- Full Title: American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion
- Autor: Leslie Bonci
- Print Length: 256 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition
- Publication Date: January 1, 2003
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471442232
- ISBN-13: 978-0471442233
- Download File Format | Size: pdf | 1,06 Mb
ing of Age in the Kitchen
“There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.”
—M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical ME
Copyright © 2013 by Judith Newton
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, digital scanning, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please address She Writes Press.
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To Bill and “Hannah”
To the women and men of the Hart Hall Programs,
And in memory of Dick
Kensington, California, 2009
It started with the cookbooks. In January 2009, having been married for six months, I moved with my husband, Bill, from the large house we’d been renting in the Berkeley Hills—with its smashing views of the Golden Gate—into a smaller house that we could actually afford to own. Our new house had nice views of the Bay and a large kitchen, but the pantry was smaller than the one we’d had before. The new pantry, in fact, did not seem large enough to store my 140 cookbooks. I should prune this collection, I thought, as I riffled through the opened but unpacked boxes. Yet how to begin?
I’d moved so many times in my life that each new relocation recalled at least two others. Perhaps that was why I began to dwell upon a book I’d disposed of during a previous change of place—a desk calendar with French recipes and French menus. I hadn’t used the calendar in two decades, and most of its pages had come loose, but, out of nowhere, its absence began to feel like a wound. I’d been fond of its black-and-white pictures of Paris and the French countryside, had imagined serving one of its chic menus, and, at one point, had even cooked one or two of its dishes. And now, without knowing why, I longed to see those menus again, yearned to remember what I’d tried to cook, struggled to place the book and its pleasures in my life. Had it been published in the 1970s? I began to ache for the ’70s and for the pantry in Philadelphia I had painted deep orange red.
I saw I had to keep the books. I’d written in their margins, ranked their recipes, thumbed through their pages with buttery fingers, and read through several as if they’d been Holy Script. They spoke of the decades and cooking fashions I’d lived through, reminded me of men I’d loved, recalled the life stages of my daughter, who’d given me such happiness, and brought me face-to-face with earlier versions of myself.
But lingering above those boxes, still wondering at my hunger for a calendar I hadn’t looked at in many years, I realized that the cookbooks were more to me than a reflection of my past. They’d been agents of my recovery—from childhood misery, from profound self-loss, from my fear, even as an adult, that the world would never seem like home. I’d cooked from them to save my life, and I’d succeeded. It was then I knew that if I were to tell the story of my long journey home, I would tell it through my cookbooks. And that was the beginning of this memoir.
Foods and Fashions of 1936:
The Thirties, Forties, and Fifties
Compton, California, 1945
In 1945, the summer I was four, I was summoned to the kitchen.
“Judy Gail, come here.”
It was not a good sign when Mother used my middle name, and, that afternoon especially, I was apprehensive. Earlier that day a little neighbor girl had threatened me, saying she’d tell her mother I’d “played doctor” with the boy down the street, and it was true. “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours,” the boy, who was even younger than me, had proposed. And though I knew this was something my mother wouldn’t like, I agreed to do it anyway, thinking it mildly exciting but not too bad. When I entered the kitchen, the western sun had tinted the white walls the color of lemon frosting, and a faint smell of molasses from the Crybaby cookies Mother had baked hung in the air. Mother, who was standing near the kitchen sink in a red, flowery apron, began, much to my horror, to dissolve in tears.
“I thought you were a good little girl,” she managed to choke out, but then her sobs became so rapid and so deep that she could no longer form words.
For about fifteen seconds I thought, What is wrong with you? Why are you so upset? But then a wave of abandonment and shame washed over me, and I, too, began to weep, my head hanging toward the green linoleum floor. Without meaning to, I had made Mother’s world completely fall apart. I had disgraced her as a p
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ality, an Italy that was not to become a nation for another half millennium—not, in fact, until 1861. His prolific writings, erudite but never pedantic, investigating the history of eating, from the hunting and meat-eating of barbarians to the civilization of agriculture and bread, the significance of foods, the origins of customs, markets, locutions, products—all the many factors that entered into the alimentary culture of Europe, and ultimately of the New World as well—have reached a wide audience, from scholars to gastronomes. Thanks to his close readings of medieval and Renaissance literature and to his generous quotations, nonspecialist readers have been granted a rare glimpse into the medical thinking and early cookbook writing that created an Italian cuisine when much of Europe was still unaware of such refinements.
The present volume, on Italian identity in cooking, has a personal resonance for me. Long before I knew what, or even where, Italy was, I had become acquainted with its culinary identity, or to be more precise, the identity that had been exported beyond its borders. As an only child growing up in downtown Manhattan I was frequently taken to restaurants, most often Italian. My familiarity with Italian food was not, however, limited to restaurant dishes. My mother, a great consumer of fresh fruits and vegetables (I don’t remember ever seeing cans of either in our kitchen), was a regular client of the municipal market on 10th Street near Second Avenue, whose stalls were operated exclusively by Italian immigrants. They spoke their local dialects to each other and broken English to their customers. Before the construction of that indoor market, some of these same vendors and many of their earlier fellow Italians had stands, really pushcarts, all along First Avenue and the side streets. Many of those pushcarts were still to be seen when I was child, piled high with fruits, vegetables, dried fish, tripe, olives, all things never sold in non-Italian grocery stores. I remember eating artichokes, prickly pears, fennel, broccoli rabe, beet greens, broad beans, fresh peas that I learned to shell when my schoolmates ate peas out of a can. And when most people were eating iceberg lettuce, if they ate salad at all, we had romaine, escarole, radicchio, dandelion greens (my mother drew the line at garlic). Not even my college roommates had ever seen an artichoke.
However, in matters Italian other than food, I was abysmally ignorant. I had no idea of Italian as a language or of Italy as a geographic entity, let alone its literature or history. But I had a very intimate knowledge of the flavors of that world, or at least the southern part of it, since most of the immigrants who provided food in restaurants or markets were from regions south of Naples: the smells and tastes of cooked tomatoes, garlic, spaghetti, ravioli, grated cheese (for a long time grated cheese was a thing in itself for me that came out of glass dish with a hinged stainless steel cover; only much later did I discover its origin in a huge wheel that could be flaked into chunks and eaten, ideally, with a ripe pear). That was Italian. I could not have imagined that one day I would assume an Italian identity myself.
When my husband-to-be informed me that he had been granted a Fulbright Fellowship to write his doctoral dissertation and that we would spend our first year of marriage in Rome, I was far from enthusiastic. By that time Italy had acquired for me a cultural identity. As a graduate student in French at Columbia I had taken a course on Dante for non-Italian speakers and had seen Renaissance art at the Metropolitan Museum. But ancient Rome was much more vivid to me than modern Italy, thanks to movies like Ben Hur. As for contemporary Italy, that image was based on the post–World War II neorealist films coming out of Rome’s Cinecittà. The Rome in which I would be spending a whole year of my life was like a folding screen, each panel depicting a different image: the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, the dismal quarters of postwar Rome. It was hard to reconcile such disparate views, and even harder to place myself within them.
After three weeks of an immersion language course at the University for Foreigners in Perugia I was actually speaking the language spoken throughout the peninsula, even if regional dialects were still used by many. With my newly acquired ability to communicate, friends entered our life and I soon learned that Italian identity was not singular but decidedly plural, unless an Italian was outside the country’s borders. Within Italy what counts is the region or the city of origin: one is Lombard, Tuscan, Emilian, Sicilian; or Roman, Florentine, Milanese, Neapolitan; or, even more precisely, the inhabitant of a village, a paese. Someone from Castellina in Chianti (where we spend our summers) is Italian if, say, he goes to Paris; in Ita
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t the apples kept up their cheerful, lipstick red exterior even after the insides had turned to a mush tasting like old snow. Inspired by this variety’s success, government fruit experts strove to turn other, less glamorous apples into Delicious look-alikes, developing strains that were red and resilient. In 1959, a guide to commercial apple production coached growers that “sales may be increased 75 percent on the average by increasing the area of solid red color from 15 to 50 percent.”
Americans gradually forgot what a really good, fresh apple tastes like, much as they switched to artificially flavored maple syrup and citrus-flavored breakfast drinks. The industry ideal, says Tom Burford, an orchardist and consultant who had five hundred varieties growing around his Virginia farmhouse, was not simply a spotless fruit but the unvarying sheen of plastic. Growers became hooked on a regimen of spraying the daylights out of the few varieties that could be shipped anywhere and still come up shining. Or, almost shining. The industry began coating apples with waxy substances, in part to keep them from drying out but also because it was found that consumers would pay more for fruit with a glassy sheen.
So it was that orchardists began dropping apples that weren’t shiny, red, and iconically shaped. In the new order, a key advantage of a variety was that it have a long stem in order to permit better penetration by sprays. Another was that it be “typy,” industry lingo for an apple that closely mimics a nationally known variety and can ride on its coattails. And from a marketing point of view, it was more economically feasible to promote just a few chosen varieties than fritter away advertising dollars on a couple dozen. In New England, home to more pomological treasures than any other region of the continent, agricultural agents and growers agreed to focus on just seven varieties—seven, out of the hundreds that had been developed and tended for centuries. Countless older, idiosyncratic orchards were ripped out.
AN APPLE RENAISSANCE
Fortunately, the apple saga doesn’t end there. Americans began looking beyond whiter-than-white bread, feeble diner coffee, and watery light beers. And in much the same way, they were curious about heirloom crops that had lapsed into obscurity: apples, along with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and pumpkins. It became clear that flawless red pigment on an apple’s skin is no guarantee of quality within. Recent surveys have confirmed that shoppers are increasingly receptive to apples of varying shades and textures. In fact, varieties with a conventional all-over red skin may be passed over by people who’ve come to associate variably striped apples (such as Gala and Braeburn) with superior taste and crunch.
Around North America, groups such as Slow Food USA are championing varieties in danger of slipping away, with conferences and festivals that alert the public to culinary treasures still available in their area. And then there are the unsung heroes: self-appointed apple detectives who explore back roads looking for varieties thought to have vanished. Tom Brown of Clemmons, North Carolina, has identified more than a thousand old-time apples considered extinct, including such rarities as Hog Pen, Iron Wedge, and Leather Britches, and he makes trees available to those who wish to help perpetuate these living antiques.
Since the first edition of this book came out, there has been a wave of new, highly promoted varieties with such catchy names as Jazz, Piñata, Pink Lady, SweeTango, and Zestar! (the exclamation point is part of that apple’s trademarked name and not the grammatical end of this sentence). To ensure quality, and also to limit quantities and command a premium price, the trees are only made available to a select group (or “club”) of growers, who typically pay a royalty or licensing fee.
Club varieties have their own perky Facebook pages and websites. Click on a headphone icon on the site for Jazz, and you are treated to a recording of someone biting into that variety. As with other areas of the food industry, the goal is now to present food as entertainment. Briana Shales, communications manager at Stenmilt, the company that controls the growing and marketing of Piñata and SweeTango, describes how apples are now introduced to the supermarket shopper. “Demonstrations and samplings are really important,” she says. “Consumers want to try it before they buy it. But that’s OK.”
Overall, this new crop of licensed, trademarked, controlled varieties are a likeable bunch. They are attractive, while not displaying the almost violent crimson of some older industry standards. They tend to be on the sweet side of a sweet-tart balance, which is becoming the new norm. And they are crisp, in a satisfying way. Although promotional copy describes hints of exotic flavors and aromas, these apples tend not t
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mushroom stuffing. We were to provide the wines—fortunately, Simca had a cousin in the business. We were also to supply the guest list.
The three of us professional neophytes, however, had no friends in the New York food establishment, although we knew some of the names. So we turned to nice James Beard, who entered into the project with his usual enthusiasm. Under his guidance we invited all the “who’s-a-whoms” we could think of, and surprisingly almost all of them accepted—some thirty or so people.
On the day of the dinner, while Simca and I were closeted with our lamb in my niece’s tiny fourth-floor walk-up apartment way off on New York’s east side, Paul took over the front of the house. He found a printer to produce the menus in record time. He made out the place cards, arranged the seating, and even opened the wine just before the guests arrived. Kind James Beard got there early and introduced us and our Knopf friends, Judith Jones and Bill Koshland, to all the guests as they arrived. It was a wonderful dinner, everyone had a good time, and no one left until after midnight.
That was our beginning. We had received a marvelously favorable review from Craig Claiborne, the influential food editor of the New York Times, and we even appeared on NBC-TV’s morning Today show. A few months later, while Public Television was still “Educational Television,” our local Boston station decided to enlarge its programming from almost exclusively academic “talking heads” to a more diverse menu. They inaugurated an art program and a science program, and I was asked about trying out a cooking session. I had already done a book review with them, which involved, besides talk, the then highly unusual methods of making a tossed French omelet and the beating of egg whites in a big copper bowl. We agreed to try out three pilot programs, which appeared in the summer of 1962.
The station put us in the charge of Russell Morash, then a young producer of science programs, now the well-known master of This Old House, The Victory Garden, and other successful series. They also gave me Ruth Lockwood as associate producer—she had been with the Eleanor Roosevelt series. Ruthie and I worked closely together, with Paul in attendance, to block out three half-hour shows. They were on coq au vin, that famous chicken stew in red wine, see this page, a non-collapsible cheese soufflé, titled as an unmolded soufflé, and French omelets, fully described and illustrated, see this page.
The first was shown on a Monday in July, at 8:00 p.m. The evening was so hot and humid, and we had no air-conditioning, that we set the television out in the garden, turned on a large fan, and watched while dining with friends. Our other two shows in succeeding weeks gathered an appreciable audience even for that time of year. Although Dione Lucas had hosted the first full television cooking series, she had been off the air for several seasons, and we had the only one at that time. The station asked us if we would do thirteen more—a year’s fifty-two weeks, by the way, are divided into four thirteen-week sessions. We agreed, and The French Chef was launched, following the general ideas in this book.
Why The French Chef, since I am neither the one nor the other? The first reason was that I always hoped we would have some real French chefs on the shows. We never managed that until later on. The second and more important reason: The title was short, it described the shows as real French cooking, and, of equal significance, it fit on a single line in the TV guides. It seemed that a goodly number of people wanted to know about la cuisine française, and it was an almost immediate success. At first we were on only in the Boston area, then Pittsburgh took us up, then San Francisco, finally New York—and I felt we were made! WGBH-Boston asked us to do thirteen more, we continued on, and the television shows certainly helped the book. We even made the cover of Time magazine at one point.
This fortieth anniversary edition is essentially the same book that first came out in 1961, which was reedited in 1983 to bring it up to date, especially because the food processor had appeared in American kitchens. Before the arrival of that incomparable machine, we did have the electric blender and heavy duty mixer, but the food processor revolutionized many otherwise almost hopelessly onerous tasks such as the making of fish mousses and quenelles. It simplified such often tricky procedures as pie doughs, and made fast work of routine dog work like mushroom dicing, cheese grating, bread crumbing, and onion slicing.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking is just what the title says. It is how to produce really wonderful food—food that tastes good, looks good, and is a delight to eat. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy cooking, although it can be as elaborate as you wish. It simply means careful cooking, la cuisine soignée, by people
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ways, silvery jumping fish and sea creatures in shells are sold from tiny tables, oh so fresh. Boxes of fresh fruit are arranged beautifully. Baskets and buckets are lowered into the street from apartments several floors up to exchange goods with money to pay for them. You see these everywhere in the centro storico—it’s normal.
That’s when I learned that if you’ve lost your mojo, you might find it there in the cobbled streets, or along the sea, or in a marketplace, or in a pizzeria. I did (and pretty much in all those places).
And so I felt horrified when I heard snobby attitudes echoed about Naples: “Oh, the north is so chic, Tuscany and Piemonte divine, Umbria so green.” It’s all true. And Rome is eternal.
I even had a colleague who, when I invited her to an event in Naples, replied, “No thank you; I prefer the north.” She had, of course, never been to the south. It is possible that she would not enjoy it; she was far too uptight. To appreciate Napoli, Campania, I was beginning to realize, one must open his or her heart. Knowledge opens you up to all that ignorance hides. What a joyous discovery was my little Napoli! Why would people look down on her? I began to feel very protective.
Devoted Italian American food blogger Peter Francis Battaglia pointed out plaintively in a private interview, “The food of Naples suffered in the United States (and to a degree, still does) from the same problem as ‘ethnic’ food today: the assumption that this cuisine couldn’t be excellent or of high quality because it was/is considered cheap (and of a poor immigrant class).” Even in recent decades Italian food of the north was considered classier than that of the south. It went further: a whole generation of southern Italian immigrants on America’s shore suffered from racism, prejudice, and bigotry after escaping a poverty-stricken land of hunger. They were considered second-class citizens, and their food, though delicious, was considered lower class.
Fourth- and fifth-generation Italian Americans, many of whose origins were Neapolitan, forgot their ancestors, never knew the “old country,” didn’t realize that what they know as “red sauce cooking” has an amazing history extending thousands of years, a cuisine as rich and varied as that of, for example, Paris or Beijing.
If you are the children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren of these immigrants, I want you to go to Campania, to the delicious culture in your DNA. In fact, I want to take you all by the hand, trattoria to trattoria, beach to cafe to pizzeria, to revel in the atmosphere, and I want to say, “Look! Isn’t it gorgeous? It is yours.”
As an outsider invited in, I realized that I was in a particularly excellent place to write about the food life of Naples. Unfettered by family, traditions, and prejudice toward “Nonna’s ragù” or “Mamma’s lasagna,” I could objectively appreciate it all.
A few years ago, the legendary cookbook author Paula Wolfert encouraged me to continue learning from cooks in their kitchens and bringing their culinary culture to my readers. I was touched and flattered. This is what she has spent a lifetime doing; no one could so it as well as she. Certainly not me.
I wondered if books about food cultures were still relevant, with the internet, YouTube, even food travel television. I mean, anyone with a smartphone can whip out a video of Zio Giuseppe making rigatoni or Nonna simmering her Genovese. I didn’t think anyone needed food writers observing in kitchens any longer.
But Paula was right, and I cannot thank her enough for the encouragement. It is not enough to make a video or to show people whizzing through the country (even picturesquely on motor scooters), eating this, cooking that, then zipping off again. To go into their kitchens—peering into pots, watching Nonna make pasta, Uncle Vito stir ragù, the baker offering both a warm smile and a big fat babà—is to enter their stories and, with it, emotion: happiness, sadness, personal history, regional history. Life comes alive as you inhale the steamy aromas of the kitchen. And to share this? How privileged I am.
Note: Because this is such a personal portrait of Napoli’s food life and because the observations and conversations contained herein are mine, mistakes or misrepresentations are accidental, regretted, and mine alone.
None of this would be possible without Manuela Barzan, who, along with Michele Lomuto and the Naples Chamber of Commerce, opened the doors of Naples and welcomed me in. We worked together on film festivals and book festivals, baking celebrations, and extravaganzas of everything edible (and potable).
To Alan, Leah, Jonathan, Gretchen, and Mondo—amazing, marvelous Mondo.
To Judy Witts Francini, my Tuscan buddy who led me through the streets of Naples, pointing out so much that I would have missed without her (including the actor Peppe Zarbo). To Julia della Croce, my Italian sister, a
her, as if the latter were its own alien food group. The truth is, vegan food is food that we’re all familiar with—it’s vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, herbs, and spices. In the case of baked goods, it’s flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, spices, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, and yeast.
When you get down to it, vegan food is food we already cook with and already love. You just might not call it vegan. If you’ve had an apple, you’ve had “vegan food.” If you’ve ever eaten spaghetti with marinara sauce, you’ve had “vegan food.” When we take it out of the box called “vegan,” we recognize that it’s not so unfamiliar after all.
It’s no surprise we have these misconceptions about veganism. We are taught this early on in our culture: that meat, dairy, and eggs are “normal” food for regular folk and that vegan food is unsubstantial and lacking, reserved for “health freaks” or the allergy-prone. In fact, these misperceptions lead people to believe that many familiar favorites are not vegan, so let’s set the record straight here and now.
• BREAD IS VEGAN: It’s true that some brands and types of commercial breads have animal’s milk added to them—but not all. Good bread—real bread—is naturally vegan. Just think of the definition of bread according to French law: it can contain nothing more than flour, salt, water, and yeast.
• PASTA IS VEGAN: Although some pastas (namely, egg noodles) have chicken’s eggs added to them, by definition pasta is really just made from flour and water. In fact, the word originally meant “pastry dough sprinkled with salt.”
• COCOA BUTTER IS VEGAN: We tend to associate the word butter with dairy, but it really has more to do with fat than with cow’s milk. Peanut butter, cocoa butter, coconut butter, almond butter, and shea butter are all plant-based fats. Just because it says “butter” doesn’t mean it’s an animal product.
• VEGANS EAT YEAST: Considering the fact that yeasts are microorganisms classified as fungi, not animals, of course vegans eat yeast!
These and other myths will be debunked throughout The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. The good news is we can change our minds and change our behavior. After all, the foods we choose, the meals we plan, and the choices we make are all habits. They’re deeply ingrained cultural, personal, familial, and social habits, but they’re all habits.
I learned long ago that it’s not that we can make a difference in the world and in our own lives; it’s that we do make a difference—every day, with every choice we make. Every action we take, every product we buy, every dollar we spend, everything we do or eat has an effect on something or someone else. There are no neutral actions.
I think this idea is both empowering and frightening to many of us. It’s empowering because it means we’re responsible and have a tremendous amount of power. It’s frightening because it means that we’re responsible and have a tremendous amount of power. We get to choose not whether we want to make a difference but whether the difference we inevitably make is positive or negative. That’s it. Those are our only two choices. There are no neutral actions.
* * *
CHALLENGE YOUR THINKING:
We get to choose not whether we want to make a difference or not but whether the difference we inevitably make is positive or negative. Those are our only two choices. There are no neutral actions.
* * *
My hope is that your daily choices become a reflection of your deepest values—for the next 30 days and the rest of your journey.
Why 30 Days?
Most behavioral experts agree that it takes three weeks to change a habit, and that to do so successfully, the key is to replace old behaviors with new ones. The 30-Day Vegan Challenge is all about creating new habits and new perceptions, and I provide an extra week just to make sure we cover all of your questions and challenges. I also like the roundness of a 30-day cycle, giving your body enough time to respond in such a way that you will be able to measure improvement.
Most people find it remarkable that the body can change and heal so quickly with food and not pharmaceuticals, though it’s been demonstrated again and again. We know this simply on an anecdotal level—feeling energized and clean after eating a healthful nutrient-dense meal or heavy and sick after a rich fat-laden meal—and this is validated on a clinical level by taking blood before and after a meal and noting differences in blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, and the like. With our ability to measure such specifics, we know that after one meal our body chemistry changes negatively or positively depending on what we eat. After one meal.
The body is a complex organism, but in many ways its needs are simple. In fact, if we whittled it down, we can say that a healthy body is all about blood