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Writing about food: Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast"

"All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter ... . It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write. ... I closed up the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. ... As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

"The trees were sculpture without their leaves when you were reconciled to them, and the winter winds blew across the surfaces of the ponds and fountains blew in the bright light. ... I brought mandarines and roasted chestnuts to the room in paper packets and peeled and ate the small tangerine-like oranges and threw their skins and spat their seeds in the fire when I ate them and roasted chestnuts when I was hungry. I was always hungry with the walking and the cold and the working.

"You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food. ... There you could always go into the Luxembourg Museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cezanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry. ... I should have bought a large piece of bread and eaten it instead of skipping a meal. I could taste the brown lovely crust. But it is dry in your mouth without something to drink. ... Hunger is healthy and the pictures do look better when you are hungry. Eating is wonderful too and do you know where you are going to eat right now? Lipp's is where you are going to eat, and drink, too. ... There were few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer I asked for a distingue, the big glass mug that held a litre, and for potato salad. The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l'huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draught of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l'huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce. I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with the bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn."

Happy Birthday Mark Twain, food in "A Tramp Abroad"

"A man accustomed to American food and American domestic cookery would not starve to death suddenly in Europe, but I think he would gradually waste away, and eventually die.

"Then there is the beefsteak. They have it in Europe, but they don't know how it cook it. Neither will they cut it right. It comes to the table on a small round pewter platter. It lies in the center of this platter in a bordering bed of grease-soaked potatoes; it is the size, shape, and thickness of a man's hand with the thumb and fingers cut off. It is a little overdone, is rather dry ... . Imagine a poor exile contemplating that inert thing; and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before them a mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with a fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most impeachable freshness and genuiness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy, archipelagoed with mushrooms; a township of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place; and imagine that the angel also adds a great cup of American home-made coffee, with cream a-froth on the top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking hot biscuits and a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup -- could words describe the gratitude of the exile?

"It has now been many months ... since I have have had a nourishing meal, but I ... have made out a little bill of fare as follows:
Radishes. Baked apples, with cream.
Fried oysters; stewed oysters.
American coffee, with real cream.
American butter.
Fried chicken, Southern style.
Porter-house steak.
Saratoga potatoes.
Broiled chicken, American style.
Hot biscuits, Southern style.
Hot buckwheat cakes.
American toast. Clear maple syrup.
Virginia ham, broiled.
Blue points, on the half shell.
Cherry-stone clams.
San Francisco mussels, steamed.
Oyster soup. Clam soup.
Oysters roasted in the shell -- Northern style.
Soft-shell crabs. Connecticut shad.
Roast turkey, Thanksgiving style.
Cranberry sauce. Celery.
'Possum. Coon.
Boston bacon and beans.
Bacon and greens, Southern style.
Hominy. Boiled onions. Turnips.
Pumpkin. Squash. Asparagus.
Lettuce. Succotash. String beans.
Butter beans. Sweet potatoes.
Mashed potatoes. Catsup.
Sliced tomatoes with sugar or vinegar. Stewed tomatoes.
Green corn, on the ear.
Apple dumplings, with real cream.
Apple pie. Apple fritters.
Pumpkin pie. Squash pie.
Fresh American fruits of all sorts, including strawberries which are not to be doled out as if they were jewelry, but in a more liberal way.

"Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born."

Happy Birthday Louisa May Alcott: food in "Little Women"

"'Jo! Jo! Where are you?' cried Meg at the foot of the stairs. 'Here!' answered a husky voice from above, and, running up, Meg found her sister eating apples and crying over the Heir of Redclyffe, wrapped up in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa by the sunny window. This was Jo's favorite refuge, and here she loved to retire with half a dozen russets and a nice book, to enjoy the quiet ... .

"There never was such a Christmas dinner as they had that day. The fat turkey was a sight to behold, when Hannah sent him up, stuffed, browned, and decorated. So was the plum pudding, which melted in one's mouth, likewise the jellies, in which Amy reveled like a fly in a honey pot. Everything turned out well, which was a mercy, Hannah said, 'For my mind was flustered, Mum, that it's a miracle I didn't roast the pudding, and stuff the turkey with raisins, let alone billin' of it in a cloth.'

"Then ... Meg ... put on a big apron, and fell to work ... with more energy than discretion. While the cooking mania lasted she went through Mrs. Cornelius's Receipt Book as if it were a mathematical exercise, working out the problems with patience and care. Sometimes her family were invited to help eat up too bounteous feasts of successes, or Lotty would be privately dispatched with a batch of failures, which were to be concealed from all eyes in the convenient stomachs of the little Hummels. Fired with a housewifely wish to see her storeroom stocked with homemade preserves, she undertook to put up her own currant jelly. John was requested to order home a dozen or so little pots and an extra quantity of sugar, for their own currants were ripe and were to be attended to at once. ... Home came four dozen delightful little pots, half a barrel of sugar, and a small boy to pick the currents for her. ... The array of pots rather amazed her at first, but John was so fond of jelly, and the nice little jars would look so well on the top shelf, that Meg resolved to fill them all, and spent a long day picking, boiling, straining, and fussing over her jelly. She did her best, she asked the advice of Mrs. Cornelius, she racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that she left undone, she reboiled, resugared, and restrained, but that dreadful stuff wouldn't 'jell.' ... If John had not forgotten about the jelly, it really would have been unpardonable in him to choose that day, of all the days of the year, to bring a friend home to dinner unexpectedly. ... In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair. One edition of jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another lay upon the floor, and a third was burning gaily on the stove. Lotty, with Teutonic phlegm, was calmly eating bread and currant wine, for the jelly was still in a hopelessly liquid state, while Mrs. Brooke, with her apron over her head, sat sobbing dismally."

Writing about food: Anita Loos, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

"So it seems that Munchen is practically full of Germans and the lobby of the Kunst theater was really full of Germans who stand in the lobby and drink beer and eat quite a lot of Bermudian onions and garlick sausage and hard boiled eggs and beer before all of the acts. So I really had to ask Mr. Spoffard if he thought we had come to the right theater because the lobby seemed to smell such a lot. I mean when the smell of beer gets to be anteek it gets to smell quite a lot. ... So then Dorothy spoke up and Dorothy said, 'You can say what you want about the Germans being full of kunst, but what they are really full of is delicatessen.' ... So then Dorothy got to talking with a young gentleman who seemed to be a German gentleman who sat back of her, who she thought was applauding. But what he was really doing was he was cracking a hard boiled egg on the back of her chair.

"I mean Mr. Spoffard and I spent one whole day going through all of the museums in Munchen, but I am really not even going to think about it. Because when something terrible happens to me, I always try to be a Christian science and I simply do not even think about it, but I deny that it ever happened even if my feet do seem to hurt quite a lot. So even Dorothy had quite a hard day in Munchen because her German gentleman friend, who is called Rudolf, came for her at 11 o'clock to take her for breakfast. But Dorothy told him that she had had her breakfast. But her gentleman friend said that he had had his first breakfast to, but it was time for his second. So he took Dorothy to the Half Brow house where everybody eats white sausages and pretzels and beer at 11 o'clock. So after they had their white sausages and beer he wanted to take her for a ride but they could only go a few blocks because by then it was time for luncheon. So they ate quite a lot of luncheon and then he bought her a large size box of chocolates that were full of liqueurs, and took her to the matinee. So after the first act Rudolf got hungry and they had to go and stand in the lobby and have some sandwitches and beer. But Dorothy did not enjoy the show very much and so after the second act Rudolf said they would leave because it was time for tea anyway. So after quite a heavy tea, Rudolf asked her to dinner and Dorothy was to overcome to say No. So after dinner they went to a beer garden for beer and pretzels. But finally Dorothy began to come to, and she asked him to take her back to the hotel. So Rudolf said he would, but they had better have a bite to eat first. So today Dorothy really feels just as discouradged as I seem to feel, only Dorothy is not a Christian science and all she can do is suffer."

Writing about food: Anais Nin, "Ladders to Fire"

"Lillian was always in a state of fermentation. ... When she cooked, the entire kitchen was galvanized by the strength she put into it; the dishes, pans, knives, everything bore the brunt of her strength, everything was violently marshalled, challenged, forced to bloom, to cook, to boil. The vegetables were peeled as if the skins were torn from their resisting flesh, as if they were the fur of animals being peeled by the hunters. The fruit was stabbed, assassinated, the lettuce was murdered with a machete. The flavoring was poured like hot lava and one expected the salad to wither, shrivel instantly. The bread was sliced with a vigor which recalled heads falling from the guillotine. The bottles and glasses were knocked hard against each other as in bowling games, so that the wine, beer and water were conquered before they reached the table.

"What was concocted in this cuisine reminded one of the sword swallowers at the fair, the fire-eaters and the glass-eaters of the Hindu magic sects. The same chemicals were used in the cooking as were used in the composition of her own being: only those which caused the most violent reaction, contradiction, and teasing, the refusal to answer questions but the love of putting them, and all the strong spices of human relationship which bore a relation to black pepper, paprika, soybean sauce, ketchup and red peppers. In a laboratory she would have caused explosions. In life she caused them and was afterwards aghast at the damage. Then she would hurriedly set about to atone for the havoc, for the miscarried phrase, the fatal honesty, the reckless act, the disrupting scene, the explosive and catastrophic attack. Everywhere, after the storms of her appearance, there was emotional devastation. ... The next day she herself was amazed to see friendships all askew, like pictures after an earthquake."

Writing about food: Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"

"The kitchen was a vast smoke-filled entrance hall, where many servants were already busy preparing the food for supper. On a great table two of them were making a pie of greens, barley, oats, and rye, chopping turnips, cress, radishes, and carrots. Nearby, another cook had just finished poaching some fish in a mixture of wine and water, and was covering them with a sauce of sage, parsley, thyme, garlic, pepper, and salt. Beneath the west tower an enormous oven opened, for baking bread; it was already flashing with reddish flames. In the south tower there was an immense fireplace, where great pots were boiling and spits were turning. ... We ate meat cooked on the spit, freshly slaughtered pigs, and I realized that in cooking other foods they did not use animal fats or rape oil but good olive oil, which came from lands the abbey owned at the foot of the mountain toward the sea.

"Then I put an end to his talk and told him that this evening my master wanted to read certain books in his cell and wished to eat up there. 'I will do,' he said, 'I will do cheese in batter.' 'How is that made?' 'Facilis. You take the cheese before it is too antiquum, without too much salt, and cut in cubes of sicut you like. And postea you put a bit of butierro or lardo to rechauffer over the embers. And in it you put two pieces of cheese, and when it becomes tenero, zucharum et cinnamon supra positurum du bis. And immediately take to table, because it must be ate caldo, caldo.' 'Cheese in batter it is, then,' I said to him. ... He arrived half an hour later with a dish covered by a cloth. The aroma was good.

"The supper for the legation was superb. ... I believe that in those days everyone abhorred the idea of killing the Lord's creatures. Nevertheless, we had a ragout of pigeon, marinated in the wine of those lands, and roast rabbit, Saint Clare's pasties, rice with the almonds of those hills -- the blancmange of fast days, that is -- and borage tarts, stuffed olives, fried cheese, mutton with a sauce of raw peppers, white broad beans, and Lucy's dumplings, and wines, and herb liqueurs that put everyone in a good humor, even Bernard Gui, usually so austere: an elixir of lemon verbena, walnut wine, wine against the gout, and gentian wine. It seemed an assembly of gluttons, except that every sip or every morsel was accompanied by devotional readings."

Writing about food: Thanksgiving in Jane Smiley's "Moo"

"Thanksgiving was Helen's favorite holiday, and for at least five years Nils and Ivar had spent Thanksgiving with her, along with an assortment of lonely, overworked, or impecunious faculty members who she happened to run across in the course of the fall. ... This year, however ... she was preparing a rather small dinner for Ivar, Nils, Marly, and Father. Small didn't mean that she couldn't go all out, but it did mean that most of her kitchen equipment, from her Bosch food processor to her Calphalon turkey roaster to her Viking oven, was just too big. The ingredients she measured out seemed to sit in little puddles at the bottom of large vessels, and there were things she would never use again that she actually had to go out and buy -- an eight-inch pie plate, a three-quart casserole. Ah, but her yard, her root cellar, and her freezer were abundant with provisions.

"For Thanksgiving, Helen liked to pursue a western hemispherical theme. Banished from the table were some of the Italian and French flavors she loved -- truffles and tarragon and crusty bread, lamb and pork roast, olive oil, lemons, oranges with cloves, pears poached in wine ... . Everything about the preparations pleased her -- the setting out of ingredients, the measuring and mixing, the trips to the root cellar and the freezer, the view out the window of her frosted garden under its winter mulch and all of chill nature alive in the wind, the darkness that because of thick November clouds never really lifted. Around her, in the kitchen, the bowls and pans glowed and auspicious fragrances rose and mingled.

"Now this food, thought Father, was mighty strange. First there was some tomato soup, but it was cold and had green stuff floating in it. Then there were the sweet potatoes, but they turned out to be regular mashed potatoes, even though they were yellow. The beans he recognized, but then beans gave him gas, so he didn't have any. The turkey, which he thought he could rely on, was too rich-tasting, and the stuffing burned his mouth -- it had chili peppers in it, who'd ever heard of that? Then instead of a nice cool cylinder of jellied cranberry sauce sliced into disks, there was some sort of cranberry junket. Then there was blackberry sherbet -- that was okay -- but after that there were two more desserts, pumpkin pie, but with a strange cornmeal crust, and chocolate cake, but with cranberries in that, too. Frankly, there was hardly a bite of food at this table that Father recognized, and he knew that he was going to get up hungry."

Writing about food: The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

"Cookbooks have always intrigued and seduced me. When I was still a dilettante in the kitchen they held my attention, even the dull ones, from cover to cover, the way crime and murder stories did Gertrude Stein. When we first began reading Dashiell Hammett, Gertrude Stein remarked that it was his modern note to have disposed of his victims before the story commenced. ... And so it is in the kitchen. Murder and sudden death seem as unnatural there as they should be anywhere else. ... Food is far too pleasant to combine with horror. All the same, facts, even distasteful facts, must be accepted and we shall see how, before any story of cooking begins, crime is inevitable.

"The only way to learn to cook is to cook, and for me, as for so many others, it suddenly and unexpectedly became a disagreeable necessity to have to do it when war came and Occupation followed. ... It was in this time, then, that murder in the kitchen began. The first victim was a lively carp brought to the kitchen in a covered basket from which nothing could escape. The fish man who sold me the carp said he had no time to kill, scale or clean it, nor would he tell me with which of these horrible necessities one began. ... On the docks of Puget Sound I had seen fishermen grasp the tail of a huge salmon and lifting it high bring it down on the dock with enough force to kill it. ... After an appraising glance at the lively fish it was evident he would escape attempts aimed at his head. A heavy sharp knife came to my mind as the classic, the perfect choice, so grasping, with my left hand well covered with a dishcloth, for the teeth might be sharp, the lower jaw of the carp, and the knife in my right, I carefully, deliberately found the base of its vertebral column and plunged the knife in. I let go my grasp and looked to see what had happened. Horror of horrors. The carp was dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second, and third degree. I fell into a chair, with my hands still unwashed reached for a cigarette, lighted it, and waited for the police to come and take me into custody. After a second cigarette my courage returned and I went to prepare poor Mr. Carp for the table. I scraped off the scales, cut off the fins, cut open the underside and emptied out a great deal of what I did not care to look at, thoroughly washed and dried the fish and put it aside while I prepared CARP STUFFED WITH CHESTNUTS."

National Sandwich Day: James Villas, "American Taste"

"There is a time and place, I suppose, for what the British and Scandinavians call a sandwich, but when it comes to the real McCoy, in no country has the art of the sandwich been more developed and appreciated than in the United States. Sandwiches have always been to most Americans what pasta is to Italians or rice to Chinese. ... Ah, but lead me to a delicatessen where the corned beef is sliced by hand and stacked high and evenly on a Kaiser roll, or show me a well-trimmed Club sandwich on which the chicken is tender, the tomatoes, lettuce, and mayonnaise impeccably fresh, and the bacon plentiful and crisp. ... The first thing I seek out when visiting my native North Carolina is a chopped pit-cooked pork barbecue sandwich or plate of small country-ham biscuits moistened with red-eye gravy. ... If two pieces of sourdough bread filled with Dungeness crab and avocado represents for me a high point on any trip to San Francisco, just the thought of sinking my teeth into a turkey with Russian dressing on white, a hot pastrami or sardine on rye, a Reuben, or a lox and cream cheese on a split bagel at one of many New York delis is mouth-watering.

"Over the decades there has developed in this country a veritable repertory of sandwiches that can now only be termed classic American. Who can say in all honesty, for instance, that childhood would have had its same wonderment without those addictive peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crisp grilled cheese, creamy egg or tuna or chicken salad, hot dogs, and thick homemade hamburgers -- sandwiches which, for better or worse, few of us ever outgrow completely? From the various regions there emerged sandwiches that today have overall national appeal: pimiento cheese, oyster loaves, fried fish, and pork barbecue from the South; fried egg, hot dogs (German wursts), and hamburgers (German Hamburg chopped steak, introduced, as was the hot dog, at the St. Louis World's Fair) from the Midwest; Sloppy Joes, beef barbecue, and tacos from Texas and the Southwest; Cheesesteaks from Philadelphia; Silver Dollars, Denvers, Heroes, crab, and Monte Cristos from the West; lobster rolls, brisket, and baked beans and bacon from New England; and from New York City and vicinity, hot pastrami and corned beef, chopped chicken liver and onions, Reubens, sardine, lox and cream cheese, and Coney Island dogs.

"Pseudosophisticates who enjoy sneering at the great American sandwich might do well to thumb through the pages of none other than Escoffier, the distinguished French master who didn't think much about preparing dainty tea sandwiches but was fascinated enough by something called a Bookmaker to reproduce its lengthy recipe. Essentially this is an entire loaf of bread sliced in half, buttered and filled with a thick grilled steak seasoned with horseradish and mustard, wrapped in sheets of blotting paper, and squeezed tightly in a press for 1/2 hour. Now that is a sandwich."

Writing about food: Angelo Pellegrini, "The Unprejudiced Palate"

"I was not immediately impressed by the skyscrapers, the automobiles, and the roaring trains of the metropolitan centers along the eastern seaboard. ... What was immediately impressive were the food stalls; the huge displays of pastries and confections, the mountains of fish, flesh, and fowl; the crowded cafes, where the aristocrat -- or so he seemed -- sat beside the drayman in overalls, gulping coffee drawn from huge urns and soberly eating ham and eggs; eating such fare without any visible display of joy, as if in obedience to some distasteful duty -- as if it were yesterday's polenta! Ham and eggs! ... Ham and eggs with fried potatoes, stacks of buttered toast and coffee -- that was my first acquaintance with American food. It remains to this day my favorite dish. I would pay dearly for a gulp-to-gulp moving picture of myself, seated in a New York restaurant, a hungry immigrant urchin to the core, trying to counterfeit nonchalance as I wolfed my culinary cares away. And as I remembered the boot of earth across the water, where eggs had been too precious to be served with any regularity, and where coffee had been hoarded against the bellyache ... I said to myself ... America is good.

"Several years later I heard those identical words spoken by an Italian grocer to whom I had gone for provisions. It was in one of those intimate shops, none too tidy, crowded with sacks of beans, peas, lentils, ceci, barrels of olives, huge wheels of cheese and stacks of salami and dry cod, where the opulent and inefficient operator is more ready to chat than to sell. He took me into his dingy office, rolled back the top of some late executive's desk, as if he were about to show me his ledger or perhaps a recent issue of Practical Merchandising, and revealed loaves of bread, slabs of cheese, and several salami. He then pulled out a drawer, which in any sensible establishment would have catapulted a typewriter into view, and several bottles of wine emerged from the darkness. He locked the door to the establishment, sliced the salami, uncorked a bottle, and opened a can of olives. As he sat down and reached for the cheese, he mumbled, in his own version of English language, 'America ess gude. Today, leet the paesani spend the mawney in the safetyway store.'"
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