Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat

Everyone knows that it's hard to get a candle to stand up inside a pumpkin jack-o-lantern. Today I decided to try making a lighted jack-o-lantern with a clementine that I was eating for lunch. It took much longer than the 10-minute carving job I did on a good-sized pumpkin this morning.

My 10-minute carving job, attractive to the squirrel, who made
Jack look as if he is crying.
My pumpkin is a lot bigger than my tiny little clementine. But nobody has jack-o-lanterns bigger than our neighbor on the next block:

The Great Pumpkins of Burns Park, Ann Arbor, a couple blocks from here.
Great Pumpkins around 5 feet tall: bigger than last year! (This is link to post from last year)
Our Treats: Ready for 150, but the weather was mean and cold, so it
was a particularly quiet Halloween.
Lots of good costumes... here's an Egyptian Princess with her friends

Only three of the 100 or so Trick-Or-Treaters came dressed as devils. I was especially looking for them since I did all that posting about devilish foods. Other costumes included Captain Underpants, Batman, Night Hunters,
Princesses, Formal Dress for boys (don't know why), and many more. Quite a few costumes were covered by coats.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Devil's Choice: Print Cookbook or iPad App?

New iPad App, old print cookbook.
To make a classic recipe, Devil's Food Cake, I looked in a classic cookbook -- The Joy of Cooking. Perfect for Cookbook Wednesday (though I baked it Sunday morning). As it happens I have a very old copy of the printed book as well as a copy of the Joy of Cooking App for my iPad.

Devil's Food Cake ingredients all ready to go: egg whites in mixer,
flour, sugar, chocolate mixture, egg yolks, milk, butter.
Devil's Food Cake continues my theme of devil-titled foods for Halloween.
Examining the instructions for the same recipe from the two different formats offered me a chance to compare the standard, in fact old-fashioned, cookbook with the app. The cookbook wins for several reasons, though these are not intrinsic problems with using apps, just with the way this one is implemented.

To begin with, the cookbook instructions are all on one page, while the app requires scrolling with your sticky, floury hands. A smeary iPad screen will be annoying a few hours later when you try to do Sudoku, check email, or read on your Kindle app. But if you touch the page of the old book or splatter it with batter, you get a permanent stain on the recipe which is kind of amusing as the years go by.

Both versions of this recipe call for the same ingredients and essentially the same method, but the old cookbook seems to think you know more about baking. For example, the print version says to sift the flour, add salt & soda, and resift (which I did). The app version says sift the flour, put it in a bowl, and then thoroughly stir in the salt and soda, which takes more time and probably isn't as good a way to do it.

It's easier to find things in the old-fashioned print index. If the iPad app has an index like this, I haven't been able to find it. At left: the entries for "Deviled" foods in the printed Joy of Cooking. It takes a while to locate a recipe in the electronic version. It shouldn't be that hard.
• I don't have anything against e-recipes in general. I typed in most of my own recipes starting on a very early Macintosh in around 1990, and now use them on the iPad. I also find many cooking ideas and recipes online. My remarks about e-book issues are specifically about the Joy of Cooking App.
• For much more information on the history of the original Joy of Cooking, there's a biography of its two authors, Rombauer and Becker. I reviewed the book, here: Stand Facing the Stove.

About Devil's Food Cake

A piece of the cake I baked, as we served it for dessert at Nat's house.
According to the Food Timeline: "Recipes for rich, chocolate cakes similar to devil's food were fairly common in late 19th century cookbooks, but they were not named such. They were typically listed under the generic name 'chocolate cake.' Recipes titled devil's food proliferated, sometimes with interesting and creative twists, in the first decades of the 20th century. Red Devil appears in the 1930s. ...How this chocolate cake came to be called devil's food no one knows although it may have been a play on opposites: it was as dark and rich as angel food was light and airy."

The traditional difference between just a chocolate cake and a devil's food cake is more chocolate. "When the larger amount of chocolate is used, it is a black, rich Devil's Food," said the first Joy of Cooking (1931 p. 236, cited in the Food Timeline). For a selection of mid-twentieth century recipes see this post at Dying for Chocolate.

1950 Devil's Food Cake Mix ad
from Swans Down
Devil's Food was a natural for cake mixes, though I'm not sure when the very first mix for Devil's Food Cake was introduced. Mixers and cake mixes both became very popular in the early 50s -- though both had existed as less widespread products prior to that. My mother started using both of them at that time.

One time in the early 1950s, our neighbor (who worked for a survey outfit) recruited my mother to bake several cakes from unmarked boxes of cake mix and fill out a questionnaire about how she liked each one. I've always wondered if my mother contributed to the cake mix makers' belief that women prefer a mix that requires the addition of real eggs. At about this time, Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Swans Down and the rest formulated most cake mixes to require 2 or 3 eggs instead of including powdered eggs with the other powdered ingredients.

As I baked on Sunday, I was thinking how much work it would have been to bake even a mix without an electric mixer! These two convenience products obviously made cake baking much easier.

While devil's food cakes and cupcakes are often featured for Halloween, they are obviously well loved all year around. Not like pumpkin!

Main Course: Poulet Diable

We took my cake to Nat's house Sunday night, for dinner with Nat and Carol. To complement the Devil's Food Cake, Carol prepared a recipe for Poulet Diable; that is, chicken with a piquant sauce of Dijon mustard, shallots, white wine, and cream. I think she used Dorie Greenspan's recipe.

Devilish Dinner: Carol's Poulet Diable and two Devil-Themed Wines at Nat's house. Followed by the cake.
Poulet Diable, in some form or other, seems to be a classic -- as illustrated by several French cookbooks. In celebration of Cookbook Wednesday, I also give you this list of references to the dish from cookbooks published between the 1930s and 1960s:
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a recipe for Poulet Grillé à la Diable: chicken halves or quarters broiled with mustard, herbs, and breadcrumbs. (Beck, Bertholle and Child, p. 265).
  • Both the Larousse Gastronomique entry for "Devilled" and the glossary of Raymond Oliver's La Cuisine define the method of cooking chicken called à la Diable to consist of slitting the bird along the back, spreading it out flat, and grilling it with various spices or sauce. In the "Sauce" entry, Larousse also provides three recipes for a Sauce Diable for grilled chicken, with vinegar, shallots, thyme, cayenne pepper and other ingredients.
  • In his cookbook Ma Gastronomie the very famous chef Fernand Point gives a recipe for Poulet Grillé à la Diable. He calls for a chicken cut as described above, with a sauce made from vinegar, parsley, peppercorns, tarragon, egg yolk, and butter (p. 170).  
I wondered why the name of the dish was "à la Diable." I found out that it's short for à la façon du Diable; that is, in the manner of the devil. There are various derivations for this expression, but none of them have anything to do with Halloween customs. Like devil's food cake the dish would be good at any time of year!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Devil in the Details

Underwood Deviled Ham: 1899.
"An honest New England product put
up under the nicest, cleanest conditions."
Mark Bittman is famous for his remark that you shouldn't eat foods your grandmother wouldn't recognize. Unlike Bittman, I think that unrealistic nostalgia is the only reason why anyone would believe that food was better or safer 100 or even 200 years ago. The basic inventions that enabled canning are around 200 years old. The food industry back then poisoned a lot of people while they were figuring out what they had to do -- like make sure the contents of the cans wouldn't rot or produce botulism toxin.

Plenty of experiments with food additives in the past were much worse than what we find now, both in canned and other processed foods. Well-meaning food producers even poisoned kids by overdosing them with vitamin supplements, according to Bee Wilson's book Swindled, which I wrote about last week. If you read Swindled, you'll see that modern people who believe that impure and unhealthful food is a new phenomenon are victims of what Language Log calls "the recency illusion."

In this post I'll focus on one particular canned food that came on the market in 1870: Underwood Deviled Ham, which I mentioned in a recent discussion of Halloween foods. Evidently, the product was recognized as food in the days of our several-times-great grandmothers. It's exactly the type of food that I think modern purists are rejecting. (I'll skip the fact that my grandmother, being traditionally Jewish, shunned pork, and just talk about the product. Mark Bittman is every bit as Jewish as I am, and we both eat pork now, but that's beside the point.)

Consumer worries about food safety and purity seem to have been around throughout the life of this product -- over 140 years -- as reflected in the way Underwood promoted Deviled Ham and other similar canned goods. Facsimiles of Underwood's numerous print ads are easy to find on the web -- I think the Devil Logo attracts collectors of ads. It's interesting just to follow the development of the Devil logo, now the oldest trademark in continuous use, as well as to examine the types of persuasive arguments the ads included.

Underwood ads appeared in women's magazines and other publications for much of the 20th century. Like the one at the top of the page, they frequently emphasized that the contents of the can are clean, safe, and pure -- which shows how they expected the public to think of canned meat. Clearly, over 100 years ago people were just as worried about additives and dangerous foods as they are today.

1906. The emphasis is on pure ingredients:
"FIT FOR THE GODS...Made only of the finest sugar-cured
ham and the choicest of spices: always the same"
Along with the clean new-England kitchen where Deviled Ham was canned, both the ingredients and the cooking method received a great deal of emphasis. So did the "delicious taste." Words like this: "ham seasoned with salt and sugar and hickory smoke; boiled en casserole to imprison the good ham taste; ground fine, with mustard and 42 spices, which is the famous Underwood Deviled Dressing." One ad even stated that the product required no changes as a result of the first Pure Food and Drug laws:

1908: "Honestly Made and Truthfully Labelled for 85 years ...
The recently enacted Pure Food Laws have made no change in
passed with highest praise by every State Board of Health that
examined them and by the U.S.Government."

These ads all promote purity,
for example, the "clean,
sunlit, New England kitchen"
where Underwood products are

1914. "You don't have to be good at
guessing games, to guess what makes
Underwood Deviled Ham the Big Taste
for "partynics" and picnics of every kind!

No date, but appears to be a very early ad: "There is not one particle
of coloring matter nor preservative in Underwood's goods.

Deviled Tongue was another Underwood product at one time. In the ad on the left, during World War I:
"Conservation today is the world's crying need. In order to save lives, we are saving not only coal, sugar, wheat, fats -- but also many essential forms of meats. Every American  housewife  can serve Underwood Deviled Tongue with a clear conscience, knowing that she is thereby helping  to save those 'essential' meats for our soldiers and Allies overseas."
Underwood ads from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and onward emphasized a variety of reasons why one would love their canned meat products, but I'm focused on the attitudes of approximately a century ago, so I'm not going to reproduce any here.

On Underwood ham labels now, in 2014, the list of ingredients is "Ham (Cured with Water, Salt, Brown Sugar, Sodium Nitrite) and Seasoning (Mustard Flour, Spices, Turmeric)." I wonder if the old ads conveniently left out the nitrite and other additives traditionally used to cure the ham. I bet they did! And I'd love to know how much their 19th century canning plant resembled a "clean, sunlit, New England kitchen." 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sympathy for the Devil

Are deviled eggs a good food for Halloween? In my most recent post, I explored some food history and some Halloween history. The association of spicy food with the devil doesn't have any special connection to the Halloween Devil (or to Devil's Night, an unfortunate Detroit tradition). However, I think spicy food -- anything "deviled" -- is a wonderful addition to a Halloween menu. I make deviled eggs all the time, especially for potlucks, and I've never come back with any leftovers. As you see from my photos, I even own a special deviled egg platter!

Deviled eggs don't need very many ingredients, and I would say that they don't need a recipe.* Today I used Hellman's Low-Fat mayonnaise (an incredible calorie bargain!), sriracha sauce, and salt in my egg-yolk mixture, mashed with a fork. For a large quantity of eggs, I use an electric mixer. Eggs and mayo are the standard ingredients, and I just add mayo until I like the texture. Then I add almost any condiment I feel like using until it tastes good. Sometimes I don't even make them spicy.

Today's garnish was Trader Joe's Hot & Sweet Cherry Peppers. I have at times garnished the egg halves with sliced olives, fresh red pepper slivers, or sprinkles of paprika. For anchovy lovers, if you know any, you could even use a little piece of anchovy on each egg! Don't worry about it, the filling doesn't have to be totally smooth, and you don't  have to use a fancy icing tip device to make the filling look like a Dairy Queen. At least that's my opinion. Some cooks have other ideas.

Wall painting of eggs from Pompeii: I remember
learning in Latin class that a classic banquet in Rome
proceeded ab ovo usque mala, that is, from eggs to apples.
(Picture from wikipedia)
Similar treatments of hard-boiled eggs go back into the distant past. Apicius, the main source of Roman recipes, describes quartered eggs served with spicy dressing: not-quite-stuffed. In the first-century satire Trimalchio's Feast, egg-shaped pastry shells were stuffed with egg yolks into which little songbirds were stuffed: a joke on the guests. Actual stuffed eggs made their earliest known appearance in a recipe from Medieval Andalucia; they included cilantro, onion juice, pepper, oil, and salt. (sources: Oxford Food Symposium, and Trimalchio)

Fifteenth-century cookbook author Platina gave the following recipe:
"Make fresh eggs hard by cooking for a long time. Then, when the shells are removed, cut the eggs through the middle so that the white is not damaged. When the yolks are removed, pound part with raisins and good cheese, some fresh and some aged. Reserve part to color the mixture, and also add a little finely cut parsley, marjoram, and mint. Some put in two or more egg whites with spices. When the whites of the eggs have been stuffed with this mixture and closed, fry them over slow fire in oil. When they have been fried, add a sauce made from the rest of the egg yolks pounded with raisins and moistened with verjuice and must. Put in ginger, cloves, and cinnamon and heat them a little while with the eggs themselves." (source: Food Timeline)
Recipes for stuffed eggs appeared frequently as time went on. As I pointed out in the earlier post, the use of the word "devil" for spicy foods dates to the late 18th century. By then stuffed eggs were common in much of European cuisine. A recipe using mustard, pickles, and vinegar appeared in an American cookbook in 1871. (source: Marion Harland)

The major difference between the way stuffed eggs were made more than 100 years ago and my method is that mayonnaise only came into use at the end of the 19th century, the first printed source being a recipe by Fanny Farmer. By mid-20th century, mayo was a standard, as in the recipe from The Joy of Cooking (1940s). Earlier cooks used melted butter, mustard, or oil to obtain a creamy texture for the egg yolk stuffing. Obviously the sriracha sauce I used is also an innovation -- though cayenne pepper is traditional in anything labeled "deviled."

Maybe you believe that deviled eggs are quite modern and enjoyable. Maybe they remind you of a Roman banquet or a Medieval feast. Maybe you envision the 1920s when the first specialized egg platters began to be manufactured. Or you see deviled eggs as a throwback to cocktail parties in the 1940s or 50s or 60s. Whatever you think, you're right!

* If you need a reminder on hard-boiling, my method is:
  • Put the eggs in a pot that fits one layer of eggs. 
  • Cover the eggs with cold water and put a lid on the pot.
  • Bring the water to a boil (you'll hear the eggs bumping around).
  • Turn off the heat, and leave the eggs in the covered pot for 11 minutes. 
  • Immediately cool in cold water, even with ice cubes if you like.
  • Peel the eggs at once, or store them in the refrigerator and peel them later.
  • Tips: Overcooked eggs have an ugly green rim around the yolk. 
    You should not try to hard-boil perfectly fresh eggs, because too fresh = too hard to peel. 

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    The Devil's Dishes, or Halloween is almost here

    From the 1970s: Devil's Food Twinkies.
    Still sometimes sold in "selected markets."
    Devil's Food Cake. Deviled Ham. Deviled Eggs. Deviled Crab. A menu for Halloween? Sounds good to me! Never mind all those pumpkin and pumpkin spice dishes! Give me chocolate, mustard, and hot pepper!

    I wondered if devil-themed foods might have anything to do with Devil's Night. Looking into it, I learned that most of my information about Halloween customs and Devil's Night was inaccurate. Urban legends and speculations, I found: just what you might expect about a holiday celebrating myths and ghosts.

    American Jack-o-Lantern, 1867 (IBTaurisblog)
    The Halloween Devil reflects fears of ghosts and hauntings: Halloween is at its root a festival celebrating the dead. Catholics for centuries honored saints and deceased members of their families for the first two days of November, solemnly visiting graveyards and attending religious services. They prayed that their loved ones were with the saints and not with the Devil -- but feared the worst, especially when visiting graveyards at dusk.

    In Ireland, a variety of customs arose as a sort of opposite to the solemnities, including dressing up in costume, carving lanterns out of large vegetables, doing mischief of various kinds, and begging for food (which was a custom on other holidays as well, including Valentine's Day and the Wassail part of Christmas). Irish immigrants brought those customs to America in the mid-19th century.

    These traditions appeared to have their roots in ancient Celtic customs. Many writers, beginning in the 19th century and continuing with current believers in Paganism claim that ancient Celtic rites were the basis for the Irish celebrations that eventually came to America. If you read anything about Samhain, the Celtic holiday (sometimes attributed to Druids, in even less historically accurate speculations) you'll see all kinds of parallels presented -- this Halloween origin story is still widely believed. However, the supposed evidence for the Celtic connection was often circular: where scholars couldn't find good descriptions of early customs, they filled in with information from their own experience or the recent past, which meant the parallels were very convincing. In fact, too good to be true.

    In particular, a historian named Ronald Hutton in Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford University Press, 1996) demonstrated that the usual claims about early Celtic practices are not verifiable. The evidence for the "development of the feast and of its associated days of All Saints and All Souls," he says is "intractable and ambivalent." (p. 360) Writer David Emery summarizes: "It seems reasonable to conclude that the connection between Halloween and Samhain has, at the very least, been overstated in most modern accounts of the holiday's origin."

    Finally: Devil's Night. I always thought this was the accepted name for the riotous and disorderly side of the holiday. I remember having to drive through Detroit one late fall evening in the mid-1980s for a job interview, without realizing it was Devil's Night. From the freeway I heard police helicopters and sirens and saw smoke rising from burning buildings. Detroit's Devil's Night festivities then were at their most destructive, and hundreds of houses were being torched and other vandalism done. A few years later, with a lot of effort from the authorities, things calmed down.

    What I did not realize until now, looking up information for this post, is that Devil's Night was a name used almost uniquely in Detroit, and the vandalism was never as severe or systematic anywhere else. Yes, the Irish had Goblin Night or Mischief Night, but not Devil's Night. And bonfires were an old British-Isles tradition, but not insurance fires!

    Well, what about the food? 
    Deviled eggs, deviled ham, Julia Child's poulets grillés a la diable, deviled crab cakes, and similar dishes are devilish because of their spiciness -- though they make a perfect choice for Halloween menus. Deviled tongue and deviled kidneys, now obsolete at polite luncheons where they once would have been popular, might enhance the Halloween spirit in more ways than one! And devil's food cake, named not for its taste but for being the opposite of pure white angel food cake, is a very popular Halloween dessert.

    The term "deviled" for spicy originated long ago. "The first known printed mention of ‘devil’ as a culinary term appeared in Great Britain in 1786, in reference to dishes including hot ingredients." (source: History of Deviled Eggs)

    More and more dishes with "deviled" in their name appeared in the 19th century. In Mrs. Beeton's 1861 Book of Household Management, the term comes up in reference to turkey, of which the legs "appear only in a form which seems to have a special attraction at a bachelor’s supper-table, - we mean devilled: served in this way, they are especially liked and relished." (Household Management) Mrs. Beeton also recommended a deviled sauce made of vinegar, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and cayenne; as well as chicken with deviled butter made with chutney, anchovy paste, and of course cayenne pepper. Beyond Mrs. Beeton:
    "In The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Amanda Hesser includes an 1878 recipe for deviled crabs, saying that today’s deviled eggs are the mild-mannered cousins of deviled crab and kidneys, which 'were meant to be spicy and bracing, the kind of food you had after a long night of drinking.' She also notes that in David Copperfield ..., 'Mr. Micawber saves a dinner party by turning undercooked mutton into a devil,' covering the slices with pepper, mustard, salt and cayenne and cooking them well, then adding mushroom ketchup as a condiment." (Lisa Bramen, Smithsonian)
    Above: Underwood Devil Logo, 1921.
    Below left: 2014 Devil; right: original 1870 Devil
    Underwood's Deviled Ham was first sold in 1870. Underwood's devil logo is the oldest trademark in continuous use (left). Their deviled ham is still available, though I can't say I want to eat any of it.

    To make things even more complicated, in France there's an earthenware or cast-iron pot called a "diable" (devil) that allows cooking a whole chicken without added fat -- this utensil also gives its name to dishes cooked in it.

    I'm afraid the original Halloween tradition was a lot more bland, not even as much fun as the candy that we'll be giving out next week. Oat cakes called "soul cakes" were offered to visitors or beggars in seventeenth century Shropshire, Lancashire, and Herefordshire for All-Souls Day. Those who received the cakes said "A soule-cake, a soule-cake, Have mercy on all Christen soules for a soule cake." Or "God have your soul, bones and all." In Wales, the gifted food was bread and cheese, and later on the beggars asked in rhyme for apples, pears, plums, or cherries as well as soul cakes. (Hutton, p. 374-375)

    Besides food names, many common plant names begin with "devil." Some are spices or foods -- but some are poisons. Devil-in-a-bush, Devil's horn, Devil's stinkpot, devil's milk, Devil's apple, Devil's dye, Devil's butter, Devil's coach-wheel, Devil's curry-comb, Devil's garters, Devil's night-cap, Devil's fingers, Devil's claws, Devil's eye, Devil's guts, Devil's head, Devil's darning-needle, Devil's dung, Devil's walking-stick, and many more were listed in an article in 1890 in American Notes and Queries, Volume 5.

    By Halloween, I'll post more information on various deviled dishes, including my favorite deviled eggs and how to make them. Devil's food cake also deserves an entire post to explore its history, before and after cake mix. Enjoy Halloween treats all week!

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Eastern European Cookbooks

    Eastern European Cookbooks
    Today for Cookbook Wednesday, I decided to feature some ethnic cookbooks from Eastern Europe, not including my many Jewish cookbooks. Most of these are strictly cookbooks, that is, collections of recipes without a lot of narrative or historic material. I've tried at least one recipe from each of them. I have not researched whether there are better books on this topic. Any suggestions?

    On my shelf I found:
    • A Taste of Russia by Darra Goldstein.
    • The Cuisine of Hungary by George Lang, who also wrote an interesting autobiography called Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen, covering his early life in flight from the Nazis and his later glamorous life as a restauranteur in New York.
    • Gundel's Hungarian Cookbook by Karoly Gundel of the famous Gundel's restaurant, which was in business pre-Communist times, and was resurrected by George Lang after the fall of Communism. I received this as a gift.
    • The Czechoslovak Cookbook by Joza Brizova.
    • The Polish Country Kitchen Cookbook by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab. A kind gift from friends from Poland.
    • The Eastern European Cookbook by Kay Shaw Nelson.
    • Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure by Joseph Wechsberg. This is not a cookbook, but includes memoirs of eating at Gundel's and in other Eastern European restaurants in the middle of the 20th century.
    Wanted but I don't have it yet: Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, which I very much like. The latter isn't in my photo because I read the Kindle edition.

    Cookbook Wednesday is a great idea. Its inventor is Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations, where I get many ideas. Next week I'll feature another selection of ethnic or regional cookbooks from my collection. Maybe I'll even try some recipes.

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    Food Fraud

    I have just read Bee Wilson's book Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee. Food adulteration with poisons (like lead-based or cancer-causing dyes), with unreasonable additives (like alum in bread), or with cheaper substances (like adding water to milk or injecting chickens with dilute broth) has been a problem for centuries, as documented throughout the book. Outright cheating by false labeling, false weighing, or overcharging customers is another fraud that's far from new.

    "The rich can eat unadulterated food without much bother, whereas for most of the poor, it is a constant effort." (p. 101) Poor people have suffered more than those with the resources to purchase better quality foods and the time and energy to pay attention to what is happening. But money is far from an adequate protection against food frauds. "The motive to swindle -- greed -- is a constant in human history," Wilson writes. (p. 322)

    Swindled is closely related to several other books I've read, but has an interesting approach to the topic of food safety and food regulation. Wilson profiles a number of crusading chemists, medical doctors, journalists, and others who have attempted to inform the public about major problems in the food supply. Their efforts were sometimes successful, sometimes not, but she uses their discoveries to illustrate exactly what frauds were common at several times in the past. Wilson also adds a number of other historic and ongoing frauds into her narrative, up through recent baby-milk scandals in China. Swindled was published in 2008: I wish it continued right up until the present.

    Here are some of the most interesting people I learned about:
    • Frederick Accum (1769-1838) wrote A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons in 1820. Wilson says: "It would be an exaggeration to say that this book changed everything; after it was published, the swindlers carried on swindling, and more often than not they still got away with it; no food laws were changed on account of Accum... . But his treatise finally opened people’s eyes to the fact that almost everything sold as food and drink in modern industrial cities was not what it seemed; and by being not what it seemed, it could kill them." (p. 1)
    • Arthur Hill Hassall (1817-1894) discovered how to use a microscope to detect adulteration of food. He documented the widespread use of alum in falsifying white bread, adulteration of coffee, artificial substances in mustard, impure drinking water, and many other frauds.
      "Hassall analysed more than 2,500 samples of food embracing 'all the principle articles of consumption, both solids and liquids' and found that purity was the exception, adulteration the rule. Earlier writers might say vaguely that cinnamon was 'often' or 'sometimes' adulterated (with cassia, wheat, mustard husks, and colouring), whereas Hassall could state with absolute certainty that out of nineteen samples of ground cinnamon, only six were genuine; that three consisted of nothing but cassia; that ten were mixed up with bulking agents such as sago, flour, or arrowroot; and that these faked cinnamons were not always cheaper than the real thing, meaning that the public was being consistently cheated in the purchase of cinnamon.Unlike the scaremongers, Hassall was not afraid to say when a food was not adulterated." (p.127)  
    • Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) was founder and editor of The Lancet, dedicated to enlightening the public about medical affairs. The power of the free market was a given at the time in English politics -- and the idea was especially applied to food, for which there was no regulation.  "Wakley argued for public health in the widest sense—and this necessarily entailed a frontal assault on the evils of adulterated food." (p. 126) In disseminating the facts about food fraud in his day, Wakley particularly publicized the work of Arthur Hassall. Under their influence the first pure food act was passed in 1860, though it was weak.
    • Harvey Wiley (1844-1930) was a strong advocate for regulating food during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. Eventually he was the author of the first food and drug laws in the US. His role in developing the FDA has come up in other books I've read. (See my recent post titled Food Safety and its History).
    • Caroline Walker (1950-1988) was an advocate for better food regulation in England in the 1980s. She wrote The Food Scandal with Geoffrey Cannon. 
    • Mark Woolfe at the time Wilson wrote was head of the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) and more recently has been a member of the RSC's Analytical Methods Committee. Woolfe's role in developing DNA tests to identify falsely labeled Basmati rice, as described in Swindled, is an interesting study in modern technology that just barely manages to stay ahead of the fraudsters!
    Swindled is an enjoyable book despite the depressing subject matter, because it's engagingly written. I enjoyed the many anecdotes and factual discussions of food frauds in the past, including examples of recipes for "mock" dishes that playfully imitated real foods without including the "real" ingredients. The book also offers lots of amusing illustrations like this one (p. 98):

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Smokers in Art

    I hate smoking. I dislike the smell, the activity, and the risks involved with smoking. I'm very happy that it's no longer allowed in most public interior spaces, and it's becoming less and less common in outdoor public spaces. It's been years since anyone even gave a single thought to smoking inside my house, or inside most homes.

    That said, smoking was once a common activity, shared and enjoyed by a large part of the population (though some paid dearly for having done so). Some have viewed smoking as a kind of consumption, analog to eating. In several recent museum experiences, especially last summer in Amsterdam and in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia a few days ago, I was fascinated by the large number of paintings that portray smokers enjoying pipes or cigarettes. Here are a few of them.

    First, during the Dutch Golden Age many painters of homey scenes included smokers. Around 150 years after America -- source of tobacco -- began supplying novel products for the European market, smoking seems to have been very well-established:

    Gerrit Dou: Self-Portrait, c. 1640.
    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
    Man Smoking a Pipe: Gerard Dou, c. 1650.
    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
    Adriaen Van Ostade: The Smoker, c. 1647.
    Adriaen Van Ostade: Smoker at a Window,
    c. 1667. Detroit Institute of Arts
    Dirck Hals: Gentlemen Smoking and Playing Backgammon, c. 1687
    Vincent van Gogh painted several smokers:

    An early Picasso in the Barnes collection surprised me with the cigarette in her hand:

    Picasso: Woman with Cigarette, 1903
    Cezanne painted a few smokers as well. Two pipe smokers are included in his famous card players, and his 1897 portrait of Henry Gasquet includes a cigarette:

    Finally, also at the Barnes, this wonderful picture -- I believe the man in the lower left is smoking as he waits for his child to finish his music lesson. I couldn't stop looking at this painting.

    Henri Matisse, The Music Lesson

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Along the Susquehanna

    Two herons in the Susquehanna River.
    Lunch at Accomac Inn: it was such a warm day that we ate outside
    on the screened porch overlooking the Susquehanna.
    An inn first stood on this site in Colonial times, when a ferry crossed the river at this point. The current inn, which has been in business for around a century, serves vegetables from its own garden.

    The last tomatoes growing in the chef's garden.
    Len and Arny leaving Accomac Inn
    Not far from the Inn is a farm stand with these beautiful onions...
    huge cabbages...
    and lots of gourds and pumpkins.
    Railroad tracks near the river, with a couple of windmills in the distance.
    Lancaster County farmland.
    Notice the symbols on the silos.