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Archive for the 'Food' Category

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Got Cricket? Get it at Book Expo America

The Insect Cookbook

Every year publishers from around the world descend on the Javits Center in New York City for Book Expo America to promote their new titles. To lure visitors to their booths, publishers will try a variety of incentives ranging from free books and tote bags to pens and author autographs.

This year, at booth 1538, we’re trying something new. To help promote the recently published The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet we’ll be handing out Chapul Cricket Bars. As explained on their site, Chapul “has a simple goal – to build a more sustainable future by introducing incredibly efficient insect protein in a delicious, organic product…our tasty Chapul bars.”

Chapul

As explained in the following excerpt from The Insect Cookbook, Kofi Annan and others have extolled the virtues of eating insects for their nutritional value and as a more sustainable alternative than meat.

(more…)

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Umami Has Come to Stay

Umami, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

We conclude our week-long feature on Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek with the authors’ discussion of the importance of umami for the way we think about food and diet:

“We consider umami to be the central point around which the circle of deliciousness revolves and are convinced that it deserves a place of honor in all the food cultures of the world.”—Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

As we have seen throughout this book, umami is a relatively new label for a taste that, for possibly the past 1.9 million years, has been an integral aspect of the food of modern humankind and its ancestors. It is an attribute of nutritious food and in this way has steered our preference for food with that particular taste. The taste is intensified when we work with the raw ingredients in certain ways, which have been refined in the course of millennia and which are the very heart of our food cultures, culinary skills, and gastronomy. Virtually all the cuisines in the world seem to strive to impart umami, each with its typical and regional raw ingredients and centuries-old techniques. Of all the techniques, cooking, aging, and fermenting are best able to draw out umami.

Generations of housewives, cooks, and chefs have known intuitively how to elicit umami and that it is indispensable. In more recent times, food manufacturers, gourmets, and innovative chefs have become aware of its synergistic effect and have started to tap into its potential in a rational, creative way. Nevertheless, many of us have not yet gained an easy familiarity with the word umami as an expression to describe savoriness in our raw ingredients, our food, our meals, and our food cultures.

Science has taught us which substances in the raw ingredients can help to impart umami, and, armed with this knowledge, we are better able to understand why food has umami tastes and, just as important, what we have to do to enhance them. We now also know that what characterizes umami is the multiplier effect. This taste comes fully into its own only with the help of an intimate interaction, a synergy between two types of substances, glutamate and ribonucleotides. An awareness of which raw ingredients are sources of these two substances allows us to sharpen our insight into how we can prepare more delicious meals. While this will naturally be of great value in the field of advanced gastronomy, it is of equal importance in our own kitchens, where we can use it to real advantage, even with simple techniques and local ingredients.

(more…)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Umami and the Art of Killing a Fish

Ole Mouritsen, Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

The following excerpt is from Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek:

Ikijime, which means to terminate while alive, is a 350 year old Japanese technique for killing fish. It has the effect of delaying the onset of rigor mortis, thereby ensuring that the taste of the fish is of the highest quality and that there is least damage to, and discoloration of, the flesh. The fish dies humanely and unstressed, which preserves and releases more of the savory substances that bring out umami.

The traditional method is as follows. With a heavy knife, a cut is made in the head on the dorsal side of the live fish, slightly above and behind the eyes, severing the main artery and the elongated medulla, which is the lowest part of the brain stem. This is the part of the brain that controls movement. A second cut is made where the tail is attached to the body. Then the fish is plunged into an ice slurry in order to allow it to bleed out. The muscles of the fish relax in the ice cold water while the heart continues to pump, but the fish has ceased to struggle for its life and is unstressed.

The final, definitive step is to shut down completely the autonomic nervous system, which continues to send messages to the muscles to contract. It is destroyed by inserting a long, very thin metal spike along the length of the fish through the neural canal of the spinal column. At this point, the fish relaxes totally and all movement ceases.
The blood that remains in the muscles retracts into the entrails of the fish, which are removed under running water so that blood and digestive fluids do not spill onto the flesh. The head, tail, gills, and fins are cut off and the fish is wrapped in paper or cloths to absorb any blood that might still seep out. At this point, the fish can be filleted for cooking, sliced for sashimi, or allowed to age for one or two days in the refrigerator.

(more…)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Why Umami is Good For You and 12 Ways to Add it to Your Diet

Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

In Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek explain the health benefits of umami:

Food with umami can often be prepared with significantly less salt, sugar, and fat without sacrificing the delicious taste of the resulting dish. Salt, in particular, is frequently applied too liberally in order to compensate for ingredients that are insipid or unpalatable. In many cases, its use can be reduced by as much as a half by incorporating foodstuffs with umami into the recipe. The fifth taste spurs the appetite, an attribute that can be exploited to advantage in caring for the sick and the elderly, who may have lost interest in eating. At the same time, however, umami promotes satiety, which helps to curb overeating by those who are inclined to overindulge. Either way, adopting a diet that has an abundance of umami may be a way for modem humans to eat in a healthier manner and to adjust their caloric intake to suit the needs of their bodies.

So where can you find umami? Well, the authors also provide a list of 12 easy way to add umami:

Mushroom salt
Cut shiitake or other dark mushrooms into slices and dry them in an oven on low heat. Crush them into a powder and mix it with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Use to season fish, soups, vegetables, and pasta dishes.

Marinated mushrooms
Marinate mushrooms in a little soy sauces or garum
Can be fried or used raw in salads.

Essence of Worcestershire sauce
Concentrated reduction of the sauce kept at the ready in a small bottle with an eyedropper.
Just add a couple of drops to meat that is being fried or to a sauce or a dressing. Rounds out the taste of a pâté or an egg dish.

Highly concentrated chicken bouillon
1 L (4¼ c) chicken stock reduced to 1 dL (½ c) or less.
Use as an essence in gravies that are a little flat or to add depth to a dressing, or drizzle on pasta or salads.

Miso paste
Light or dark paste made from fermented soybeans; available where Asian foods are sold.
Adds a nutty, savory taste to dressings, sauces, marinades, and soups (especially those with shellfish); or use it like butter to coat warm vegetables just before serving.

Anchovy paste
Available in a squeezable tube to keep in the refrigerator.
For all types of vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, pesto, and pâtés.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Interview with Ole Mouritsen, Coauthor of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

Umami, Ole Mouritsen

“Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.”—Ole Mouritsen

The following is an interview with Ole Mouritsen, co-author of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste:

Question: How was umami discovered?

Ole Mouritsen: The taste has always been with us, but it was only given the name umami in 1909 when the Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda discovered the substance (glutamate) that make the Japanese soup broth, dashi, so delicious. Umami is a contraction of the Japanese expression umai, which means “delicious,” and mi, which means “essence,” “essential nature,” “taste,” or “flavor.”

Q: What is the importance of umami and how does it change the way we think about taste?

OM: As a basic taste, umami is important for the flavor of food as well as for stimulating appetite, controlling satiety, and hence regulating food intake. Due to its complex interaction with other tastes, e.g., by enhancing sweet and salty and suppressing bitterness, umami will remind us about flavor being a multimodal sensation. Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.

Q: How can it or should it change the way we eat and prepare food?

OM: The most important aspect of umami is the fact that it builds on a synergistic effect brought about by two components in the food: glutamate that elicits basal umami and nucleotides that enhance the sensation of glutamate. It needs two to tango. In the classical Japanese umami-rich soup broth, dashi, the two components come from seaweeds and fish or shiitake, respectively. It is precisely the same synergy we know so well from pairing eggs with bacon, cheese with ham, vegetables with meat, etc. Knowing about this synergistic principle will guide us to change the way we eat and the way we compose a meal.

(more…)

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Book Giveaway: Win a Free Copy of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste!

Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk

This week our featured book is Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk. In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Umami to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, May 23 at 3:00 pm.

In the West, we have identified only four basic tastes—sour, sweet, salty, and bitter—that, through skillful combination and technique, create delicious foods. Yet in many parts of East Asia over the past century, an additional flavor has entered the culinary lexicon: umami, a fifth taste impression that is savory, complex, and wholly distinct.

Combining culinary history with recent research into the chemistry, preparation, nutrition, and culture of food, Mouritsen and Styrbæk encapsulate what we know to date about the concept of umami, from ancient times to today.

The following is an excerpt from the book:

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Arnold van Huis Discusses Eating Insects with Nature

The Insect Cookbook

In a recent interview with Nature, Arnold van Huis discussed eating insects and the recently published The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet:

Question: How did you get involved in entomophagy?

Arnold van Huis: I’m a tropical entomologist, very much involved in pest management and biological control in the tropics. Locusts are one of my specialized areas. I had a sabbatical and I spent that studying the cultural aspects of insects in Africa. So I visited about 24 countries, interviewing a lot of Africans about insects as medicine, insects in proverbs, et cetera, but often half of my interviews were about edible insects. In the beginning for me it was kind of a hobby. But when we started to look at it more seriously, we thought, ‘Well, this is a very good alternative to what we are currently doing’.

Q: What excites you the most about the upcoming meeting [a conference opening on 14 May in Wageningen]?

AVH: It’s the first time that everybody in this field will come together on a world scale. Insects are still more or less considered a poor man’s diet. It still has that reputation. In the tropics they don’t talk about it, because they know that in the Western world people consider it primitive. I also found that a lot of people say, ‘When we have more wealth, we will switch to a Western diet’ — the hamburger instead of the insects. And I hope we can change this perception of insects as food during this conference.

Q: Is the scientific field of entomophagy growing?

AVH: In the Western world it was rather limited ten years ago. I was one of the few who really started to work on it. There are people who have done quite some research on it — mainly in the fields of ethno-biology and ethno-entomology. But it was considered a peculiar habit of people in the tropics. Never was it looked at as something we could do as well.

The last ten years I’ve seen an exponential increase in interest. When we published the book last year, it had 6 million downloads. It just shows the tremendous interest.

(more…)

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Upcoming Umami Events

UmamiOver the next week, Ole Mouritsen will be appearing coast-to-coast to talk about his new book: Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste.

Below is a list of upcoming events for Umami, a book which Harold McGree calls “a wide-ranging and welcome progress report on our understanding of taste and deliciousness”. (Please note, the two events at the Los Angeles and New York Umami Burger include special menus):

Wednesday, April 23 at 7:00 PM
UCLA, Science & Food Series
Schoenberg Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, April 25 at 3:00 PM
Umami Burger
1520 North Cahuenga Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Sunday, April 27 at 5:00 PM
Food Book Fair
Wythe Hotel Screening Room
80 Wythe Ave at N 11th
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Monday, April 28 at 12:00 (noon)
Umami Burger
432 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Fashioning Appetite — Joanne Finkelstein

The following post by Joanne Finkelstein, author of Fashioning Appetite: Restaurants and the Making of Modern Identity, was first published on The I.B. Tauris Blog:

Fashioning Appetitle, Joanne FinkelsteinEvaluating one another’s taste is an ordinary aspect of everyday social life. We look for signs of taste in high fashion goods and social habits. This encourages us to speak to one another through material objects, and even though the definition of taste is constantly shifting, we use it to display who are think we are.

“A person of taste is someone who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso” (Dwight MacDonald 1944: 22). This pithy definition of taste was an ironic comment on the newly affluent post-war classes who were struggling with emerging art movements in painting, cinema and literature. The concern with fashionable styles of living was capturing the hearts and minds of the aspirational classes. Mid-twentieth century was an era of tightening conformity and judging people by their lifestyle habits was becoming the prevailing order. Russell Lynes (1949) famously defined taste along three dimensions—highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow. He employed the antique notions of human physiognomy made popular by Johann Caspar Lavater in the eighteenth century to describe these positions. For Lavater, facial features revealed human qualities; low ears suggested criminality, thick lips were a sign of dissipation and a high forehead indicated intelligence and social superiority. Lynes adapted the metaphor to describe types of taste. Highbrow taste was expressed through well-fashioned appetites.

There was a deep irony in this: after exterminating millions across Europe on the basis of race and ethnicity, the new social order was describing taste and social value using eugenic concepts. This time around, however, the revolution was bloodless. Taste as a measure of human worth was not a killing offense but it was a cause of status panic across the newly affluent classes. According to C.W.Mills (1951) these groups were caught in a constant re-positioning of themselves within an ever-shifting mobile hierarchy defined by fashions, fads and foibles. In the post war era, social ranking was not only based on material possessions such as cars, furniture, art and household goods but also on signs of cultural capital produced by travel, leisure and luxury, and whether indeed individuals could see the influence of Pablo Picasso in the prosaic sausage.

Taste has been a contested idea since the seventeenth century yet it has endured into the present as a means of categorizing people and their habits (Bourdieu 1984: 2). How we handle objects and instruments such as cups and saucers, knives and forks, the habits and styles we develop for eating, drinking, standing and moving, have imposed a mannered overlay on the body and, to those watching our deftness with such objects, this is read as indicative of personal attributes. We see instances of mastery, or lack of them, in displays of individual competency and discernment. The raised pinkie finger holding the teacup and the unclipped vent on the new Burberry raincoat both signal the parvenu.

Taste brings attention to different types of desire. Pursuing an experience for its own sake because it is pleasing or reassuring or elevating, and pursuing a desire in order to gratify it and make it disappear, are two different impulses. The former involves detachment, of being able to recognize value in an idea without it having an immediate application, thus we enjoy art for its own sake; the latter is a more active process, a type of hunger, in which the desirable experience needs to be devoured and captured in order to nullify its insistence. Food, for example, can be both; it can be valued for its aesthetic qualities as well as being good to taste, a life-sustaining fuel. It has appeal as the subject for still life painting, as in the masterpieces of Carravaggio and Luis Meléndez, and it can be treated as a convenience as with the early modern chophouse and now with the food court in the local shopping mall.

(more…)

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Insects: A Sustainable Alternative to Meat

The following news report (see video below) includes interviews with coauthors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, scientist Arnolds Van Huis and chef Henk Van Gurp, in which they consider some of the environmental benefits of eating insects. Unlike raising livestock for food, which contributes to rising levels of greenhouse gas (see excerpt below), insects and using them for food has minimal impact.

In the following excerpt from The Insect Cookbook, the authors provide further detail about why insects are a sustainable alternative to meat:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that livestock is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and is, as such, an important contributor to global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Simply by burping and passing gas, cattle release more than one-third of all methane emissions worldwide. Methane contributes twenty-three times more to global warming than does carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas emitted by cars. Livestock generates close to two-thirds of all nitrous oxide released; this gas is 289 times more damaging than CO2. Some insects, such as termites, also produce methane, releasing 4 percent of all emissions of this gas worldwide. By contrast, the edible insects mentioned in this cookbook, such as mealworms
and migratory locusts, produce far less greenhouse gas per kilogram of product than do cows or pigs.

Livestock also produces more than two-thirds of the world’s ammonia emissions, which are one of the main causes of acid rain. Per kilogram of body weight produced, pigs produce fifty times more ammonia than do locusts.

(more…)

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Cooking with Insects — Recipes for Hopper Kebabs and Buglava

Hopper Kebabs

In addition to explaining the nutritional and environmental value of eating insects, the authors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, also provide dozens of great recipes. Below are two such recipes. Hopper Kebabs (see image above) use grasshoppers with their legs and wings removed. As the authors explain, grasshoppers are considered a delicacy in parts of Africa and clever entrepreneurs in Australia are now marketing them as “sky prawns” to help increase their popularity.

The other recipe is buglava which uses mealworms, which is rich in potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins and minerals and is also enjoyed throughout the world. Both these insects are now increasingly available for purchase in the United States and can be bought from World Entomophagy.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

TED Talk from Marcel Dicke on the Nutritional and Environmental Impact of Eating Insects

In the following video taken from a TED Talk , Marcel Dicke, coauthor of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, discusses the environmental and nutritional importance of eating insects:

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating insects. They’re much better for you than regular meat.”

The Insect Cookbook, Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke

In recent interview with the Boston Globe , Marcel Dicke, one of the coauthors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, discussed his new book and the benefits of eating insects.

Dicke concedes that there continue to be those in the media that see his work promoting eating insects in a less than serious light. However, as he points out, eating insects can play an important role in food sustainability:

The world is facing a food security problem. We hope to make people aware, to show them there are good reasons for eating insects. We’re not telling anyone to stop eating meat completely, but about 70 percent of all agricultural land is used to produce livestock, and we’re going to have to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050. There’s no way we’re going to be able to do this.

Moreover, eating insects, which is done throughout the world, is good for you:

[Insects are] rich in minerals; they’re high in protein. In terms of nutrition, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating insects. They’re much better for you than regular meat.

Dicke also discusses which insects are best to eat and the ways in which people in the West are slowly coming around to the idea of eating them. Much of the challenge is in the presentation of dishes prepared with insects and marketing the notion of insects as palatable. As Dicke points out, contemporary Western resistance to eating insects is somewhat anomaly :

It’s in our genes to eat insects; humanoids have always done this. Around the world, 2 billion people eat them on a daily basis—there’s nothing strange about this…. In our culture, we’ve always been taught that insects are disgusting. We try to live in an insect-free world, a sterile world where everything is clean. On the other hand, this world wouldn’t be here if not for insects—without them there would be no pollination of plants.

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of The Insect Cookbook

The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet,  Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke

This week we will be featuring The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, by Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and indicate your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, March 28st at 3:00 pm.

In The Insect Cookbook, two entomologists and a chef make the case for insects as a sustainable source of protein for humans and a necessary part of our future diet.

For more on the book, learn how to make Hopper Kebabs and Buglava or watch a video of Marcel Dicke’s Ted Talk.

Friday, December 6th, 2013

The Westernization of Chinese Food

The Land of the Five Flavors, Thomas HollmannIn the epilogue to The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine, Thomas Hollmann concludes with a look at the changes in Chinese food and eating habits. In the following excerpt he discusses the introduction of such Western staples as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to China:

Mineral water, lemonade, and other fizzy drinks have been sold in China since the 1860s. Coca-Cola started trying to conquer the Chinese market in 1918, but it took nine years until the first bottling in Shang­hai. This success did not hold for long: The Communists’ accession to power was followed by a long dry period, and Coca-Cola was only able to re-establish itself in China after the end of the Cultural Revolution. It has since achieved a market share almost double that of its peren­nial competitor, Pepsi. Coca-Cola was the main sponsor of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and tried to strengthen its market presence in the following year, but the authorities eventually refused it permission to take over Huiyuan, the biggest domestic juice manufacturer. Inci­dentally, the Chinese do not always drink their Coke chilled: A popular remedy for a head cold is to add ginger and drink it.

The opening of McDonald’s first restaurant in China in 1992 was a major event. It was the biggest branch the fast food chain had ever set up worldwide, serving up to 40,000 customers on the opening day in Beijing. Twenty years later, there were around 1,400 branches Still, that was not enough to overtake Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), which is the market leader among Western fast food chains in China and looks set to remain so for a long time to come. US $3 billion investments from 2009 to 2011. This is due to the enduring popularity of chicken, as well as the remarkable flexibility that enables KFC to adapt to indige­nous food tastes. Perhaps only Pizza Hut matches this degree of ingenuity: The type of pizza they serve in China has even less in common with the Italian product than the U.S. variety.

Western firms have demonstrated their adaptive capacity in China in other ways such as paying workers below the minimum wage or contravening food safety regulations. Indigenous Chinese companies have barely profited from this: Their repeated attempts to imitate for­eign competitors have largely proved unsustainable. The same applies to development of alternative concepts that attempt to combine local tradition and mass production. Even massive government support and emphasis on the positive medicinal effects of these products have failed.

(more…)

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

The Long History of the Noodle (plus a Dumpling recipe!) via The Land of the Five Flavors

As Thomas Hollmann suggests in his book The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine, the noodle looms large in Chinese food. Below is an excerpt from the book in which he examines some of the basics of the long, glorious history of the Chinese noodle. Likewise, the dumpling and its many variations have also been staples of Chinese cuisine and as a special bonus, we’ve provided you with a dumpling recipe (see below) from The Land of the Five Flavors:

It is impossible to envisage Chinese cooking without noodles. They have a long tradition: no other country in the world can look back on a history of four thousand years of noodles. Interestingly, the earliest archeological find of noodles did not occur in the core regions with a reputation for inventiveness, but in the far western province of Qinghai.

Researchers excavating a settlement there in 2005 found a clay bowl with surpris­ing contents: thin noodles made from a millet-based flour, up to 50 centimeters long, and slightly resembling spaghetti. The find site, Lajia, has been famous ever since.

This does not mean that noodles have a continuous history dating back four thousand years, for the next evidence of noodle consumption is not until the Han dynasty. Yet the arguments for the exis­tence of noodles in that period, which are based solely on written sources, are not entirely convincing. The term used for pasta at that time covered bakery prod­ucts as well.

Through the ages, flour has always been the main basis of dough. Although products from ground wheat and rice grains have a larger market share today than in the past, flour produced from mil­let, buckwheat, and yams is also still used.

Mung bean starch is used to make very fine glass noodles. Other in­gredients may include salt, oil, baking soda, and various flavorings and colorings. Eggs have increasingly been used as well for approximately the last 500 years. Production methods for noodles vary greatly. There are at least five different techniques for achieving the right length and thinness.

There is also a long tradition in China of filled noodles resembling Italian varieties such as tortellini, ravioli and, most commonly, mezza­lune. Written sources suggest they may date back as far as the Han dynasty, but the early records are not absolutely clear, and the oldest detailed description dates back to the end of the third century.

Dumpling Recipe

(more…)

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Drinking, Drinking Games, Drinking at Weddings, and Drinking at Funerals in China

The Land of Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese CuisineIn the chapter “Heavenly Dew” from The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine, Thomas Hollmann examines the history of drink and alcohol in China. In the following excerpt he considers the popularity of drinking games and the symbolic role drinking has in various rites of passage, including weddings:

Drinking contests were very popular, particularly in the late imperial age. “Wine clubs,” societies that existed around the mid-nineteenth century, were described by the missionary Justus Doolittle, who worked in Fujian from 1849 to 1864; and there were also informal gatherings. Historical records going even further back describe types of drinking contests in which the players might have to fulfill tasks requiring a respectable level of mental proficiency as well. They in­cluded reciting impromptu poems based on set quotations or ideographs, sometimes with specific rhyme schemes.

This apparent continuity over the cen­turies may well be explained by the historical sources’ exclusive focus on elite culture. In fact, there were probably also simpler game variations in ancient times for heavy gambling was already wide­spread then. Today’s drinkers mostly play games like charades, which involve guessing about given mimed terms, or they draw cards, or throw dice. Other familiar games, such as recit­ing tongue twisters, rearranging phrases to a set pattern, and answering general knowledge questions, can also be used to determine who, if any­one, should take the drinking cup. Another frequently described game involves two people seated facing each other, waving their hands around in quick succession. To Westerners this often looks like tossing coins, but it is more complicated because the goal is to say the correct number of outstretched fingers at the moment your opponent opens his or her hand.

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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

The History of Chinese Food! Images from The Land of the Five Flavors

From propaganda posters to depictions of festive banquets (and their aftermath), The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Culture by Thomas Hollmann and translated by Karen Margolis, captures the rich history of Chinese food and its centrality to Chinese culture.

Below are images from the book and for more on the book, you can also read the chapter Rice Doesn’t Rain from Heaven.

The Land of Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Culture
After-dinner nap (scroll painting attributed to Lu Yao, ninth century)

The Land of Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Culture
Fruit vendor (propaganda poster, 1978)

The Land of Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Culture
Large kitchen (stone relief, second century)

The Land of Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Culture
Watermelon vendor (watercolor, around 1870)

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Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Book Giveaway — The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine

The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine, Thomas O. Höllmann

This week we will be featuring The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine, by Thomas O. Höllmann.

We are offering a FREE copy of The Land of Five Flavors to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, December 6 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Throughout the week we will also be featuring The Land of the Five Flavors: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine on our blog, twitter, and facebook. You can also read the chapter Rice Doesn’t Rain from Heaven

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Doughnuts? A Thanksgiving Tradition? Apparently So.

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

We culminate our week-long (or, at least short week) feature on Thanksgiving with a quick look at the holiday’s history in New York City.

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role both George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday- school students.