients of these...

    • Grinding Away the Rust: The Legacy of Iceland’s Herring Oil and Meal Factories
      (pp. 314-323)
      chris bogan

      For the past seven years, I have found thrill, adventure, and purpose while exploring the decaying industrial playgrounds of defunct fish oil and fish meal factories in Canada and Iceland. The first one I discovered had been idle for just over twenty years, and its slowly seizing machines still echoed the roar of the former factory. Others, silent for forty or fifty years, had crumbling concrete walls and rusted machinery exposed to pounding rains through open ceilings. The only evidence of some factories was their foundations, fighting for visibility among tall weeds and grasses, or occasional bricks and chunks of...

  12. pleasures of the past

    • A la recherche de la tomate perdue: The First French Tomato Recipe?
      (pp. 326-331)
      barbara santich

      Il faut froter les tomatesse avec un linge s il y a de la terre, et ne point les mouiller les écraser avec la main et les metre dans un grand pot les faire bouillir pendant une journée entière apres les avoir assaisonnée en observant de ne point les laisser ruiner [?], le lendemain on les passe á un tamis fin, et apres y avoir ajouté un peu de Canelle et de girofle il faut les laisser bouillir jusquaceque quelle ressemble a une marmelade. Bien èpaisse et qu’on ny voiye plus d’eau Car C’est la le point éssentiel, C’est pour...

    • The Egg Cream Racket
      (pp. 332-343)
      andrew coe

      Before we turn to the criminal career of Harry Solomon Dolowich, let’s pause for something cold and sweet. I know the perfect spot. A cheerful Brooklyn luncheonette called Tom’s has been selling egg creams from its soda fountain since 1936. Let’s observe the counterman’s technique: He fills a glass about a third of the way up with milk and then whisks it under the soda spout and pulls back the lever. It takes only a few seconds for the bubbling blend of seltzer and milk to reach the rim. Next, he moves the glass under the pump a few inches...

    • Frightening the Game
      (pp. 345-346)
      charles perry

      “But with the male domestic fowl, that has been fed on hemp seeds and oil of *?* (ên?), and on the butter of olive, [no fowl can stand the contest].—First, on the day it is killed one [must] chase and frighten it, and [then] must hang up [its] (foot), and then on the second day must hang it by the neck, and roast it on a spit.”¹

      So it is said in a sixth-century Middle Persian manual of accepted gourmet opinions. It sounds peculiar to us, this idea of chasing and frightening a rooster—no matter how well fattened—...

    • Alkermes: “A Liqueur of Prodigious Strength”
      (pp. 347-355)
      amy butler greenfield

      Can strong drink save a life? If the scandalous memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte are any guide, the answer is yes. An Italian adventurer, Da Ponte was one of the great rogues of the eighteenth century, whose notoriously checkered career included a stint as a priest, numerous seductions, and a sentence of banishment from Venice. He redeemed himself, however, when it came to music, writing the librettos to some of Mozart’s most exquisite operas.

      Oddly enough, music also led to Da Ponte’s encounter with one of Europe’s rarest and most remarkable liqueurs. In the late 1790s, Da Ponte was scouring...

    • Food for Thought
      (pp. 356-357)
      eamon grennan
  13. acknowledgments
    (pp. 358-358)
  14. contributors
    (pp. 359-364)
  15. illustration credits
    (pp. 365-365)
  16. [Illustration]
    (pp. 366-366)