The Daily

On Food

The Lights in the Kitchen Were On

October 23, 2015 | by

At the table with James Salter.

Salter in 1989. Photo: Sally Gall

“To revisit the past was like constantly crossing some Bergschrund,” James Salter writes in the introduction to his 1997 memoir, “a deep chasm between what my life had been before I changed it completely and what it was afterwards.” As it did through his life, an ineludible divide runs through Salter’s work. The same man who gave us great novels and stories of sport, of war and deprivation, produced some of the twentieth century’s most sumptuous meditations on domestic life, on the rituals at the heart of bonding. To read him in both modes is to pace the fullness of Salter’s emotional life—it is akin to entering a room full of people after completing some feat of endurance, a vow of silence or a rigorous fast, and trying to hear every word. What unites Salter’s oeuvre—more than his triumphs of style, the peculiar manipulations of perspective, and the verbless descriptive clauses—is his preoccupation with meals and all that they represent, all they can give and all they can take away.

In 1957, with his first book already published, Salter left the Air Force to become the novelist that he knew he was. As his identity was transformed—from fighter pilot to fiction writer, from that of struggle within the military complex to the isolation he encountered outside of it—so were his novels and stories. Food’s role in them increasingly became a metric for the emotional lives of his characters, who were either driven by the rejection of home or by some elaborate performance that kept the idea of home intact. The dinner table, Salter understood, was the perfect stage for the frailty of our relationships—how we present ourselves to others, how crucial to our sense of self are the recollections of the friends who saw us become the people we were. A much-cited quotation from Light Years perhaps most perfectly encapsulates his feelings about life in the air as a pilot and on the ground as a family man: “Life is weather. Life is meals.” Read More »

All the President’s Turkeys

November 24, 2014 | by


Horace Vose with a turkey for President McKinley. Vose secured presidential turkeys for more than thirty-five years.

From Turkeys, all varieties: Their care and management. Mating, rearing, exhibiting and judging turkeys; explanation of score-card judging, with complete instructions, published jointly by the Reliable Poultry Journal Publishing Company and the American Poultry Publishing Company in 1909.

A turkey boiled
Is a turkey spoiled,
A turkey roast
Is a nation’s boast,
But for turkey braized
The Lord be praised.

The most famous grower of turkeys in the United States is Horace Vose, of Westerly, Rhode Island. Mr. Vose last year followed his annual custom of sending a Thanksgiving turkey to the President of the United States, a custom which he began in Gen. Grant’s first term. He has autographed letters of thanks from all the presidents since then. Mr. Vose goes to a great deal of trouble to get the President’s Thanksgiving dinner. Besides growing turkeys he deals in them, and after the chicks have been hatched a month or two he makes a tour of the farms for miles around. If he sees a particularly fine chick he secures an option on it, and directs that it be given special care. He makes other visits later in the season and bids for every fine turkey that he sees. When Thanksgiving approaches the Rhode Islander has control of practically all the finest birds for miles around. He is the largest shipper of turkeys for the New York market. This is Mr. Vose’s philosophy:

“The object of fattening a turkey is to produce firm, finely flavored, luscious flesh. Therefore it should be fattened on whole corn—not meal—as the corn gives a firmer consistency to the flesh. It should never be stuffed artificially or confined in close quarters. If sweet apples are available they may be fed, as nothing will give a nicer flavor to the flesh.”

[…] The London Board of Agriculture reports great success in fattening turkeys with a cramming machine. A mash of equal parts of ground barley, corn and oats, with a small amount of melted fat and linseed meal was used, enough skim milk being added to make it the consistency of cream. At first there was difficulty in feeding the turkeys, owing to their size and strength, but the operator finally overcame this by placing the fowls on a low stand so that their heads were on a level with the nozzle of the cramming machine. It is stated that “after a day or two the turkeys became accustomed to this manner of feeding, and when meal times came they showed much eagerness to mount the stand and receive their share of the food.”



I Scream

August 7, 2014 | by


Photo: Zechariah Judy

As a child in suburban Connecticut, I had always considered the purl of the Good Humor truck to be more closely akin to a cricket’s chirp or the sound of summer rain: a seasonal gift, wreathed in sweet associations … [but] it is a grave error to assume that ice cream consumption requires hot weather. If that were the case, wouldn’t Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have established their first ice cream parlor in Tallahassee instead of Burlington, Vermont, which averages 161 annual days of frost? … Wouldn’t John Goddard, an outdoorsman of my acquaintance, have arranged for a thermos of hot chicken soup instead of a half gallon of French vanilla ice cream with raspberry topping to be airdropped to him on the summit of Mount Rainier? And wouldn’t the Nobel Prize banquet, held every year in Stockholm on the tenth of December, conclude with crepes Suzette instead of glace Nobel? As the lights dim, a procession of uniformed servitors marches down the grand staircase, each bearing on a silver salver a large cake surrounded by spun sugar. Projecting from the cake is a dome of ice cream. Projecting from the dome is an obelisk of ice cream. Projecting from the obelisk is a flame. When the laureates—who have already consumed the likes of homard en gelée à la crème de choux fleur et au caviar Kalix and ballotine de pintade avex sa garniture de pommes de terre de Laponie with no special fanfare—see what is heading their way, they invariably burst into applause.

—Anne Fadiman, born today in 1953, from her essay “Ice Cream”


Fruit Mutiny

August 1, 2014 | by

Whither the breadfruit?


Marguerite Girvin Gillin, Breadfruit, ca. 1884

There’s such a thing as the Breadfruit Institute, and there should be. Researchers consider the species a “NUS”—“neglected and underutilized species.” But Ian Cole, the Breadfruit Institute’s collection manager, thinks that’s insane. He told me, “If you had a breadfruit tree in your yard, you would have food all year round!”

I don’t have a breadfruit tree in my yard, though, and neither do you, if you live in the lower forty-eight. Cole wants that to change. He wants the world to eat breadfruit.

He may well get his wish. Breadfruit, a starchy fruit that looks like a green pimpled softball, is enjoying a bout of sudden popularity. It’s gluten free, dense with protein, and rich in vitamin B and fiber. It has the mild, earthy flavor of a tuber. And it looks pretty neat: what appears to be a singular globe of fruit is in fact thousands of tiny fruits fused together like a mosaic. The media is in thrall. The Daily Mail calls breadfruit “a wonder food”; the Huffington Post calls it “a wonder food”; and the New Scientist calls it “a wonder food.” The New Zealand Herald asked in a recent news headline, “Is this the new wonder food?” Yes. Yes, it is. Read More »


A Millionaire’s Money Can’t Buy

February 26, 2014 | by

chock full

Photo: nikoretro, via Flickr

“I didn’t even know you could still get that!” exclaimed a rather fabulous looking tiny woman in a turban and plaid coat. I had ordered a date-nut bread sandwich with cream cheese. We were on line at the Chock Full o’ Nuts kiosk located in my neighborhood Gristede’s.

This supermarket is notable partly for its mysterious principles of organization: spices, for instance, can be found in three different aisles in the store. When I need something that defies obvious shelving classification—liquid smoke, say, or rice noodles—I come here, just to challenge myself. (In those two cases, I failed and ended up having to ask for help. The items were in, respectively, the salad dressing and “International Foods” sections.)

Anyway, I had gone to the Chock Full o’ Nuts to get my usual: the “Chock Classic” sandwich, a bargain at $2.99, so rich and filling that it extends to at least three small meals. (For the uninitiated, the business did start as a nut stand in the twenties. A few years ago, Chock had to add the slogan “NO NUTS! 100% Coffee” to its packaging.) The sandwich was an economical standby on the menus of the restaurant chain, which used to be all over New York, and now serves as a reminder of Chock’s glory days. It was this that caught my neighbor’s eye. Read More »

Strawberry Fields

February 11, 2014 | by

tuxedo strawberry ash berlin

Photo: Ash Berlin, via Flickr

It has been some years now since I mastered the art of dressing strawberries in tuxedos.

I was first introduced to the skill at a friend’s baby shower in Rhode Island; a young woman demonstrated how one dipped the strawberry in white chocolate, and then, after letting it dry, dipped it again, at an angle, in milk chocolate. One appended a small chocolate bow tie and perhaps, with a toothpick, shirt studs. (And, if feeling really ambitious, made a distaff counterpart, all in white chocolate.)

My first strawberry-in-a-tuxedo looked like he had just come off a week-long bender. His lapels were smudged, his bow tie askew. But by the time I had dipped my fifth—I think we were supposed to stop at two, but I couldn’t—that out-of-season berry was a veritable Brummel. (Just in case one of them needed to attend a summer dinner-dance or something, I made one in a white dinner jacket, too.) The trick is letting it dry properly between dips, and holding it aloft while it does so. Read More »