The Gallery: Campfire Cooking Beyond Hotdogs

Photographer extraordinaire Jess Tsang took some snaps at my most recent fire cooking class in Brooklyn, so I thought I’d share! If you’re interested in this class, and live in the New York City area, you should get on the Brooklyn Brainery’s mailing list. I repeat the class each spring.


Gallery: Supermother’s Cooking with Grass Cookbook (1971)


I first spied this little beauty in the very reputable Antique Trader Collectible Cookbooks Price Guide. What grabbed my attention — other than the fact that it’s a cookbook for “grass” – is that it doesn’t just contain your run-of-the-mill pot brownie recipes.  This book contains savory comestibles that will get you high.








And in case there’s anything else you need:


You can buy your own copy on Amazon: Supermother’s Cooking With Grass

The Gallery: MUFFINS! HOT MUFFINS! – City Street Vendors of the 19th Century


Every stranger from the country, who comes to the city, is astonished at the variety of noises which assail his ears on every side. Instead of the more quiet scenes which he is accustomed to, he now hears the constant rumbling of heavy drays, carts, and carriages over the pavement, and the bawling cries of all sorts of petty traders, and jobbers crying their commodities, or offering their services in the streets… These noisy people all perform important uses in society. They supply wants of the citizens, and earn an honest penny by the exercise of a very humble craft.

The above comes from City Cries, or, A Peep at Scenes in Town by an Observer.  When it was released in 1850, it was designed as a book for juvenile readers, beautiful illustrations combined with short chunks of text, explaining the various city street vendors to someone visiting from the countryside.  Today, this book is an invaluable peep into the past at all the foods and services available in city in the mid-19th century.  Below are just a selection of some of my favorites; all text comes from the original book.  You can read the whole book here.

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The shad season commences in the latter part of the month of March. The first supply comes from the south, and is sold at a pretty high rate. But not many days elapse before these fishes make their appearance in our rivers, and then the shad women commence their perambulations and cries in the streets.

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Here is the old Crab-man, with his wheelbarrow, calling out with might and main, ” Crabs! Crabs alive ! Buy any Crabs ? Here dey are, all alive! Werry nice and fresh!”

But see ! there is a young gentleman who has caught a crab, by just putting his hand among the live contents of Cudjoe’s wheelbarrow; or rather, to speak more accurately, the crab has caught him. See how he “jumps about, and wheels about, and cries Oh ! Oh!”

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” This, sonny,” she says to a little goldenhaired school-boy, ” this is the real sugar corn; the best in the world: so tender and so sweet; an ear of it is better than the best ice cream you can buy.” So thinks the urchin; and he hands over his pocket-money with the most perfect satisfaction.

Hot-corn, however, we are bound to tell our juvenile readers, is Sometimes rather a dangerous luxury. It is sold in the streets and marketplaces at a season of the year when children are liable to be made sick by the most trifling imprudence in diet. We would, therefore, counsel all our juvenile friends to abstain from dealing with the hot-corn woman at all. Indeed we think that children should do all their eating at home, and at the regular meal-times. Otherwise they are constantly running the risk of severe sickness.

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Who has not heard the song of the Hominyman ? Who can tell what are its words ? There is but one verse. It is gabbled over with great rapidity, and the words “Hominy! beautiful Hominy!” occur more than once; but the remaining words are all Greek to the greater part of his hearers.



” Hark ! there is the muffin-man’s bell! There he comes! I hear his feet pattering on the pavement. Run to the door, Jenny, and buy a dozen muffins to have with our tea, this evening. Here is the money.”

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The Pepper-pot woman is not quite so noisy now as she was some twenty years since, when her song might be heard at any hour of the evening, in almost any part of the city:—

All hot! all hot!
Makee back strong!
Makee live long!
Come buy my Pepper-pot!”

Persons who are curious in gastronomical science, have assured us that it is a horribly hot mixture of tripe and black pepper, with certain other very pungent spices; and that a single spoonful will excoriate the mouth and throat to such a degree as to take away all power of tasting anything else for a month afterwards.

The Gallery: Fiery Poker Heats Up Hot Buttered Rum

Tom and Jerry, eggnog’s hot and spicy cousin, is the subject of my most recently blog post for Etsy–you can read it here.  Although the drink was invented in the 1840s, it had an inexplicable return to popularity in the 1940s.  While trying to uncover the reason, I came across this full-age add for The Rums of Puerto Rico, from LIFE magazine, February 23, 1953.

The above gathering is clearly very manly.  Below, a few cocktail suggestions using the “Greatest Winter Drink,” rum.  The full-page ad can be viewed here.

The Gallery: Urban Hearth Cooking Photos

Here are some snapshots my students took the past two weekends at my Urban Hearth Cooking class at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn!  If this looks like fun to you, be sure to get in the class when it returns in September.  To be the first to know about future classes, sign up for my mailing list here.

Brandishing the proper sized wood for a good cooking fire. Photo by Russell Karmel.

Directing students on the most effective way to light a fire. Photo by Adriana Stimola.

Working on a stubborn fire in the bake oven. Photo by Adriana Stimola.

A student moves hot coals out of the fire. Arranged in small piles, the coals will be our cooking surface. Photo by Adriana Stimola.





A student prepares dough for rusks, a fried roll. Photo by Russel Karmel.

Rusks frying next to a simmering soup. Photo by Adriana Stimola.

The first course of our fire-cooked meal: rusks and a spring soup. Photo by Adriana Stimola.

Baking cookies in a dutch oven. Photo by Adriana Stimola.

Baking cookies in the bake oven. Photo by Adriana Stimola.


The Gallery: Data Visualization of a Timeline of Taste

The Popularity of Vanilla vs. Rosewater

Starting Tuesday night, I’m teaching a three-part course on Historic Gastronomy at the Brookyln Brainery. It’s going to involve a lot of history, a lot of nerdery, and a lot of eating.  You can read the full course description and sign up here (new spots were recently opened for students due to high demand; at the time of the writing, there were three spots left.  Sign up here.)

My first class is called A Timeline of Taste; we’re going to explore the history of American food through flavor: we’ll travel from 1796-1950, making a pit stop every 50 years to explore the tastes of a particular time. Participants will smell and sample the spices, fruits, extracts, and other ingredients that defined the flavors of different time periods. We’ll discuss why each of these flavors were popular and how they were used in day to day cooking.

Many ingredients have a flash point that sends them soaring in popularity, pushing other tastes out of vogue: an increase in production, a decrease in cost, a popular recipe, etc.  As I was researching the histories of American ingredients, like rosewater, vanilla, curry and ketchup, I realized the results would be a really cool data visualization project.  I wanted to see  a timeline of when ingredients were the most popular.

A quick and dirty way to do this is through Google Ngram Viewer, one of the coolest toys on the web.  Google says:  “When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books.”

I plugged  in search terms, I was astounded by the visualization of the results.  You could often see the exact historical moment an ingredient became popular.

For example, from about 1750-1840, rose water was the primary flavoring for cakes and other confections in the United State.  While today we associate it with Middle Eastern cuisine, for English colonists it was used as a cheap alternative to vanilla. Vanilla was only grown in Mexico because its pollination was very closely linked to a certain species of Mexican bee.  In 1841, a twelve year old slave discovers how to hand pollinate vanilla flowers.  Vanilla cultivation is moved outside of Mexico and the product became much cheaper.

Look at the chart above: rose water is more or as popular as vanilla until 1841.  Then vanilla takes off while rosewater flat lines.

A few more fun charts are below.  We’ll be talking about these ingredients, and so much more, at the Brooklyn Brainery Tuesday night.

Nutmeg, Mace, Cinnamon, and Clove

Curry Powder, Soy Sauce, Chili Powder

Mayonnaise, Mustard, Tomato (ketchup was originally not made from tomatoes)