In A Tibetan Lamasery by Ruth Harkness

Dead_Pheasant_RuskinRuth Harkness is best known as the woman who brought (hand-carried) the first giant baby panda to the United States. But Ruth was also an adventuress of the table. Here she tells of a meal one might consider  . . . excessive . . .

I think that in all my explorations of eating by far the most extravagant was the winter in which I ate an estimated ten thousand dollars’ worth of rare pheasants. At least, after the expression of astonishment finally faded from the face of Robert Bean, curator of birds and mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, when I told him about the tragopans, Lady Amhersts, and impeyans, and others the names of which I did not know, that had been served to me by my Chinese cook, he said, “Well, if they could have been brought to Chicago, I think ten thousand would have been a modest price for them.”

But of that there could have been no possibility, because the scene of my solitary banqueting was in far Western China in the Tibetan foothills, where I spent a winter in a crumbling old lamasery from which all the monks had fled during the rout of the defeated Chinese Communist armies. And war raged over China, so that travel with or without pheasants was well-nigh impossible. Besides which, any fancier of pheasants will tell you that these birds, which live at altitudes of 8,000 feet and more, are most difficult to transport alive from their mountains.

To read this story in full, go to Gourmet archives 1944

The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri

Laying_Out_the_Pasta_at_our_Albergo_in_Tripoli_Art.IWMARTLD2924Food and detectives go together like bread and cheese. The number of fictional gourmet detectives is legion. If you intend to write a mystery novel, adding a foodie here or there as well as a cat or dog is always helpful. Here’s a detective who happens to be Sicilian. He knows his food.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.02.22 PMRead more here at google books

On Soup/in Night by Elie Wiesel

The oft-repeated adage is “We are what we eat”. There’s more to it than that. Actually, we often eat what we are, or we eat what we’re experiencing. Here’s a soup that won’t be forgotten . . .

“Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out,
swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes.
And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still
red, his eyes not yet extinguished.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”

That night, the soup tasted of corpses.”

Elie Wiesel – Night

Eating Architecture by Horowitz and Singley

2eatingAcademic foodwriting enters a space where food becomes an idea, not something to cook or something to eat or smell. This idea of food then intersects with other ideas of other things the scholar wants to try to figure out on a grander scale or alternately, to write theses the scholar has in their mind as being the correct theses then have everyone else believe them too.

‘Eating Architecture’ is one of the best books linking food as idea to something else as idea.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 9.09.55 AMFor more of “Eating Architecture” please go to the MIT Press page for the book where the full introduction can be read.

Some Anti-Foodwriting Notes

Interesting article for writers from Ploughshares on the act of food being dropped/inserted/stirred/shaken/baked into writing.

Speaking of which: The rest 4waitress? The one with the grease stain and the nametag? She’s been trapped in short fiction since 1942, serving that same horrible pot of coffee. Occasionally she gets to flirt. But she never gets to be a real character. I think it’s time we released her. Let her go serve happily at Waffle Hut and change into a clean dress already.

Read the rest of this article at Ploughshares blog.

Black Beans by Laurie Colwin

256px-Annibale_Carracci_The_BeaneaterLaurie Colwin is the writer-turned-foodwriter in recent contemporary American foodwriting most likely to win “Most Unabashedly Well-Loved” by her audience. She writes of what home is and what families are supposed to be – and of the nurturing potential of food. Nothing complex, no layers or arguments. Just a clear-eyed gaze and a hug.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.37.00 AMTo continue reading this piece in full (and to see the recipes provided and more) go to google books where Laurie Colwin writes of black beans.

Tofu-Kozo in Japanese Literature

Katsukawa_Shuntei_Tofu-kozoYou might want to look behind you if you happen to be walking alone on a dark rainy night – the Tofu-Kozo might be right behind you, waiting to offer you his special tofu. Nobody really knows where he came from, but he seems to be everywhere, and he’s been around for a very long time.

In literature from the Showa and Heisei eras and beyond, it is frequently written that they would appear on rainy nights, and recommend the relish of tōfu to people passing by, but halfway into eating it a mold would grow

[ . . .] In the original kusazōshi, they did not possess any special powers, and they often appear as servants that bring tōfu and sake here and there in the town,[4] and it is also changed in senryū such poems like “tōfu-kozō are servant monsters (豆腐小僧ハ化ものゝ小間使ひ

Just to be safe, you’d better read up about Tofu-Kozo. It’s starting to rain . . .the evening approaches . . . what’s that behind you?!