Copyright photos posted by mae at maefood dot blogspot dot com.
If you read this post elsewhere, it's been stolen.
"Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) towers over his age as the embodiment of the American renaissance, but not, though he also should, as the philosopher king of American white race theory. Widely hailed for his intellectual strength and prodigious output, Emerson wrote the earliest full-length statement of the ideology later termed Anglo-Saxonist, synthesizing all the salient nineteenth-and early twentieth-century concepts of American whiteness."(Kindle Locations 2449-2452).In a later chapter on Emerson she says:
"Without his saying so directly, his definition of American excluded non-Christians and virtually all poor whites. Native American Indians and African Americans did not count. In English Traits, when he tallies up the American population, Emerson explicitly excludes the enslaved and skips over native peoples entirely." (Kindle Locations 3011-3013).Painter includes descriptions of many other towering figures in the American development of race-consciousness, race definition, and discrimination against an ever-changing list of "races" such as the Irish, the Jews, the Slavs, the Mexicans, the Chinese, and many more. She describes how each group gradually achieved the status of equality to the mainstream "white" race, obviously always leaving out black people.
"In 1906 he made another brave gesture toward racial tolerance by accepting an invitation from the pioneering African American social scientist W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) to deliver a commencement address at Atlanta University. Not only was Boas a white scholar willing to go to a black institution; he came with a message of encouragement for young people about to enter a hostile America. Quite amazingly for 1906, he assured them they had nothing to be ashamed of. Other races— the ancestors of imperial Romans and the northern European barbarians— had endured their own dark ages. Now, if educated young black people could understand the 'capabilities of [their] own race,' they could attack 'the feeling of contempt of [their] race at its very roots,' and thereby 'work out its own salvation.'" (Kindle Locations 3715-3721).The effect on American attitudes towards race of the two World Wars, the Depression, the New Deal, the post-war GI Bill, and a variety of other government programs are all presented in fascinating detail, but I can't possibly reproduce all of Painter's amazing way to look at 20th century history. One example: the following passage about the New Deal:
"The New Deal coalition, in fact, was as lumpy as could be, with certain parts working against the interests of others. The needs of working-class northern black voters, for instance, took a backseat to the powerful southern Democrats’ obsession with white supremacy and abhorrence of labor unions. Southerners in Congress kept the New Deal segregated, so that black people were largely excluded from policies regarding labor, housing, education. The newly created Social Security Administration, for example, excluded the two largest categories of black workers, those laboring on farms and in domestic service. The military, of course, remained either segregated (Army, Navy) or exclusionary (Marines, Air Force). African Americans got the worst of it, and President Roosevelt also balanced the interests of his Jewish constituencies against the preferences of his Catholics, as in the case of the radio priest Father Charles Coughlin." (Kindle Locations 5540-5547).Painter's account continues with interesting summaries of the Black Power movement and other trends of the late 20th century. It ends about 10 years ago as the book's publication date is 2011. Unfortunately, many of the offensive ideas from early times that are described in the book seemed to have been put to rest by many events in society, including that when she wrote, we had President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama "whose skin color alone would have condemned her to ugliness in the twentieth century, figures as an icon of beauty and intelligence on the global stage." (Kindle Locations 6195-6196).
"In a society largely based on African slavery and founded in the era that invented the very idea of race, race as color has always played a prominent role." (Kindle Locations 2138-2139).
"No consensus has ever formed on the number of human races or even on the number of white races." (Kindle Locations 6103-6104).
WALKING INTO THE Four Seasons, I couldn’t help thinking of my mother. For months before the restaurant opened in 1959, Mom pounced on every single word written about the luxurious new establishment. “It’s called the Four Seasons because it’s going to change with each season,” she informed Dad and me. “Not just the menu, but the entire décor will be redone every three months!” She regaled us with breathless descriptions of the interior, designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, describing in minute detail the dramatic Richard Lippold sculpture hanging above the bar. “It’s supposed to look like bronze icicles,” she said. But what intrigued her most was the famous Picasso curtain....
While Mom and Dad nibbled nuts and nursed martinis, I enjoyed the city’s most expensive glass of orange juice. But a single drink, no matter how slowly you sip, can last only so long. Mom sighed when Dad asked for the check, looking wistfully around: She longed to stay for dinner.
Still, the restaurant’s spell stayed with Mom as we dined on fifty-cent sausages down the street at Zum Zum. Grateful for her continued happiness, Dad picked up her hand, wiped away a spot of mustard, and kissed it. “Someday,” he promised, “I’ll take you to dinner at the Four Seasons.”
Sadly, he never did. Now, entering a room that still radiated power, I tried seeing it through my mother’s eyes. It was not, I realized, a dining room: It was a kind of living theater.
I surveyed the captains of industry seated with such easy arrogance at their capacious tables: None of them had come to eat. They were here because they could be seen but never overheard. They were here because the light in the room made everyone look better. They were here to bask in the obsequious sarcasm of the owner, Julian Niccolini, an elegantly attired Tuscan with saturnine good looks, who made sure that meals for these extremely busy people never lasted too long. They were here because no annoying check was ever presented; when lunch was over they simply strolled off. (How Mom would have loved that little detail!) They were here, ultimately, because everybody else in their world was here too. (pp. 134-136).
"My grandmother didn’t know how to set the table for our guest— would Soviet food seem paltry next to the glories to which this former countrywoman now surely had access in American supermarkets? ... In times of uncertainty among kinspeople, lean on the Jewish regimen. Dill-flecked chicken bouillon with kneidels (matzoh balls, from matzoh baked and delivered by secret couriers at night); a chicken stuffed with macaroni and fried gizzards; the neck skin of several chickens tied together and stuffed with caramelized onion, flour, and dill to make a sausage-like item called helzel. For excess, there was deconstructed, or 'lazy,' stuffed cabbage— everything that would have stewed inside a cabbage leaf shredded and shaped into patties instead— and a chicken rulet: a deboned chicken layered with sautéed garlic, caramelized carrot, and hard-boiled egg, then rolled up and fastened for cooking with needle and thread." (Savage Feast, p. 58).There's an intriguing description of a soup I didn't really know about:
He was making ukha (oo-HA)— salmon soup; he had the salmon steak cubed and ready to go. Everyone thinks Russians eat borshch, but borshch is the Ukrainian mother soup. Russians eat it, too, but a Russian’s home soup is ukha. Root vegetables are all good, but without freshwater fish— pike, carp, sturgeon— Russia isn’t Russia. (Literally: Siberia survives on pike. There’s so much pike there, it’s dog food.) I had tried to explain to the lox lovers of the Upper West Side and the cedar-plank salmon eaters of the Northwest just what a thing ukha was, but they heard “boiled salmon” and tuned out. It was my mother soup. On a cold night, a bowl of ukha made things right for five minutes. We ate quickly." (pp. 181-182).On a visit to a town in Ukraine with Oksana -- the author's grandfather's home aide who becomes a kind of outsider-family member -- he attends a funeral meal for Oksana's mother:
"I felt a prisoner’s hunger. Oksana had made rabbit in sour cream, ribs with pickled cabbage, a radish salad, pickled watermelon, and a waiting table of cakes and profiteroles 'Ukrainian style.' An empty chair had in front of it a vodka-filled shot glass covered with a piece of black bread— a commemorative spot for Oksana’s mother. The in-laws had arrived from their town with gifts from the village: canned river fish, canned zucchini, tomatoes marinated and brined. Also a five-gallon plastic drum of spring water that I belatedly discovered to contain not spring water but moonshine, and a huge jar of beet juice that had been fermenting for more than a week." (p. 244).I particularly enjoyed this description of a Russian restaurant in New York:
"One Sunday night, a friend and I went through three rounds at a neighborhood bar and, gin in my head, I forgot to cross to the right side of Delancey Street when we walked past the restaurant. My friend was a Russian non-Russian like me, and we probably thought the same thing: Whatever affectation we’d find inside would at least share nothing with the studied scruffiness of a Lower East Side cocktail den circa 2015. Also, Russian food soaked up booze really well.
"It was beautiful inside. Blood-red walls, soft light, decorative chaos: a pressed-tin ceiling, blocks of mirrors, photographs hung up with clothespins. And the menu was both familiar and not: bliny, but also cucumber-and-pomegranate salad; borshch, but also pistachio-and-fenugreek shrimp. The restaurant felt like nothing but itself, an elusive commodity in the city that has everything." (pp. 287-288).All in all, Savage Feast is a pretty good book, though not as interesting as some of the other books I have read about the Russian-Jewish immigrant experience in the US. It includes many recipes, though some are a bit repetitive, including a repeat of the exact words explaining why you roast a chicken at high heat and also of how you turn pancakes with your fingers. I have not tried any of the recipes, though they might be ok.
|The Impossible Burger!|
|We bought a Burger King Impossible Whopper and an ordinary Whopper.|
We each ate half of each one. They look & smell the same.
The beef Whopper's paper was greasier.
|The taste is virtually identical. They both need catsup.|
I ate mine in alternate bites. Really alike.
|So new that they don't appear on the lighted placards above the cash registers!|
|Lotus are blooming at Lake Erie Metropark, Brownstown Charter Township, MI.|
The American Lotus is found in Michigan's marshes and wetlands and near the Great Lakes.
|Bonsai, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor. According to the label, this Rocky Mountain Juniper is|
800 to 1000 years old. I assume that it's been trained as a bonsai tree for a shorter time than that!
|A Henslow's Sparrow in a Washtenaw County wildlife area.|
|Fruit and vegetables are at their peak right now!|
|I baked peach crisp from 6 of the 12 ripe white peaches that we bought at Costco.|
|The corn this year is a bit small, but these ears were very sweet.|
|On the grill: brushed with butter and fresh chives that grew right|
in our back yard.
|Len turned the ears of corn and brushed them with the butter several times until they were golden.|
I'm looking forward to the produce for the next month or two. The season is really too short!
|In my outdoor kitchen in July: a new Weber Grill, which I've already written about in an earlier post.|
Here, we tried making a special Yakitori setup by using two foil-covered bricks to support the skewered chicken.
|When it's not too hot, we like to eat outdoors, including breakfast.|
|In our kitchen: new loaf pans for Len's bread baking.|
|Made in the new loaf pans: cinnamon-raisin bread, which Len made because it's|
one of my favorites.
|Len also baked a really good rye bread, here shown with a plowman's lunch.|
Another day: good with pastrami!
|Pancakes made from leftover starter, using recipe on King Arthur website. (link)|
Cuisine from A to Z: Grilling and Barbecues.
|More ordinary: I reused pickle juice to make pickled|
carrot sticks. Good in slaw! Would work if I made
a Banh Mi sandwich, too.
|We have a shiny new cooking pot.|
|A new condiment from Trader Joe: middle eastern Zhoug.|
Update: people asked what it's for. I used it in a few salads, and it's popular in Israel
for sandwiches and on falafel. See this post on Ottolenghi.
|Pot-Au-Feu: Convivial, Familial: Histoires d'un Mythe.|
Editor: Julia Csergo. Published 1999.