Archive for the ‘food quotes’ category

How to Have Guests – And Enjoy Them

December 16, 2008

My family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and not only is it home to the one and only, world famous Zingerman’s family of businesses, loved by foodies one and all, but it also has a really fantastic public library. Once a year at least (I’m not sure, I don’t live there anymore) they have a book sale at the library made up of, I’m assuming, books that were donated to them. They charge next to nothing for the books, but all the proceeds go to benefit the library, and you can find a lot of really wonderful treasures, if you’re willing to hunt through the piles. The last time they had one of these sales, I sent my mom and sister there on a mission to pick me up any fun/interesting/useful cookbooks they could find (no surprise there), and boy did they hit the jackpot! I finally got to see what bought when I was recently home for Thanksgiving, so I’m just now working my way through them, but there are some totally fun images and great quotes that you should keep an eye out here for in future.

I thought I would start you off with a little quote from one of three Betty Crocker cookbooks that I got. This one was published in 1959 and is entitled Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining: How to Have Guests – And Enjoy Them.
Jack Spratt

From a section called:
What do you do about guests with special diet problems?
“The thoughtful guest who is on such an extremely restricted diet as a salt-free one, for example, does best to regret an invitation to a meal. It is not kind to ask a hostess, who has her hands full anyway, to prepare an entirely separate meal for one. It is even more unkind to refuse the party dishes she has gone to such trouble to prepare. In this case it is better to say, “We are not dining out at all while Bob is on a limited diet, but we’d love to join you anytime you’re planning an after-dinner party.” This gives the hostess a chance to say, “We’ll miss you – but will you join us after dinner?” Or, if late-comers do not suit her plans, “I’m so sorry. We’ll plan an evening together soon.”” (17)

My reaction:

Can you imagine if this were the protocol in this day and age? I mean with all the “special diets” and dietary restrictions that we are all constantly navigating, whether by choice or for health-related issues, if we went by the above advice, we’d never get a chance to eat with people who didn’t have the exact same diet as us, unless we went out to a restaurant of course.

I do not see why bringing your own food to a dinner so that the hostess is not put out and you can still attend would be considered in bad form? And if you are to be a shut-in until you have managed to somehow work your way around your “special diet”, then why would anyone ever choose to stick to their diets? If this isn’t a means of marshalling everyone into one generic diet or cuisine, I don’t know what is! Keep in mind that this is during a period when there was also heavy push to find and stick to “American-style” foods, none of that foreign stuff, particularly if you were an immigrant. Think here about the cooking schools that were so popular during the 1950s and all the packaged and processed convenience foods which were supposed to make life easier without the quality suffering (yeah right!).

Part of me has such a hard time getting behind the above advice because I can’t remember ever having attended such a formal dinner party, which just goes to show you how much more informal we’ve become since then. It’s funny to juxtapose this against a comment which was made at the beginning of this same book which states, “The lives of all of us have changed vastly since we watched our parents preparing for the first big party we can remember…. Our clothes and manners are far more casual. And our entertaining is less formal…” It would seem that we are on a downward slope toward casualness when it comes to entertaining, though I’m sure that more formal dinner parties become the norm as one ages. It is much easier to cobble together a bunch of friends and a hodge podge of dishes when you’re a graduate student than when you are more settled and the opportunity to get together isn’t there as often, then expectations are higher and formality tends to go along with those expectations.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the above quote with you all since it made me laugh when I read it, simply imagining how ridiculous it would be if we all followed those instructions today. I don’t think I’d have any friends and I certainly wouldn’t go out half as much. Today we’re much more accommodating (which, Betty acknowledges can be a hassle it’s true), though this seems almost a necessity given the extent to which dietary restrictions and special diets have gained acceptance across society. It’s practically more unusual to find someone who doesn’t have food allergies or special needs. I find it’s always good to look back into the past to give our present circumstances some perspective, and this certainly has done that for me.


Cooking your way to a man’s heart…

August 20, 2008

I’ve long been interested in looking more closely at the genre of cookbooks, recipes, and other literature in its various different forms which forefronts this notion of cooking as a means through which women can work their way into a man’s heart. It seems such an “old fashioned” idea, yet we all know that food is one of those things that brings us together and that food and sex are two of the most primal needs or desires that we have. So surely, if you can cook well, then you have a tool through which you can attract good people into your life and certainly hope to keep them around, or at least that’s the theory. I will agree that the woman as the sole provider of nourishment is too out-dated and that we have certainly moved into a food culture in which many of the culinary responsibilities are shared or somehow divided amongst other household chores. I hope that this means that we will soon be seeing a return to this type of literature that seems to have been so popular in the first few decades of the 20th century, for example The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man’s Heart by Kander and Schoenfeld (1903), but in a new form, with the focus shifted to shared building of relationships through food. Not only can women treat their men well by feeding them wonderfully prepared meals, but men can do the same for their women, and they can both enjoy preparing food together for themselves, their friends, and families. Read through the poem below and just think about the embedded messages and how they might be incorporated into your food philosophy today.

How to Cook a Husband
In a lecture room, before a cooking school,
For cooking a husband was given this rule:
First, in selecting, to market don’t go;
The best you’ll find there, most surely no.
For although there are many, yes, galore,
The prime will always be brought to your door.
Don’t think for a moment, to bake or broil,
Much better tie in the kettle to boil.
Use a silken cord called comfort – ‘twon’t break,
But one called duty is apt to be weak.
To make him secure it is well, no doubt,
Yes! for aught we know, he’d be falling out.
And then, too surely if your back were turned,
He’d become, alas! both crusty and burned.
In cooking a husband you’ll plainly see,
Like lobsters and crabs, alive they must be.
Should he sputter and fuss, help there is none;
Some husbands do it until they are done.
Some sugar add, in the form of kisses;
You’ll find to absorb, he rarely misses.
Vinegar and pepper, use none at all;
But of spice you may add a sprinkling small.
Stir some, lest to the kettle he adhere,
Thus making him useless, I greatly fear.
Please not in his side some instrument stick,
For when he is done you will know it quick.
With proper treatment and excellent care
You’ll find him, indeed, delicious and rare.

Goderich, Lake Huron, Canad
from Famous Old Recipes Used a Hundred Years and More in the Kitchens of the North and South Contributed by Descendants ( 1908 )

Choosing your dinner guests wisely…

April 9, 2008

In this day and age we, as people who like to entertain and serve good food to our friends, may feel that it is a daunting task to cater to all of the varying dietary requirements and preferences of our dinner guests. It can be difficult to ensure that everyone is satisfied by the end of the meal, but also that you do not feel stifled as the cook. I don’t entertain nearly as much as I would like to, but this is a conundrum that I know plagues a lot of families and dinner parties (particularly when there’s a mix of vegetarians and omnivores). Vegetarianism is certainly a lifestyle that we think of as relatively modern, but you might be surprised to learn that it has been around for a very long time indeed, that even Benjamin Franklin himself took a stab at going meat free for several years of his life. So you can see that these sorts of personal preferences likely have always played an important role at the dining table, whether it boils down to meat or no meat or other issues like a preference for the taste of garlic or not.

To illustrate this, I wanted to share a passage from a book I’m reading published in 1867 by Thomas De Voe, a butcher by trade in New York City, called The Market Assistant. He clearly shows that these considerations have been frustrating hosts and guests alike for years!

“An amusing article on diet, written above one hundred years ago, is found in a London paper called St. James’ Chronicle, dated November 6, 1762, and thus reads: – ‘There is no affectation more ridiculous than the antipathies which many whimsical people entertain with respect to diet. One will swoon at a Breast of Veal; another can’t bear the sight of a Suckling-pig; and another owes as great a grudge to a Shoulder of Mutton as Petruchio, in the farce. How often does it happen in company that we are debarred of a necessary ingredient in a salad because somebody, forsooth, cannot touch oil! And what a rout is made, whisking away the cheese off the table, without our being suffered to have a morsel of this grand digester, if any one should happen to declare his dislike of it! There are others of an equally fantastic disposition, who, as we may say, choose to quarrel with their bread and butter. These are eternally suspicious that their food is not sweet. They bring their plates up to their noses, or their noses down to their plates, at every thing that is put upon them. Their stomachs are so delicately nice that they descry a fault in all they eat. The fish is stale, the mutton is rank, or the suet in the pudding is musty.’”


December 5, 2007

Just wanted to share a couple of recent quotes I’ve found inspiring:

“If you take away from food the wholeness of growing it, or take away the joy and conviviality of preparing it in your own home, then I believe you are talking about a whole new definition of the human being.”
– Wendell Berry The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (1977)

“Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.”
– Charles Pierre Monselet (1828-1888) “Letters to Emily”