A True And Delectable History Of Creole Cooking

New Orleans cuisine—with its French roux, African okra, Indian filé, and Spanish peppers—is literally a gastronomic melting pot. Here’s how it all came together.

Across most of America nowadays the term Creole when applied to food variably conjures up images of charred, blackened fish and meat, overbearing, fiery seasonings, and a ubiquitous red sauce not unlike the kind you buy in a can. As a seventh-generation native of south Louisiana, and as a food writer, I join other locals in feeling a twinge of horror at what has befallen my native cuisine since it became the food fad of the eighties.Read more »

The Rise Of The Supermarket

It didn’t just change the way we buy our groceries. It changed the way we live our lives.

Late last year, on its obituary page, The New York Times acknowledged the passing of a multimillionaire Oklahoma businessman named Sylvan Goldman. SYLVAN N. GOLDMAN, 86, DIES ; the headline read. INVENTOR OF THE SHOPPING CART . Read more »

The Pumpkin Paper

A vicious attack on a holiday favorite

When Sir Walter Raleigh’s men set foot on Roanoke Island in 1585 they found the Indians growing a vegetable named “Macócqwer … called by us Pompions … and very good.” It was also very plentiful, and by the seventeenth century colonists were reciting a bit of doggerel that reflected their indebtedness to—if not their delight in—the ubiquitous squash: “We have pumpkins at morning./Pumpkins at noon./If it were not for pumpkins/We should be undoon.” Read more »

Of Pearl Ash, Emptins, And Tree Sweetnin’

America’s First Native Cookbook

Cranberry sauce. Johnnycake. Pumpkin pie. Indian pudding. Though all these uniquely American concoctions had been bubbling and browning in American kitchens for 150 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, not a single recipe for any of them had ever appeared in print.Read more »

The Conundrum Of Corn

It’s our most important, profitable, and adaptable crop—the true American staple. But where did it come from?

In 1748 an inquisitive Swede named Peter Kalm, a protégé of the great botanist Linnaeus, came to America to find plants that could be useful in his country. He went around asking questions of everybody about everything. He asked Benjamin Franklin about hardy trees and was told that English walnuts did not survive Philadelphia’s winters. He asked John Bartram, the most knowing botanist in the colonies, about timber and was told that American oaks were not as tough as European.Read more »

Consider The Oyster

It saved the early Colonists from starvation, it has caused men to murder each other, it used to be our most democratic food—in short, an extraordinary bivalve

The oyster is an ancient species, and one that has evolved little over millions of years. It is found in the tidal waters of every continent but Antarctica, on the shores of every sea but the Caspian. It flourishes best in the bays and estuaries where salt- and fresh water mix and people build resorts. And despite the saying that it was a bold man who first ate one, the oyster has been consumed by humans since before the oldest certifiable man-made artifact. Read more »

“slice Of Pie And A Cup Of Coffee—that’ll Be Fifteen Cents, Honey”

A last look at an American institution

DINERS used to be everywhere. Since the turn of the century the long, low, oddly cheery buildings have been the restaurants of the working class. But now that’s all changed, and the traditional diner, once an inescapable fixture of the American landscape, is hovering on the verge of extinction. Read more »

Culinary Art

Americans used to take their dinners seriously. The preposterous social arbiter Ward McAllister proclaimed in 1890 that “a dinner invitation, once accepted, is a sacred obligation. If you die before the dinner takes place, your executor must attend the dinner.” In that era there were dinners at the Waldorf that cost a hundred and twenty dollars a setting at which guests were served as many as twelve courses.Read more »

The Good Provider

“57 VARIETIES” WAS ONLY A SALES SLOGAN, BUT H. J. HEINZ UNDERSTOOD FROM THE START THAT THERE WAS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR HONEST PRODUCTS AND WELL-TREATED WORKERS

Pittsburgh, God knows, was no fourth-century Athens, but around 1900 it did have a remarkable group of industrial leaders. The Pittsburgh barons exercised their power and made their fortunes in coal and coke, iron and steel, aluminum and oil, glass, rails, and heavy machinery. Five of them were commanding figures in their time and are legends in ours: Carnegie, Frick, Westinghouse, Mellon, and Heinz. Allan Nevins has called such men the architects of our material progress. They have been called other things as well, all except H. J.Read more »

Picnics Long Ago

If it rained, the painters failed to record it

Food tastes better outdoors, and it always has. Nowadays this rule, which every child learns early in life, can be seen in operation at tailgate parties at football games or wherever spectator sports are in season. You can see it under more elegant circumstances throughout American history, beginning with the Pilgrims’ first alfresco party for the Indians. It reached some sort of apogee in the nineteenth century, in the period brought back to us so hauntingly in the writings of Washington Irving and on the canvases of the painters of the Hudson River school. Read more »