The Chelsea Market Cookbook by Michael Phillips [azw3 | 8,84 Mb] ISBN: B00FFATBXC

  • Full Title: The Chelsea Market Cookbook: 100 Recipes from New York’s Premier Indoor Food Hall
  • Autor: Michael Phillips
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: B00FFATBXC
  • ISBN-13: 
  • Download File Format | Size: azw3 | 8,84 Mb
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In the landmark National Biscuit Company building, Chelsea Market has inspired countless tourists and locals alike with its vegetable, meat, and seafood shops, top-notch restaurants, kitchen supply stores, and everything food-related in between. In celebration of its 15-year milestone, The Chelsea Market Cookbook collects the most interesting and famous recipes from the market’s eclectic vendors and celebrity food personalities. Archival images, gorgeous food photography, and cooking and entertaining tips and anecdotes accompany the 100 recipes, ranging from Buddakan’s Hoisin Glazed Pork Belly, to Sarabeth’s Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup, to Ruthy’s Rugelach. This keepsake volume is sure to bring the fun and tastes of this immensely popular food emporium to your home kitchen.

 

Editorial Reviews

 

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All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, New York, a Penguin Random House Company.

www.crownpublishing.com

www.tenspeed.com

Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

McNaughton, Thomas.

Flour + water : pasta / Thomas McNaughton.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-60774-470-2 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-1-60774-471-9 (ebook)

1. Cooking (Pasta) I. Title. II. Title: Pasta. III. Title: Flour and water.

TX809.M17M43 2014

641.82’2—dc23

2014015936

v3.1

CONTENTS

Preface: The Origins

Preface: The Story Continues

Introduction

PART ONE THE DOUGH

How to Make Pasta Dough

Egg Dough

Hand-Rolled Semolina Dough

Extruded Pasta Dough

How to Cook the Pasta

How to Use These Recipes

PART TWO THE RECIPES

Summer

Autumn

Winter

Spring

Sources

Acknowledgements

About the Authors

Index

PREFACE: THE ORIGINS

David Steele and David White

I wrote the original one-page business plan for Flour + Water on the back of an envelope, over a decade before the restaurant actually became a reality. It started with a simple premise: In Italy, I saw how pasta was used as a delivery agent for seasonal ingredients; pizza took the same approach. Coming from the East Coast of the United States, where pasta sauces and menus stayed the same 365 days a year, this was an eye-opening experience for me. —David Steele

I grew up in Ireland, in a village of sixteen hundred people. It was your classic small town in the Irish countryside: It had a couple of churches, a town square, one dentist, two lawyers, two doctors, and ten pubs. When we had a full house, there were eight people at the dinner table: Mum and Dad and six of us siblings. Dining together was a part of our life, mostly because our father insisted that we come together at the table every day. My mother is a great cook, and our meals were always wholesome and delicious. There were always potatoes, and sometimes multiple potato dishes at once—everything that you’d expect from a rural Irish family. —David White

I grew up in New Jersey, coincidentally about fifteen miles from where Tom was raised. I put myself through college by working in restaurants. I started as a dishwasher at the age of sixteen and worked my way up to a prep cook. The higher up the ladder I got, the more quickly I realized that kitchen life is a very tough life. At the same time, I saw servers in the front of house working fewer hours and making more money. So I did the logical thing and moved out of the kitchen. I became a busboy, and by age eighteen I was managing an Italian restaurant in Wildwood, New Jersey.

I went to college not very far from my Jersey roots, at Temple University in Philadelphia. During that period, I waited tables at some of the best restaurants in the city. Most of those that know me have no idea, but I came inches from dropping out of college to go to culinary school. My dad talked me out of that plan. Instead, I graduated from college and went straight to Wall Street, still continuing to wait tables on the weekends. In all, I spent about eight years straight doing hard-core restaurant work.

I loved the restaurant industry but was shocked how most of the restaurants I worked at weren’t run like real businesses. There was no awareness of food costs or labor costs, and most strikingly, there was no overarching strategy. Most restaurants I witnessed—including some very good ones—just planned on figuring it out as they went along. Eventually, with a little more seniority on Wall Street, I stopped waiting tables on the side. I vowed to return to the restaurant business and do it my way.

I spent my teenage years with the Jesuits at a boarding school, where they fed me big fat wedges of ham, the fat cap still unshaven, firm and bristly. Then I went to college in Dublin, intermittently working toward a liberal arts degree in history and Greek and Roman civilization. My rationale at the time, as a reluctant student, was that I might as well study something interesting that would lure me to a lecture here and there. By the time I graduated, I was itching to leave Ireland. Still naive and idealistic, I had the travel bug, bad. I wanted to see the world.

To travel, I would need employment. I figured that if I could wait tables, I would be able to work anywhere. And that’s how I started in this business. Out of school, I got a job in a semi-decent restaurant in the heart of Dublin. It was named Gotham Cafe. As fate would have it, its specialty was pizza and pasta.

I ended up in the States kind of by accident. One day my older brother told me he was going to apply for one of the U.S.
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calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced meals.

This system is comprised of 6 different lists of foods categorized by their total calories and carbohydrate, protein and fat amounts. The various groups include fruit; vegetables; bread and starches; milk; meat and substitutes; and fat. The milk and meat and substitutes groups are further broken down into sub-groups based on calorie and fat content.

Depending on your health goals, your doctor and dietitian will customize your daily meal plan with a set number of exchange choices from each list. Foods can be traded for another food on the same list, in the specified serving amount, but not between lists even if they have the same calorie count. The following are examples of exchanges within each list:

Fruit

One exchange contains 60 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate and 0 grams of fat per serving. Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• ¼ c. dried fruit

• ½ large grapefruit

• ¾ c. cubed pineapple

• 1 small banana

Vegetables

One exchange contains 25 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of protein per serving. Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• ½ c. cooked broccoli

• ½ c. cooked carrots

• 1 c. raw cucumber

• 1 c. salad greens

Bread and Starches

One exchange contains 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of protein and a trace amount of fat per serving. Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• 1 (1-oz) slice of bread

• ⅓ c. cooked rice or pasta

• ½ c. cooked cereal

• ½ c. cooked beans or lentils

• ½ c. mashed potato

Milk

All exchanges from this list contain 12 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein per serving but the calorie and fat amounts differ among each subcategory. The subcategories for this exchange list with their calorie and fat per serving are: skim and very low-fat (90 calories and 0 to 3 grams of fat), low-fat (120 calories and 5 grams of fat), and whole (150 calories and 8 grams of fat).

Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• 1 c. skim milk

• 1 c. whole milk

• ¾ c. nonfat plain yogurt

• ¾ c. plain yogurt

Meat and Substitutes

All exchanges from this list contain 7 grams of protein but the calorie and fat content differ among each category. The subcategories for this exchange list with their calorie and fat per serving are: very lean meat (35 calories and 0 to 1 grams of fat), lean meat (55 calories and 3 grams of fat), medium-fat meat (75 calories and 5 grams of fat) and high fat meat (100 calories and 8 grams of fat).

Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• 1 oz. cooked skinless chicken breast

• 2 cooked egg whites

• ½ c. cooked beans (also counts as 1 starch/bread)

• 1 oz. cheese

• 2 T. peanut butter

Fat

One exchange contains 45 calories and 9 grams of fat. Below are a few examples of what one exchange equals:

• 1 t. oil, butter, stick margarine or mayonnaise

• 1 T. salad dressing, cream cheese

• 1 slice bacon

• ⅛ avocado

Chapter One

Great Breakfast Beginnings

Start your day right

with a stack of pancakes or hearty waffles, a bowl of healthy grains or a delicious egg dish. Stir up a batch of Mom’s Everything waffles loaded with peanut butter, pecans and blueberries for a real breakfast treat. Or curl up with a bowl of Apple Pie Oatmeal while you read the morning paper. Whether you are preparing for a long day at work, a quick morning walk or a fun day with the kids, these diabetic-friendly recipes will provide you with the tastiest breakfast and the energy you need to make your day bright.

Amy Butcher, Columbus, GA

Pesto & Green

Onion Omelet

Preserve the fresh herb flavors of summer…make your own pesto sauce to fill this yummy omelet. It’s easy!

Makes 3 servings

2 t. canola oil

4 whole eggs

4 egg whites

⅛t. salt

⅛t. pepper

2 T. water

¼c. green onions, chopped

1 T. Pesto Sauce

Garnish: green onion tops, cherry tomatoes, parsley

Add oil to a skillet over medium heat, coating sides and bottom well. Combine eggs and egg whites. Beat until frothy. Stir in salt, pepper, water and onions. Add mixture to hot skillet, and cook without stirring, lifting edges to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath. When almost set, spoon one tablespoon Pesto Sauce on half of omelet. Fold other half over, slide onto a plate and garnish with green onion tops, tomatoes and parsley. Cut into 3 sections.

Nutrition Per Serving: 175 calories, 12g fat, 3g sat fat, 249mg cholesterol, 283mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 1g sugars, 14g protein. Exchanges: ½ very lean meat; 1½ med fat meat; 1 fat

PESTO SAUCE:

Makes 1 cup, serves 16

2 c. fresh basil, washed and dried

3 cloves garlic

4 T. walnuts

½c. olive oil

½c. grated Parmesan cheese

Place basil,
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hampionship-quality barbecue and give you a nice base for creating your own recipes.

Spices and Aromatics

★ Kosher, table, sea, and finishing salts. (I really have gotten addicted to some of these—they provide a wonderful texture without an overwhelming salt flavor.)

★ Black peppercorns and coarsely and finely ground black pepper

★ Granulated garlic and whole fresh garlic

★ Onion powder, dehydrated onions (dried onion flakes), and fresh onions (preferably Vidalia, if in season)

★ Whole cinnamon sticks

★ Coriander and cumin seeds

★ Dill seeds and celery seeds

★ Dried oregano, thyme, and basil

★ Dry mustard

★ Paprika

★ Light and dark chili powder

★ Ancho chile powder

★ Chipotle chile powder

★ Cayenne

★ Hot red pepper flakes

Oils, Vinegars, and Other Acids

★ Good-quality extra virgin olive oil

★ Canola oil

★ Balsamic vinegar (a very good one for dressings and one more suited for marinades and reductions)

★ Red wine vinegar

★ White vinegar

★ Cider vinegar

★ Lemon juice (bottled is fine)

★ Unsweetened lime juice (bottled is fine)

Sweeteners

★ Turbinado sugar (a must-have for my barbecue recipes)

★ Granulated (white) sugar

★ Blackstrap molasses

★ Light and dark brown sugar

★ Honey (preferably local, single source)

★ Agave syrup

Other Ingredients

★ Canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

★ Yellow and white self-rising cornmeal

★ Baking powder and baking soda

★ Self-rising and all-purpose flours

★ Canned tomato sauce

★ Tomato paste

★ Evaporated milk

★ Sweetened condensed milk

★ Good-quality ketchup

★ Worcestershire sauce

★ Whole chipotles in adobo sauce

★ Yellow mustard

★ Hot sauce

★ Sugar cure (available online)

★ Chicken, beef, and bacon bases. (I prefer pastes, preferably Minor’s brand.)

Tip

In general, I purchase my spices whole, if possible, and grind them myself. I keep a spare coffee grinder around just for this purpose. Spices lose their potency quickly, so try to keep them as fresh as possible. In addition to a good selection of dried staples, I try to keep several fresh herbs in the fridge. To keep them longer, store them stem down in a small cup of water in the fridge.★

Basic, Must-Have Tools

Mortar and Pestle ★ This tool is useful for mixing small amounts of pastes, slathers, and sauces, and it travels well without needing electricity.

Knives ★ Invest in a good set of knives and you will have them for years. My favorite knife series is Mac Knives (macknife.com). These combine the sharpness and durability of a Japanese blade with the extra heft of a European-style knife. These are really good knives. For my contest set, I have a 12-inch slicer with a dimpled edge (small indentions in the side of the knife to make it easier to slide through a product), 8-inch santoku (really my favorite knife ever—I don’t know how I got along without it before!), two 6-inch utility knives, and two 6-inch curved boning knives.

Charcoal Chimney ★ A chimney helps you get your charcoal going without lighter fluid, which can give your final product a chemical taste. Just place an electric charcoal starter in it, fill it with briquettes, set it on a heatproof surface or in the bottom of your grill, and wait until the briquettes look ashy (about 20 minutes) before dumping them into the cooker. If you don’t have an electric starter, you can put a few wads of paper or newsprint underneath and light the paper with a match or lighter.

Electric Charcoal Starter ★ A starter is easier to use than matches/paper to light your chimney, especially on a windy day.

“Hot Gloves” ★ This is what I call cotton gloves that are thin enough that you can put nitrile gloves on over them. They make a huge difference when pulling hot meat.

Pastry Brushes ★ My go-to brush for sauce is a 2-inch synthetic-bristle brush, which leaves the fewest brush strokes when glazing or saucing meats.

Tongs and Metal Pizza Peels ★ It’s easy to burn yourself when you move food around on the grill. I keep some quality (strong) 12-inch tongs for moving ribs and to use while grilling, as well as some shorter (6-inch) tongs for more delicate maneuvers. A pizza peel is great for larger cuts of meat, such as butts or shoulders.

Tools I’d Rather Not Do Without

I am a firm believer in knowing the basics of barbecue cooking without fancy tools and gadgets. If you give me an old barrel grill with no thermometer, a few spices, some meat, and really nothing else, I’m confident that I will be able to produce a pretty tasty product that’s fairly close to competition quality. However, since we live in an age when some pretty smart folks make all these cool toys for cooking, why not use them?

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ile a lot of European chocolates are excellent, you now have the choice of some really good American-made chocolates as well. (See Resources for ordering information for some of my favorites.)

I normally don’t recommend specific brands unless it’s very important to the recipe. Instead, I encourage you to discover on your own which brands you prefer. The best way to find a good chocolate, and one that you like, is to taste as many as you can, a task that most people won’t find all that difficult. I’m often asked what’s a “good” chocolate. My response: “If you like the taste and think it’s good, then it’s good chocolate.” If price is a concern, buy chocolate in bulk or large tablets, which are much more economical than individual bars.

Unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet chocolates will keep for several years if well-wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place. Milk chocolate is more delicate—wrapped well, it will keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. White chocolate is perishable and should be purchased in small quantities as needed.

Unsweetened Chocolate

If a recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, that means chocolate without any added sugar. Sometimes it’s labeled “99 percent” or “100 percent” unsweetened chocolate, references to the percentage of cacao solids. If you come across “bitter chocolate,” verify that it’s unsweetened chocolate by looking at the ingredients list (it shouldn’t contain any sugar) or look carefully for the percentage of cacao solids.

Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate

If a recipe calls for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, you can use either as they’re interchangeable. Both, by law, are required to have a minimum of 35 percent cacao solids, but many premium brands have much higher percentages, sometimes over 70 percent.

The recipes in this book that call for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate were tested with chocolate that’s between 50 percent and 65 percent cacao solids. I like a lot of the high-percentage chocolates (ones with more than 70 percent cacao solids) for eating. I don’t bake with them, however. One can run into problems due to their lack of fluidity, a result of reduced amounts of sugar and cocoa butter. And their greater acidity can cause mixtures to curdle.

Milk Chocolate

Not too long ago, our only option for milk chocolate was those vapid brown bars sold in the candy aisle of the supermarket. But milk chocolate has come a long way and we now have good-tasting choices. Contrary to my advice for buying dark chocolate, I recommend getting milk chocolate with the highest percentage of cacao solids as possible. Standard milk chocolate bars usually contain about 10 percent whereas some of the new “dark” milk-chocolate bars have 35 to 40 percent and taste a lot better. I use those.

White Chocolate

Buy only real white chocolate, one that contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder. In products labeled “white coating,” the flavorful cocoa butter has been replaced with vegetable fat. It’s awful and I don’t use it—and neither should you.

CHOPPING CHOCOLATE

When a recipe calls for “chopped chocolate,” the pieces should be in coarsely chopped ½-inch (1.5 cm) chunks. If it specifies “finely chopped chocolate,” the pieces should be in very small bits, about the size of tiny peas, so they’ll melt very quickly. I use a serrated bread knife for chopping chocolate. If chopping from a block, start at a corner and shave downwards with the knife, rotating the block and beginning at another corner when you’ve reached a point that’s too wide and the chocolate block gets difficult to chop.

MAKING CHOCOLATE CURLS

To make chocolate curls, use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave thin curls of chocolate in long strokes from the sides of a tablet of dark or milk chocolate. Milk chocolate works best for shaving, though a mix of milk and chocolate curls makes for a more dramatic presentation.

MELTING CHOCOLATE

Chocolate melts at a relatively low temperature and can easily burn if overheated, so always melt it in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, or what’s known as a double boiler. Make sure the hot water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir the chocolate gently as it melts, and take it off the heat just when, or slightly before, it’s completely melted. If you’re very familiar with all those buttons on your microwave oven, you can melt chocolate in the microwave at low power, opening the door and stirring it as it warms, to make it more fluid.

When melting chocolate by itself (without any other ingredients), it is extremely important that no moisture gets into the chocolate, or it can seize and turn into a grainy mess. Check your utensils and bowls and wipe them completely dry before using them. For the same reason, do not let steam from a neighboring pot or from the bottom of the double boiler get into the chocolate. If your chocolate
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pose on my knees). I’ve always been toned and fit and never had any problems with my weight.

Unlike my beautiful mom. My parents divorced when I was only three, and the split was incredibly difficult for her. She worked full-time while also taking care of me. She struggled with a lot; one issue in particular was her weight. She jumped from one diet to another because nothing ever worked.

This made me aware from an early age how excruciating these weight problems were for her, and for many of her friends, and how difficult it was to find the motivation to keep trying to lose weight. I was also aware that people were constantly making fun of her—sometimes directly and other times behind her back—which caused my mom and me both to be filled with shame and hurt.

Born on the bike, age four

Mom and Dad

My mom was so self-conscious about her weight that the only time she would go swimming—which she loved—was at night, when there were only a few people in the pool in our apartment complex. I vividly remember watching her enter the water, surrounded by the inky darkness and the blue-lit silence of the empty pool, and seeing a smile light up her face as she let the water caress her sore legs. My heart ached for her.

The only benefit of experiencing her pain, however, is the knowledge it gave me for helping my students who are also struggling with weight loss. I have such deep compassion for plus-size people, because I was raised by one. I will always call my mom my hero for never letting her weight affect who she was toward me. She was a very sweet and compassionate mother, full of unconditional love for her “unique” daughter, and for that, I also feel lucky. She taught me the art of the mush—how to be a softy!

Me and Mom, 2015

When I was eight years old, my mom nearly died in a car crash in San Jose, California, where we were living at the time, and she ended up in the same hospital where, as it happens, my grandfather was being treated for lung cancer. My father, who was by then happily remarried and busy raising his new family, only saw me every other weekend, which was what their divorce settlement decreed, so I moved in for a short time with the Harveys, my best friend’s family.

They were a close-knit and devout Mormon family of eight, and some of the most amazing people I can remember from my childhood. They knew I had already been baptized into their faith the year before. That had taken place thanks to one of my friends, Dion, the son of my grandmother’s neighbors up in the mountains of Calaveras County in Northern California.

I would ride my dirt bike over to Dion’s house, dodging the rattlesnakes on the trails, and hang out there all day. His family was devoutly Mormon, and one Saturday when I rode over there, they told me they wanted to take me to be baptized at Lake Mont Pines. I had no idea what a baptism was, so I asked Dion what it meant, and he said you had to open your heart to God. And I thought, Okay, my heart is open.

“Don’t be scared,” he added, “because they make you walk into the lake waist deep, but with your clothes still on.” I didn’t understand why he was telling me not to be scared, because getting dunked sounded like a whole lot of fun! On baptism day, we walked in a line, waist deep into the lake as Dion said we would; the water was warm from the summer heat. While we stood there, we heard a short sermon from the Mormon church member who was officiating, and then he asked me to give my life to Jesus. He laid me back and I got dunked in the water, and that was it. I was baptized. The entire experience was pleasant and peaceful. The only hope I had was that, when I was dunked under the water, I could come up and be a different girl. I was different, in fact—I became a lot calmer. I felt like the Mormons had my back—that someone was going to save me if I died, and it was one less thing to have to think about!

Anyway, the Harveys took me in after my mother’s accident, and prayed with me in the center of a circle every morning and every night, and I truly believe that their faith saved my mom, whose prognosis had been dire. I didn’t really consider myself a true Mormon because my parents weren’t and I wasn’t that interested in churchgoing, but I was grateful for the Harveys’ love and concern. My mom remained in intensive care for twenty-nine days. She was lucky to be alive, and she would live her new life as a slightly handicapped person, unable to do certain things, but she was still alive, and she was still my mom. And this was one of the first times in my life when I felt I was lucky.

After six weeks with the Harveys, I went to stay with my maternal grandparents, but my grandfather died about a month later. It was brutal to come home one evening from my dad’s to have a lot of people over. I asked, “Where’s Grandpa?” only to have my mom bring me to my room to tell me he was in
is picked.

In this book we will focus primarily on the Prophet’s two

basic ‘fruits of Paradise’: watermelon and the familiar sweet

melon, such as honeydew, cantaloupe and muskmelon. The

story of how these melons spread from their homelands in

Africa and Asia to the farthest corners of the world is the

story of the explorers, travellers, brigands, slaves, slavers, farm-

ers, conquerors and missionaries who carried melon seeds –

and the memory of the luscious melons they had eaten – with

them around the world and, in so doing, changed history.

Along the way, we will also encounter some of the vegetable

melons mentioned above, some of whose histories are inex-

tricably intertwined with the sweet melons, and others of which

Bitter melon, Momordica charantia.



Winter melons growing in the Philippines.

are just beginning to make an impact upon the world stage.

And we will observe scientists, archaeologists, historians,

linguists and other scholars as they try to solve the mystery

of the origins and travels of the melon.



2

Melons in Prehistory

and the Ancient World

[The melon is] a fruit whose history, varieties, and

nomenclature perplex even experts.

‘Melon’, in Oxford Companion to Food

Perfumed, sweet, succulent, cooling, a ripe melon can be one

of the most swooningly delicious of fruits, with a long and

deliciously exotic history to match. And humans have been

eating and enjoying melons for thousands of years. But which

humans? Where? And which melons? Trying to untangle that

exotic history has been difficult to do – until recently. For

years the scientific and historical consensus seemed to be that

watermelons and sweet melons got their start in either Africa

or India, but no one was really sure which.

Botanists had long been puzzled by watermelon’s origins.

Many were convinced that the fruit had dispersed from its

unknown homeland in the far distant past partly because of

the enormous diversity of watermelon names: the ancient

Egyptian word for watermelon is bddw-k, which became the

Coptic betuke, the Hebrew avattihim and the Arabic battikh-al-

sindi (or al-hindi) . The Persians call watermelons hinduwani, the Italians cocomero or anguria, the Spanish sandia, the French pastèque, the Portuguese melancia and the Turkish karpuz. All



of these names seem distinct and unrelated linguistically,

supporting the idea that watermelon spread over Europe and

the Near East very early. But a bit of investigation reveals that

the diversity of names for watermelon is easily explainable:

the Italian cocomero is a variation on the Latin word for cucum-

ber, and anguria probably comes from a Byzantine Greek

word for cucumber as well. The Spanish sandia comes from

the last part of Arabic battikh-al-sindi, while the French pastèque

is descended more obviously from battikh. The Portuguese

melancia appears to come from ‘melon’ and the Turks took

karpuz from the Persian word for sweet melon. What at first

appears to be a veritable Tower of Babel of names for the

homely watermelon is, upon closer examination, not so

remarkable after all.

Many scientists thought watermelon came from India,

where it naturalized freely in the deserts, though they were

surprised to find no wild species there. Still, some names for

watermelon hinted at an Indian origin, like the medieval Arabic

battikh-al-sindi (or al-hindi), and the Persian hinduwani. Linnaeus Watermelons in a market in Tallinn, Estonia.



thought watermelon was from southern Italy and the great

eighteenth-century Swiss botanist Alphonse Pyramus de

Candolle thought southern Asia. And then in  the British

explorer David Livingstone looked out over the African Kala –

hari Desert and unwittingly made scientific history. He wrote

in his diary:

But the most surprising plant of the Desert is the Kengwe

or Keme’ ( Cucumis caffer), the watermelon. In years when

more than the usual quantity of rain falls, vast tracts of

the country are literally covered with these melons . . . Then

animals of every sort and name, including man, rejoice

in the rich supply . . . These melons are not, however, all

of them eatable; some are sweet, and others so bitter that

the whole are named by the Boers the bitter watermelon.

The natives select them by striking one melon after another

with a hatchet, and applying the tongue to the gashes.

They thus readily distinguish between the bitter and

sweet. The bitter are deleterious, but the sweet are quite

wholesome.

Livingstone’s observation directed scientists’ attention to

Africa as the cradle of the watermelon, with most agreeing

that the fruit’s true home was in the south of the continent. But

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