Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hidden Appetites

Hidden AppetitesIt was foodie serendipity.

A few days after I had attended the Hidden Kitchens discussion at the D.C. Historical Society, a friend showed me a copy of the book Hometown Appetites, subtitled:

The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate

Clementine Paddleford —with a name like a pseudonym for a writer of early 20th century romance novels— died in 1968. For the 4 decades prior, she had indeed been a writer, but not of novels.

efore celebrity chefs, before Zagat, before Julia Child, Paddleford had traveled the US, limning what America ate and cooked: its common food culture 'hidden' in plain sight.

Hidden Appetites
chronicles Paddleford's career, and includes many recipes she wrote about. Authors Keely Alexander and Cynthia Harris provide explanations and substitutions for 21st century kitchens and pantries.

The Hidden Kitchens series, broadcast and webcast by National Public Radio (NPR), also searches for that sub rosa cornucopia, but as it can be found in today's America. Producers Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva —a.k.a. the Kitchen Sisters
explore the world of unexpected, below the radar cooking, legendary meals and eating traditions — how communities come together through food. Hidden Kitchens travels the country chronicling American kitchen cultures, past and present.

Kitchen Sisters: Hidden KitchensNelson and Silva's D.C. Historical Society presentation was moderated by NPR's Susan Stamberg. They read passages from their book (along with various NPR announcers as well) and played snippets of 'food' audio from their programs.

For instance, how Fritos, invented in Texas, were originally developed as a 'health' food!

How a man held in solitary confinement in Louisiana prison for three decades still managed to create and cook praline candy confections— an impossibility, at least as claimed by the Louisiana State Penitentiary authorities.

But there his pralines were, at the end of the evening, for all of us to try.

Now released from prison, Robert King Wilkerson had sent us a large fresh batch of his 'freelines'. (He has renamed them in honor of his status.) And they were, indeed, 'impossibly' delicious.

  • Thank you to Cabot Cheese, who arranged for me to attend the Hidden Kitchens program. More here about that presentation.
  • Photos.
  • Apropos of the topic, I would also recommend Bob Skilnik's Beer and Food: An American History. It's one part history, one part beer myth exposé, and one part beer-as-ingredient cookbook.

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