The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent

I'll be honest, here...there are rumors in my family that there was once a miner married to a Native American woman.  But those remain unconfirmed.  I'm white.  Fishbelly, burns in ten minutes of sun, goth is default merely because I rather like black, white.  And I'm in love with this cookbook.  

It's not the food of my grandmothers, in any way, shape, or form. It's about as foreign to me as a cookbook could get. But it is Great Grandmother's Food for millions of people.  Jessica B Harris does an excellent job of weaving together recipes and stories from her travels, making the food of Africa accessible and engaging. 


Now the Harvest is in,
Grain is in the bin.
Through hard work and God's aid
The year's rent has been paid.
With Pennies to spare
We're off to the Michaelmas Fair!

The Gallery of Regrettable Food

As much as I love the old and retro, all of us have some meals that we look back on with a mixture of amusement and downright horror. 

Bento, the Obscenely Adorable Lunch, a great resource, although no longer live.
As the mother of a preschooler, I watch the increasing popularity of bento with a new interest this back to school season.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, a bento is a Japanese lunch box, containing little bits and bites of different foods, often in a multi-tired container(also referred to as a bento).   The concept is extremely old, but the modern applications are often fascinating.

Onions, Fish, and Barley; Anglo-Saxon Food

From the Cornell Library

It probably comes as no surprise that I have at least one Medieval cookbook.  Pleyn Delit is a personal favorite, particularly since it includes a reprinting of the original recipe, not just their version.
For a cookbook from an era before standard measurements is no small thing, since it allows the cook to interpret the recipe based on their own intuition. 

Most Medieval Cookbooks, though, Pleyn Delit included, have a tendency to focus on Norman influences, and with good reason.  The Normans had a much more diverse court, with trendy food, using lots of different sauces, and even showcasing recipes from the Moors in Spain.  There is also a greater emphasis on spices and presentation, with "subtleties", foods that were meant to look like something else, being a big-ticket item.
A King with his witan (council).

We can spend more time on those another time....If it's not as exciting, why do I have a soft spot for Anglo-Saxon food?

1) It's simplicity makes it easy for the lone cook to re-create. Even with modern technology, a late Medieval feast requires months of planning and a committed team to pull off.  I did my first Norman dinner at the age of 14, and for a family of five, it took three weeks prep, and two solid days of cooking.  Most Anglo Saxon food is so simple that with a little searching for items that aren't a regular part of the modern palate(but still sold at the average super-market), you could prepare it for a family dinner at home.

From Saebert's Folc, and Essex reenactment group.  More great pictures at their site. 

2) Anglo-Saxon food is healthy.  The British Museum Cookbook (a treasure that I regret that I do not own) paints a very clear picture of a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fish.  Honey is the primary sweetener.  While Germanic and Viking groups raise images of feasting on wild boar, drinking copious amounts of mead and ale, such behavior was a special event(not to mention wild boar being debatably healthier having lived on a foraging diet, then our modern, hay and grain fed cattle). There was also a more diverse use of grains like spelt wheat, barley and rye...all of which are easier on the digestive system for the average person of Northern European descent. 

3) Including more diversity in your life.  The average person has a set group of foods they buy in the store, that they rarely diverge from (think about what you buy in a month).  Many foods that were common to our ancestors have fallen out of favor, and often have never even been tasted by modern generations!  When was the last time you had nettles, or turnips, or rabbit?  How do you know you don't like them unless you try?

Here's a simple, tasty start, from the above British Museum Cookbook:

Griddled Trout With Herbs
Serves 6

The herbs below are what might have been used in Anglo-Saxon East
Anglia, but use whatever you might fancy. Try to use fresh, although
dried is acceptable.

6 fresh cleaned trout
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tablespoons dried
75g (3 oz) soft butter
18 fresh mint leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
6 fresh sage leaves or 1 scant teaspoon dried
1-2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
6-9 grinds black pepper

Put one sprig or generous shake of rosemary down the middle of each
fish. Chop all the other herbs and seasonings and mash them into the
soft butter. Use this to coat the fish generously on each side. Griddle,
barbeque or grill it for 4-5 minutes on each side or till the skin is
well browned and the flesh flaking off the bone. Baste now and then with
the butter which runs off. Serve at once with lot of fresh bread and a
salad or a simple green vegetable.

More basic information.
More Saxon and Viking recipes.

Dame Nellie Melba do you know that name, and why is it tied to food? 

Five Reasons I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Martha Stewart

As the aliens eyed the seating arrangements with suspicion...all hope of the embassy dinner's success evaporated.  

 I don't think there is an adult middle-class American woman alive who doesn't have an opinion about Martha Stewart.

Meals for the Bachelor

I usually talk about very women-oriented stuff on is an exception.

One of my favorite sites these days is The Art of Manliness.   No, it's not geared towards me, by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead, this site generates a feeling that is the online equivalent of the now extinct Men's Lodge,