Will Write For Food

There are literally hundreds of delightful novels which center around food, some are mysteries, some are romance and some just good contemporary reads, too numerous to even begin to list. Several have been made into popular movies, others include actual recipes, but all reflect the writer’s passion for food, which will entertain and delight the reader. Each novel has unique aspects, rich characters, lots of food intertwined throughout the contents and totally different themes.

Here are some top rate writers and books, some of which have ongoing characters, most of which are just one time marvels (and we hunger for more):

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout, which chronicles the fascinating and delightful detective character Nero Wolfe, highly fastidious, neurotic and demanding, and a total foodie by anyone’s standards; Wolfe lives in a NY brownstone and enjoys home cooked meals by his personal gourmet chef, while solving murders from his armchair (also an A&E TV series); considered by many as one of the best detective series of the twentieth century;

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris, and her more notable novel Chocolat, a classic which was also made into a wonderful movie;

Fried Green Tomatoesby Fannie Flagg (also a delightful movie, it will make you want to ferret out some green tomatoes at a farmers market and prepare them at home, following Ms. Flagg’s simple recipe);

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquive, a bestseller made into a popular movie;

Diane Mott Davidson – an author in a class by herself, 17 entertaining books sequentially written (so start at the beginning), which feature the same likeable character, Goldie Schultz, who owns a catering business and is an amateur sleuth on the side, with all the dishes she whips up for her catering clients listed in the back, most of which are relatively simple and fabulous; (This author’s note: my absolute favorite foodie novelist, hands down, I’ve read them all.)

And more wonderfully fun books:

The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks

Delicious! by Ruth Reich

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

and for you wine fans: A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream, by Ferenc Maté. set in Italy where two New Yorkers try to create fine wine starting from scratch;

And there you have just a starting point. So many books, so little time.


How to Make Alfredo Sauce From Scratch

There’s a story behind creamy Alfredo sauce. Like so many other Italian sauces, this one originates in the States. They say that a man named Alfredo di Lelio created the sauce to tempt his pregnant wife to eat something different. In 1914, he cooked fettuccine and made a sauce with butter and Parmesan cheese to pour over it. She must have loved it as when Alfredo opened his own restaurant in Rome, one of the dishes he served was his fettuccine Alfredo. Now it is served in many Italian restaurants around the world.

There are several methods of making Alfredo sauce, and of course, you can serve it with any kind of pasta that you have. It doesn’t have to be fettuccine.

You will need a heavy-bottomed saucepan to make the sauce Alfredo and, of course, a wooden spoon for stirring it.

Alfredo Sauce recipe

half a cup of butter

1 pint of thick cream

4 ozs of cream cheese

1 or 2 cloves of garlic finely minced (more if you love garlic)

1 handful of basil leaves, finely shredded

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly grated pepper to taste


Melt the butter and stir in the cream with the cream cheese. Cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time to prevent the sauce burning or sticking. When the cream cheese has melted, add all the other ingredients, except the Parmesan cheese.

When the sauce is smooth and simmering, add the Parmesan cheese. Stir for around 3 minutes until the Parmesan has melted.

Serve hot with the pasta of your choice.

Alfredo sauce is very versatile, so you an experiment with it. Pour it over lightly boiled broccoli as an alternative to cheese sauce. Add cooked strips of chicken or bacon to the sauce, or add both. If you like flat-leaved parsley, add some to taste.

You can use different cheeses, try a mixture of parmesan, and two of your favourites. Blue cheese can be used in this sauce to great effect.

If you are on a diet, you can use milk instead of cream, just make a white sauce and add cheese(s). If you don’t have Parmesan, don’t worry! You can use shredded Mozarella and grated Gruyere or a strong cheddar if you prefer.

It’s best not to use pre-packed grated Parmesan cheese, it spoils the flavour of the sauce.

When you have made this sauce successfully, you’ll never want to buy nother kind. Your home-cooking is best with no additives or preservatives.


Breakfast Of Champions: Cold Cereals

There is no question that cold cereals revolutionized the American breakfast table. No longer did mom have to cook hot cereal, eggs or meat, and kids could independently prepare something for themselves before heading off to school. At the turn of the twentieth century, the creation of cold cereal basically began with two enterprising men who saw the possibilities and took a gamble. And breakfast has never been the same.

In the late 1890s, a rather eccentric man named John Harvey Kellogg, ran a health sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and had created a bland, tasteless food for his patients with digestive issues. A few years later, his brother Will decided to mass-market the new food at his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, adding a bit of sugar to the flakes recipe making it more palatable for the masses, and a star was born.

Around the same time, C. W. Post, who had been a patient at Kellogg’s sanitarium, introduced an alternative to coffee called Postum, followed by Grape-Nuts (which have nothing to do with either grapes or nuts) and his version of Kellogg’s corn flakes, naming them Post Toasties, and America’s breakfasts were never the same.

Both men could thank an enterprising gentleman by the name of Sylvester Graham, who forty years earlier had experimented with graham flour, marketing it to aid “digestive problems.” He created a breakfast cereal that was dried and broken into shapes so hard they needed to be soaked in milk overnight, which he called granula (the father of granola and graham crackers).

Capitalizing on that original idea, in 1898 the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) began producing graham crackers based on the experiments of Sylvester Graham, first promoting them as a “digestive” cracker for people with stomach problems; (Seems a lot of people had digestive problems even back then.)

Fast forward and other companies were sitting up and taking notice. The Quaker Oats Company, acquired a method which forced rice grains to explode and began marketing Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, calling them a marvel of food science which was “the first food shot from guns” (oh boy, would they come under fire for that one today, no pun intended);

1920s Wheaties was introduced and cleverly targeted athletes as they proclaimed to be the “Breakfast of Champions;”

The 1930s saw The Ralston Purina company introduce an early version of Wheat Chex, calling it Shredded Ralston (sounds a little painful);

Soon Cheerios appeared and would become the best-selling cereal in America, worth about $1 billion in sales in 2015.

No one can dispute the convenience and versatility of dry packaged cereal. In the last fifty years, this multi-billion dollar industry has spun off multiple uses, unlimited possibilities and targeted kids with clever packaging, outrageous names, flavors, colors and choices (all loaded with sugar of course). What could be more American than corn flakes?


Licorice: Good And Plenty

Licorice is a member of the legume family and although similar in taste, not related to anise.The licorice plant is a perennial herbaceous plant native to southern Europe and parts of Asia and India and has been used in candies and sweeteners for centuries. Countries that currently produce licorice include India, Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Iraq. In the Netherlands, licorice drops are one of the most popular forms of sweets and have been valued for thousands of years for dozens of purposes, including a remedy for a leaky gut, coughs and colds. Its uses date as far back as ancient Egypt, where it was made into a drink to cure digestive problems, after boiling the root and adding liquid. It is still frequently worldwide in herbal teas.

Naturally sweet and easy to grow, it has been recognized for its therapeutic value to help with pain relief, irritable bowels, joint pain, sore throat, heartburn and even an antioxidant. Although excessive use of licorice can be harmful, it is highly unlikely that someone would ingest enough to be a problem. It made its way to America via Great Britain, and since licorice has been a long standing favorite worldwide, it did not go unnoticed by early candymakers, who began introducing it to satisfy America’s growing sweet tooth in the late 1800s:

Good & Plenty – the oldest branded candy, introduced in 1893 in its distinctive box with pink and white candies, identified with its trademark character “Choo-Choo Charlie” on early television, and a favorite movie theater candy; kids delighted in rattling those boxes and annoying other movie goers;

Black Crows gum drops also date back to the late 1890s;

Chuckles jellied candies – five flavors to a package which included one licorice piece, introduced in 1921;

Assorted licorice mix and swizzle sticks – fun to chew and stretch, chewing on licorice root was used in African countries for centuries as a means of cleaning teeth;

Black jelly beans – everyone has a favorite flavor, and many reach for those black ones first;

Smith Bros. cough drops – first brand introduced in 1847 and a hit with its distinctive package featuring two bearded gentlemen, sadly out of business now; (wild cherry flavor came later)

Black Jack gum – 1884 a chewing gum maker named Thomas Adams began adding licorice flavoring to his chicle gum,and called his creation Adams’ Black Jack, the first flavored gum in the U.S. It was also the first gum to be offered in sticks; (not popular anymore, but still available)

Not as popular as it was a century ago, licorice still draws a loyal following, especially among the hard and chewy candy aficionados. Aside from the fact that is can make your teeth and gums gray, it continues to have a definite following. It’s one of those flavors which you either like or dislike, and pretty much confines itself to candies. Licorice ice cream and cookies don’t seem to pop up anywhere, but that’s just fine with those who love it. And Choo-Choo Charlie may be gone, but his legend lives on. It’s good and plentiful to be sure.


Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Sitting here at my desk my mind ventured back to last years thanksgiving dinner. My wife Pam was in the kitchen preparing a feast for our dinner and what a feast it was. We had turkey complete with stuffing, a ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, potato and macaroni salads, the usual cranberry sauce and of course sweet potatoes. No major holiday meal was ever complete without sweet potatoes on the table.

These memories made me think about the differences which exist between the two similar vegetables.There is always a bit of confusion between these two items and in this short rant I intend to hopeful dispel the myths surrounding this rooted vegetable. The truth of the matter is that the vegetable that you have called a yam for a number of years is actually nothing more or less than a sweet potato. A true yam most people have never seen nor tasted.

That’s right folks; the sweet, orange-colored root vegetable which you cherish so dearly is actually a variety of sweet potato. All “yams” which you find in a grocery store or produce market are in fact not yams at all. The majority of people wrongly believe that those long, red-skinned products in the store are yams, but the fact remains that they are nothing more than one of many varieties of our common sweet potatoes. One wonders how we came to be so confused and wrong on this fine vegetable. To answer this question we would first need to discover the main differences which exist between the two products.

A yam is darker in colored than the its popular orange-fleshed cousin. A true yam is an edible root which is extremely starchy and is usually imported to the United States from the Caribbean. In texture it is rough and scaly and contains very little beta carotene.

Depending on the sweet potatoes variety its flesh can range from a pure white to the popular orange color or in some cases even a purple shade. The orange-fleshed variety arrived in the United States multiple decades ago. In an effort to promote the imported variety and to distinguish it from the white variety, producers and importers labeled the imports with an African word “nyami” and thus called them “yams” for short.

I hope this clears up some of the mystery and confusion associated with these two fine foods and with that I wish a great eating experience with either yams or sweet potatoes.


Who Needs Ice in Winter?

t is cold outside. It is cold inside. It’s just no fun being cold and cooped up in your home. Isn’t it much better to go out to a place that has loads of heating and a warm atmosphere? It’s great to get out a bit and hang out with some friends. Certainly, when you go to a bar or restaurant you enjoy your favourite drink. And most drinks need ice.

Whether it is winter or summer, the way a drink is made remains the same. The recipe doesn’t change simply because the weather changes, and your preference on how the drink is made doesn’t change because it is cold. Consequently, bars and restaurants need to cater for ice throughout the year.

During winter months bar and restaurant owners need to ensure that they have sufficient ice on hand. The best way to cater for this demand is by investing in a good ice machine that makes ice when required. Basically this catering equipment should be able to make a set amount of ice when you need it and also be able to store it for a few hours. You should be able to control the amount of ice being made and have enough available for the drinks orders. If you happen to have a busier night than usual, the ice maker must be able to make ice very quickly, within minutes if possible. The last thing you want is for a customer to wait for their drinks. After all, drinks are the quickest thing to prepare and no customer wants to wait for you to get ice.

Not every bar has the same demands. A small bar or restaurant will not benefit from having a big ice machine, for example. Therefore you will need to assess the size of your establishment with the number of customers that visit you on average. Then you will be able to calculate the number of drinks that are ordered on an average night. When you have this information, you can assess how much ice you use which will give you the insight as to what size ice machine you need to procure.

Bars and restaurants do need ice in winter. This is to guarantee that they meet the demand of their customers who love to have their drinks on the rocks. No matter what the weather may be, having a night out with friends is always enjoyed.

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Cucumber Water

Several weeks ago my wife Pam and I attended a Delaware Extension Service Open House. The event is an annual get together and took place at the Demonstration Garden in Georgetown Delaware. While there we sampled several different drinks which the various members of the Master Gardeners had made. One of these drinks was a Cucumber Water. Cucumber water has been a popular detox drink for many years prior to the entry of the infused water trend.

In days past it was not unusual to find water that had been infused with cucumber in various health clubs and spas around the world. Why has this drink become so popular? Simply because of its great taste and it’s added health benefits.

The basic recipe has only two major ingredients – those are cucumber and water. Since cucumbers are composed of 90 percent water they are the perfect companion to create a cooling, summer detox drink such as this. Other health features of cucumbers are centered around its high vitamin B content and it is considered a rich source of potassium and magnesium which will help to keep blood pressure low and well under control.

Cucumber water has its own set of benefits as well, since the addition of water will help the mixture flush ones system out and detox the body. Since you will feel fuller when you drink this you will often find that you may not eat as usual making it a great addition to those considering a diet.

To make this wonderful cucumber water is quite simple:

Slice up a clean cucumber. It can be peeled or not, as that is up to you. Cut the slices into 1/2 inch slices. Combine these cucumber slices in cold water and some ice. Allow the mixture to marinate for at least one hour. For the best results the water-cucumber mix should marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Keep in mind that the cucumber slices will tend to float so keep your container topped with ice and continually stirred.

If you are fortunate enough to own a fruit infused water pitcher you won’t need the ice as the chamber of the infuser will hold the cucumber slices. You are able to fill the infuser several times before the water starts to loss its flavor.


Do You Live In A Waffle House?

Around the 15th century waffles began to evolve. Basically a batter was laced between two iron grids, some quite elaborate in design, and eaten as a sweet as well as used in religious ceremonies. The batter was often flavored with flower water and honey, cooked and served with extra honey or fruit and enjoyed as a dessert rather than a breakfast food. Similar to the French, the finished product could be kept for several days and traveled well. It was first introduced to Colonists by foodie president Thomas Jefferson in 1789, who returned from France with the first known waffle iron to grace our shores (no invention went unnoticed by foodie Thomas) who proceeded to enjoy and serve waffles at his state dinners as a final course, along with fresh berries and cream.

In North America, Belgian (spelled with an “a”) waffles are a variety with a lighter batter, larger squares, and deeper pockets than the ordinary American waffle. They were originally leavened with yeast, but baking powder is now used. First showcased in 1958 at Expo 58 in Brussels, Belgium by a European, they found their way across the pond and introduced were introduced at a the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle in 1962, served with whipped cream and strawberries. Moving forward, they were further popularized during the 1964 New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. These waffles were introduced by Maurice Vermersch of Brussels, Belgium primarily based on a simplified recipe from Brussels. He wisely decided to change the name to the Bel-Gem Waffle at first, after observing that many Americans could not identify Brussels as the capital of Belgium. (And even worse, many people would associate them with brussels sprouts, America’s most despised food.)

For centuries waffles were primarily eaten in Western and Northern European countries and there are many variations. Here is a quick rundown:

The Liège waffle is a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier waffle; native to the region of Eastern Belgium and alternately known as gaufres de chasse;

Flemish waffles, or Gaufres à la Flamande, are a specialty of northern France and portions of western Belgium. made with yeast;

American waffles – generally denser and thinner than the Belgian waffle, they are often made from a batter leavened with baking powder and served for breakfast;

Bergische waffles, crisp and less dense, usually heart shaped; also a smaller wedge-shaped version serves as a decoration in an ice cream dessert or alongside a cup of tea;

Hong Kong style – also called a “grid cake,” popular street food in China;

Waffle cone – every American recognizes these, thin and shaped into the form of a cone while still warm, cooled and filled with ice cream;

Chicken and waffles – popular in Southern and soul food cuisine, but also attributed to Pennsylvania Dutch cooks in the 1800s; they are still served at many regional restaurants and rank right up there with chicken fried steak and other southern favorites; not rocket science here, pieces of fried chicken are placed on top of a waffle and drenched in syrup;

In the first part of the twentieth century, no self-respecting kitchen was without the proverbial waffle iron, often a popular wedding gift, and the breakfast of choice on weekends with bacon or ham. In 1953, busy homemakers put away their heavy waffle irons for good when “Eggo” frozen waffles were introduced, a great time saver and a quick breakfast, simply dropped into the toaster. To this day they remain a big seller along with pancakes and french toast. In 2017 alone, 164.8 million Americans consumed the three, either packaged or homemade. And the popular restaurant chain Waffle House has sold 877,388,027 since opening their doors in 1955. So whether you prefer your version on the run or as an elaborate dish smothered with berries and cream, they are easily available, no iron required. Kind of a perma press breakfast.


Soda Jerks: Heroes Of The Past

Originally, what was called a soda fountain was a device that dispensed carbonated soft drinks and fizzy water, but as time went on, it was used as a general term for an ice cream shop and lunch counter, what we know as soda fountains. These began to appear in drug stores and dime stores in the mid 1800s.

Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemistry professor, introduced carbonated soda water to America as early as 1806 in New Haven, CT home of Yale. It caught on quickly and, along with three partners, he began expanding into New York City and Baltimore. By the mid 1800s they knew they had a winner, especially with the addition of light meals, where anyone could grab a quick sandwich along with a frozen delight. The idea of drug stores was pretty ingenious, since cola syrups were instilled with fizzy water and originally sold as digestives. Soda fountains could be ornate with marble counters and Tiffany lamps or plain, usually with a mirrored back wall and the familiar goose-neck soda water dispenser which the servers, known affectionately as “soda jerks”, who worked those black-handled spigots and filled up glasses, creating wonderfully bubbly drinks which ticked noses and delighted taste buds. Creating a popular meeting place for all ages, small town and large cities embraced them and customers often stood in line for a seat during busy hours, happily contemplating their orders. On warm summer evenings, a fizzy fresh lemonade cooled off thirsty patrons or better yet, a banana split could be shared with a best friend or sister.

Most soda fountains stocked chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream (some even featured New York cherry, butter pecan and tutti-frutti) along with chocolate, strawberry and marshmallow syrups. To top things off, crushed nuts and maraschino cherries added to the visual delight of those glorious concoctions. Hot fudge sundaes were created to serve on Sundays when religions forbade the sale of fizzy water, thus prohibiting the popular chocolate ice cream sodas from being served. (Apparently the ice cream and syrup were not considered sinful but the soda water was–go figure.)

Sadly, in the 1950s drug stores moved in the direction of self service, eliminating lunch counters and ice cream altogether, and fast food began to replace the lunch counter with hamburgers and shakes which bore little resemblance to their predecessors. Out with the old, in with the new as more and more space was needed for the hundreds of shelves displaying boxed and bottled products, replacing the soda jerks and less income-generating egg salad sandwiches.

Today, there are still ice cream parlors and vintage fountains sprinkled around the country, continuing the nostalgia of the originals, And in small towns, root beer stands still happily serve floats and soft serve ice cream, but it isn’t quite the same. Oh sure, you can go to Dairy Queen or Baskin-Robbins and get a sundae or even a banana split, but something is missing. Is it those hats, or is it just a piece of history?


Have You Ever Eaten Lotus Fruit?

For the modern Greeks, the lotus fruit is the Japanese persimmon, which looks a lot like a large, smooth, hairless peach. I’ve seen it growing in gardens in the province of Lakonia in the Peloponnese, Greece. Personally, I’m not a fan of this particular lotus fruit, it’s dry and leaves your mouth feeling as though it really needs water. It tastes a little like vanilla.

Having tasted this fruit it is hard to believe that it was this that so enthralled Odysseus and his crew of adventurers. Of course, it is reasonable to suppose that the ancient Greek hero stayed close to his homeland, but it is unlikely, given the number of years it apparently took him to get home after the Trojan war.

It is much more likely that he travelled to Asia and encountered the sacred lotus. The sacred lotus, so Homer wrote in Book 9 of the Odyssey, caused Odysseus and his followers to forget the purpose of their journey, which is why some commentators have suggested that the lotus eaters partook of the opium poppy.

However, if you have a look at the seed pods you will see they resemble those of the opium poppy. Each pod holds about 24 seeds. In Cambodia, these are valued as a very tasty snack!

The lotus plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, as it contains nuciferine and aporphine, which are morphine-like substances. This indicates that the sleep of Lethe might well be induced if the plant is ingested. No wonder Odysseus too so long to get home.

Herodotus, the Father of History, thought that the lotus eaters were inhabitants of the Libyan coastal area. However, Herodotus is not always a trustworthy source. In the ancient world eating the fruit of the lotus was believed to cause forgetfulness. Whether this was before or after Homer wrote the Odyssey is open to question.

Perhaps the lotus eaters never really existed. However, they have certainly captured the imaginations of generations. The English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, wrote a poem The Lotos – Eaters about them and the idea of them also captured Edith Wharton’s imagination. as can be seen in her novel, ‘The Age of Innocence’. Fans of Rick Riordan novels will doubtless recall the theme of the Lotus Eaters in his ‘Camp Half-Blood Chronicles.’

If you are curious enough to try the Greek lotus, head to the Peloponnese in autumn. I have seen the fruit still on trees in winter (no one seems to harvest it). However, you will have to ask permission to try the lotus fruit. as it is cultivated in the gardens of private homes.