Archive for the ‘thought for food’ Category

Rabelais contributes to Eater National’s ’72 Ways Food Can Change the World

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

history_cookbooksI spend most of my day surrounded by rare cookbooks, examining recipes, food writing, and publishing information from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. My primary task is researching and cataloguing printed and manuscript books, all in the hope of selling them to a small list of collectors and research libraries that purchase such things. One advantage of close contact with historical cookbooks is that it gives me perspective on what’s happening with contemporary food. It’s tempting to say that an understanding of historical food and cooking lets you see that “it’s all been done before.” So many of the touchstones of modern diet—vegan, raw, Paleo, hyperlocal, and global grazing—have precedents in the distant and not so distant past.

If your food history comes from Twitter, you might think kitchen garden cooking started with Alice Waters, but you might take a look at Nicolas de Bonnefons’ Les Délices de la Campagne, Suite du Jardinier François, published in Paris in 1654. Not only does the book provide instructions for the cultivating, preserving, and cooking of fresh garden foods, it encourages that the food be prepared simply and that the ingredients be allowed to speak for themselves. This type of gardening and cooking was a common practice, but here was a book expounding farm-to-table as a truly desirable approach.

“What persists is that food changes, and that the forces shaping the food of any time are large and manifold ”When I’m annoyed by a restaurant diner snapping iPhone pictures of a nicely plated dish, I recall the tiny engraving in a volume of Grimod de la Reynière’s Almanach des Gourmands, some of the earliest restaurant criticism. In the engraving, a group of men dine at a restaurant table, while adjacent, a secretary at a small table records their thoughts and criticisms. There’s a food career long gone.

But the “nothing new” approach is an oversimplification. What persists is that food changes, and that the forces shaping the food of any time are large and manifold: the economy, social mobility, migration, crop failure, markets and prices, scientific advances, ideas about health and nutrition, and of course war and the dislocation it brings. While food is always subject to grand forces, it is itself a grand force. Among the earliest writing, Babylonian tablets now 4,500 years old contain lists of foodstuffs and simple recipes for beer. They are the original food writing. Ancient writing like this is the province of kings and rulers of empires, and reminds us that food itself—the ingredients, the recipes, and the way we share meals—while subject to so many outside influences, is itself power.

One can hope that one day in the distant future, in a much-changed world or on a distant planet, people will notice again that food is a subject worth thinking about, worth debating and sometimes arguing over. And if they do so, let’s hope they don’t think they’re the first to do so, but turn to the twenty-first century—or the eighteenth or the third—for some perspective.

See all of the ’72 ways Food Changes the World’ comments on Eater.com.

 

Found in a cookbook…

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

cremation

 

[found pasted into Charles Copeland’s The Cuisine (Boston 1872)].

Strawberries

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

jersey queen

“Coming on a bank covered with wild strawberries, I ate all within reach, moved to a new vantage point and began again. One might stay all summer with pan, sieve and fishing rod, amassing gold and living off trout and fraises-des-bois, a sybaritic Carpathian Tom Tiddler.”

–        Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water

Post-Civil War advertising art goes gonzo

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

#002A   An exhibition at the Harvard Business School.

The Holiday Season

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

It’s no coincidence that the darkest, longest nights of the year bring some of the biggest, most sumptuous celebrations of the year. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve bridge the gap between the harvest plenty and the scarcity of the long cold months. The later three feast days find their roots in the Winter Solstice, the turning point in the calendar after which the days start to lengthen.  To celebrate the season, we offer a short list of interesting and enjoyable books about food and drink, including dining guides, cocktail manuals, fine press editions of great food writing, signed books, classic children’s cookbooks, and more.Remember that in addition to the rare and unusual books we stock, we carry a large selection of contemporary new cookbooks, both domestic and imported, and are happy to ship anywhere in the world.We look forward to seeing many of you over the coming weeks and in the New Year, and we really do appreciate your continued interest and support.

book boards

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Boards are usually covered with dust jackets. Dust Jackets that can become fetishized by both the people who design the books, and the people who buy them. But under the jackets can be the most delicious boards that make me want to touch them. Below are a couple of examples…

Calvin Trillin

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012


“I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground
and won’t stand still.”

Paint & Oil

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The cover from a menu for a dinner of the Paint and Oil Club of Portland, Maine, held at the Falmouth Hotel, January 19, 1889.

Some highlights from the menu include:

Blue Points on the half shell

Boiled Chicken Halibut with egg sauce

Roman Punch

Mallard Duck with Currant jelly

Tutti Frutti (I kid you not, printed verbatim on the menu)

Coffee and cigars…

Sounds like a delightful evening.

New Coke?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I have been a die-hard fan of the New York Times for my entire life.  However lately there just doesn’t seem to be any there there.  Been reading the Guardian.  They report things the US press misses or is late to.  Such as carcinogens in Coke and Pepsi….

Table arrangements

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Having returned from our travels we are setting about to make the Mill a proper home for Rabelais in its new incarnation. We’ve got desks set up, shelves are installed and being filled slowly.  The boxes from Middle Street remain sealed.  The integration will need our full attention and there are other parts of the working space that are calling to us at the moment. Moving a business is a tricky proposition.  We were gratified by the expressions of good will from so many of our customers in our last weeks at 86 Middle Street.

Don at his desk
Rabelais is will remain in hibernation for another month. Boxes need to be unpacked. Systems need to be set up. Everything needs to find its home. The kitchen is still a work in progress(!). That wall of books behind Don?  All reference.  He is thrilled to have it all out of boxes and in one place.

I have set up a mini photo studio to shoot books for catalogs and the website.  It feels luxurious to have a space dedicated to photography that doesn’t need to be broken down after use.  If we need some pictures I can simply take the books to the studio, shoot, download and we’re good to go.  Simple.

The backdrop is a beautiful pale blue Irish linen tablecloth that was a wedding gift, and that Raleigh chewed a hole in shortly after he first came to live with us. It is actually a perfect backdrop so I am glad the item has another life.  Was very sad to discover the hole by the new dog years ago. Shooting digitally on a tripod means that I can make a studio anywhere that the light is decent. The mill has big windows and we are on the second floor facing West Southwest, so the light changes in ways that make for creativity in my photography.  A good thing because honestly books are a little dull for photographing.  But I am seeing it as a challenge to make dynamic photos out of static subjects.

Rabelais is also gearing up for the biggest book fair of the year: The New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, April 12-15. Don is furiously cataloguing new material from our travels and plotting what should and what should not come with us.  This will be our first outing at the New York fair, which is widely considered the most important book fair of the year. We are excited to see the reaction to our books and to meet new customers. For our first showing we will be sharing a booth with another dealer, which was not our choice.  We are happy to be sharing with our friends at Schubertiade, music goes so well with food, but wish that we could have had our own booth all to ourselves.  Space will be at a premium, so our choices of what to bring must be made very carefully.  If you are in New York  April 12th through the 15th, please stop in and say hello. There are some gorgeous new books that we will be bringing to New York.  And who knows there might even be some cookies….

Samantha