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

Food Porn by Molly O’Neill

304px-Baker_BananaOriginator of the term ‘food porn’, Molly O’Neill describes the world of food as it stands today. This article was written in 2003 in the Columbia Journalism Review, but it clearly is as thorough and as true as it was on the day it was written.

On a balmy May evening in 1997, I was at a bookstore in Santa Barbara, California, signing copies of my third cookbook. It wasn’t my best book, and nearly every chapter of it had previously appeared in my food column in The New York Times Magazine. Nevertheless, nearly two hundred people waited to pay me homage — as well as $26.95 for the book.

The magazine was one of the most powerful platforms for food writing in the nation and, to the people in line, I was a rock star. My mother, a sensible Ohioan, was with me that night and she was appalled. She stood near as fans gushed admiration for my prose and recipes.

Finally, as if unable to contain herself another second, my mother interrupted one woman’s compliments and asked: “Do you actually cook that stuff?”

“Of course not,” replied the customer, who looked like my mother, tall, lean, with a white cap of stylishly coiffed hair. “Every week I cut them out of the magazine and promise myself I will cook them. Don’t we all?”


Continue reading this story at alternet

Tour de Gall by A.A. Gill

Restaurant reviews are – like recipes – an easily found form of foodwriting. Small-town newspapers usually have a writer ready to fawn over the ‘latest new place’ in well-practiced tones blending boosterism, civic pride, and desperation for a good meal. Then there are world-class restaurants . . . who draw writers capable of world-class criticism to be published in high-profile global magazines and journals. One of the best (and most biting) (yum, yum) is A.A. Gill, here writing of L’Ami Louis in Paris:

In all my years as a restaurant critic I have learned that there is a certain type of florid, blowsy, patrician Brit who will sidle up and bellow, with a fruity bluster, that if I ever happen to find myself in Paris (as if Paris were a cul-de-sac on a shortcut to somewhere else) there is this little place he knows, proper French, none of your nouvelle nonsense, bloody fantastic foie gras, and roast chicken like Bridget Bardot’s tits, and that I should go. But, they add, don’t bloody write about it. We don’t want Monsieur Yank and his good lady wife turning up in droves. It’s called . . .

Continue reading Tour de Gall at Vanity Fair.

The Strange Case of Mr. Palliser’s Palate by Ogden Nash

nash72In Ogden Nash, we have an unusual writer – one who made it to be memorialized by having his photo put on a US Postage Stamp. Known as a poet (specializing in light verse) it’s probable Mr. Nash would find it amusing to be put in a group known as ‘foodwriters’. But since we really can’t say what is or what is not foodwriting, his pennings on palates just might belong here. Have a bite –

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To continue reading this poem, please click through to Liz Smith’s ‘Dishing’ on google books.

Flesh in the Valley by Sudha Koul

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.40.53 AMKitchen hierarchy, tradition, religion and how things taste inform and flavor this memoir of life in Kashmir.

We might have a modern kitchen now, but I look forward to the formal occasions when our old cook, Sudarshan, now a venerable grandfather, comes back to cook for us. He will never touch a gas range if his life depends on it, and within moments of his arrival the old hearth fires are ablaze once again, crackling as they joyously send fountains of red and yellow embers into the chimney. The flames remember and find their way to the base of an entombed man-tall vessel, heating up the water inside. We now use the hot water from the old bathroom only for doing the dishes in the kitchen, but it feels good to have the medieval water-heater called up from retirement once in a while.

Continue reading this memoir here at ‘A Matter of Taste’.