A History of Cookbooks: How New Products Entered Cookbooks

excerpted from A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker

This October we are celebrating National Cookbook Month by exploring the history of the cookbook genre. Check back each Wednesday for a new excerpt from Henry Notaker’s work.

A History of Cookbooks coverThere was a great difference between the various products in the way they were integrated. When people were confronted with the new foods, they compared them to existing and well-known food categories. The product that was most easily accepted was turkey—at least for those who could afford to buy it. This animal was not too different from the other big birds that had traditionally been served at the tables of the European elite. Turkey could be used as a substitute for peacock or capon and was prepared the same way. Meat from birds was also considered to be healthy, so it did not risk being criticized by doctors, as many of the other new foods were.

It is consequently no surprise that cookbooks with recipes for turkey were published in the first century after Columbus arrived in the New World. In 1570, the Italian Bartolomeo Scappi suggested the same preparation for turkey pullets and ordinary pullets, and he compared the cooking of turkey with that of peacock. A decade later, the German Marx Rumpolt proposed twenty different ways to prepare turkey, all of them well-established methods for other meats. A taste for turkey soon spread from the aristocracy to the wealthy bourgeoisie, and prices went down. In France in 1538, turkey meat cost eight times more than meat from hens; in 1711, it was only twice as much.

The tomato is an example of a new food that was slow to become part of European food culture. For a long time appreciated only as an ornamental plant, the tomato was mentioned as food around 1600 in an Italian botanical treatise. As was the case with turkey, the fruit was compared with well-known ingredients in the kitchen; the author of the text explained that tomatoes could be eaten the same way as eggplants—with salt, pepper, and oil. But the first professional recipe for the food did not come until 1692, when Antonio Latini’s Italian cookbook gave a preparation for salsa di pomodoro, alla spagnuola (tomato salsa, Spanish style). In Spain, tomatoes were not included in any cookbooks published before 1611. After that year, there is unfortunately a period in which no new Spanish cookbooks were published that lasted until 1745, when we find a recipe for tomato sauces with garlic and oil, typical of the Mediterranean food culture we know today.

Tomato recipes in Spanish and Italian cookbooks surprise nobody, since the fruit could be grown in these countries. The situation was completely different in northern Europe, where effective cultivation came only in the twentieth century. The first tomato recipes from this region were from the last decades of the nineteenth century, and they suggested using canned tomatoes in soups and sauces. One of the Russian cookbooks written by Elena Molokhovets called for tomato purée in soups in early editions published in the 1860s and only gradually introduced fresh tomato dishes. As late as 1896, Charles-Emil Hagdahl wrote in his gourmet cookbook that he regretted that tomatoes in Sweden were mainly sold in the form of bottles of purée, imported from abroad. In Norway, a cookbook from 1888 included a series of interesting tomato recipes, but the book actually demonstrates why general conclusions about diet never should be drawn on the basis of one cookbook. The author had spent several years in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), where tomatoes were common by that point, and her book was the only one of its kind. A decade later, another Norwegian author did not give any tomato recipes in the first edition of her cookbook, published in 1897, and in a later edition, issued in 1912, she remarked that “tomatoes are seldom appreciated the first time they are tasted,” and wrote that in Norway, “tomatoes are still very expensive.”

Notaker cookbook author photoHenry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.

A History of Cookbooks: American Cookbooks and National Identity

excerpted from A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker

This October we are celebrating National Cookbook Month by exploring the history of the cookbook genre. Check back each Wednesday for a new excerpt from Henry Notaker’s work.

A History of Cookbooks coverIn 1776, many years before the aforementioned European nations started to fight for independence, a new independent country had been created in North America: the United States. After the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War, a growing national consciousness was observed among the inhabitants of the nascent state. This new patriotism was strengthened by new national symbols; before the turn of the century, the United States had a flag, the Great Seal, and a national bird, the bald eagle. The first cookbook written by an American is also from this period: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, was published in 1796. The subtitle claimed that the book was “adapted to this country.” There are recipes for Independence Cake and Federal Pan Cake, but more important is the use of indigenous foodstuffs, such as corn, squash, and Jerusalem artichoke.

The language of the book has many interesting features. For example, it introduced several Americanisms that had not yet been referred to in American dictionaries. One of them was “slapjack” (a corn pancake), a word probably based on a misreading of the English “flapjack”; at the time, the f and the long s (∫) were very similar in print. The book was also the first to use two words borrowed from Dutch: “cookey,” from the Dutch koekje, used for what English cookbooks called “little cakes,” and “slaw” from the Dutch sla, meaning “salad.”

The author—of whom we know nothing more than we can read in the book—presented herself on the title page as “An American Orphan.” Why did she give this peculiar biographical information? Some scholars have interpreted it as a national metaphor. The author had to support herself without any help from a parent, just as the United States needed to survive without England. If this interpretation is correct, the book is an even stronger proof of national attitudes.

It should be mentioned that not all the recipes in Simmons’s book are American. She included traditional English recipes, many of them taken verbatim from English books. But the American recipes in Simmons’s book were noticed by both readers and publishers; in the following years, new editions of old English books were printed with the addition of American recipes, many of them taken directly from American Cookery. The title of her book also heralded a period when the American angle was emphasized. In the years leading up to the Civil War, more than twenty cookbooks used the word “American” in their titles: for example, The American Housewife, American Domestic Cookery, American Receipt Book, and Modern American Cookery.

The United States was a society dominated by immigrants from many European countries, and one of the characteristics of cookbook publishing, like other fields of publishing, was the high number of books in languages other than English. The first French cookbook in the United States was published in 1840, the first Spanish in 1845, and the first German (Pennsylvania Dutch) in 1848, and they were followed by cookbooks in Italian, Yiddish, and Scandinavian languages, mirroring the country’s different immigrant groups. Some of the books were printed in two languages—for example, Yiddish and English, or French and English.

Most cookbooks in foreign languages catered to large immigrant groups who wanted to preserve their culinary heritage, but there were also foreign-language cookbooks with a very different intention. A particular genre consisted of works with recipes written in two parallel columns, one in American English and the other in Danish, Swedish, or Finnish. They were meant to help American housewives communicate with their Scandinavian servants—of which there were a large number in the United States around 1900. The housewife would point out the dish she wanted prepared (the dishes in these books were American, not Scandinavian), and the servant would then use the cookbook as a manual for cooking in addition to as a textbook for the English language.

Notaker cookbook author photoHenry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.

A History of Cookbooks: Recipes in Verse

excerpted from A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker

This October we are celebrating National Cookbook Month by exploring the history of the cookbook genre. Check back each Wednesday for a new excerpt from Henry Notaker’s work.

A History of Cookbooks coverDidactic works in verse go back to Hesiod’s Works and Days, written around 700 BCE, and are found in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Several versions of Regimen sanitatis were circulated in verse starting in the thirteenth century, many of them written in a Latin close to the vernacular Italian. In England, there were John Russel’s treatise on household duties, The Boke of Nurture (ca. 1460), and Thomas Tusser’s A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry (1557). According to the German scholar Bernhard Dietrich Haage, the bound form is used in practical literature as a mnemonic aid, but it might also have been used to give material an aesthetic value.

Several early cookbooks open with a verse, either written by the author to serve as a preface or written by someone else as a recommendation for the book, but there are also examples of rhymed recipes from the fifteenth century in German and English manuscripts. According to the historian Hans Wiswe, however, one of the German recipes is “a humorous Intermezzo in a book that is otherwise so matter-of-fact.” This can be explained by what Haage said about versification of practical literature for the upper levels of society: “It is mainly for fun” (Aus reinen Spieltrieb).

There is a long tradition in European literature of verses about food, often with a comic or playful element, and the humor is quite obvious in the collections of rhymed recipes (“poetic cookbooks”) from the eighteenth century onward. The first of these books was the French Festin joyeux, printed in 1738. One of the recipes is for perdreaux aux écrévisses (partridges with crawfish) and it starts like this:

First you cook everything well,

And mix with a light ragoût,

Add sweetbreads and truffles too,

And let cockscombs and champignons swell.

Typical for the recipes in this book is that they can be sung, as they were written to well-known tunes from light and popular music genres. Referring to himself as a cook, the alleged author made excuses for the bad rhymes in his verses, which he said were certainly not as Scarron would have written them. By referring to the seventeenth-century burlesque poet Paul Scarron, the suspicion is strengthened that the verses belong to the century before the book was printed, and it has been suggested that the real author was the aristocrat Louis de Béchameil, although this has not been confirmed.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, French, German, Spanish, American, Danish, and Norwegian books of recipes in verse were published. A Norwegian book from 1833 versified the recipes of the first printed cookbook in Norway, published only two years earlier, and the verses were written to melodies used for national anthems, drinking songs, and hymns. By using tunes for hymns in these merry songs, the author, a church warden and rebellious publicist, did the opposite of men such as Martin Luther and William Booth, who wrote religious hymns to popular, secular melodies.

Were these recipes intended to be used to help in the kitchen? Some of them did in fact emphasize that that was the basic idea. The Danish Kogebog for musikalske husmødre (Cookbook for musical housewives) professed in verse in the preface:

The housewife now can cook her meat

While singing from a music sheet.

But in spite of the declared intentions, these books were probably made more to amuse readers than to instruct them. Most of the verses were rather amateurish, with clumsy rhymes and hobbling rhythms, and could not hope for a glorious afterlife in the history of literature. There are, however, recipe poems that were written by authors with acknowledged literary qualities. They followed the same chronological progression as the ordinary recipes, giving step-by-step instructions, but they added aspects and elements that were generally absent in cookbooks. Here follow five examples in five languages and from different literary contexts.

The first was by a representative of Polish romanticism, Adam Mickiewicz, who in his epic poem Pan Tadeusz actually used a 1682 cookbook to describe an old Polish dinner. But he also gave, as part of his description of old national traditions, the “recipe” for bigos, a dish still popular in Poland. He admitted that words and rhymes—he used thirteen syllable lines with caesura and rhymed couplets—were not sufficient to transmit a real appreciation of “the most wonderful flavor, the smell and the color.” He listed the ingredients of the dish—good vegetables, chopped sauerkraut, morsels of meat—and explained that they should all be simmered in a pot. But he did not follow the traditional recipe form; his recipe is a narrative told in the third person and without the particular verbal forms indicating a request.

Other writers, however, chose the imperative. The French dramatist Edmond Rostand included in his most famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac, a scene where the protagonist’s friend, the rôtisseur and pâtissier Ragueneau, proudly declares that he has versified a recipe: “J’ai mis une recette en vers.” The recipe is for tartelettes amandines and is written in a light, elegant poetic form that plays with the rhymes and rhythm, making it very difficult to translate.

While Rostand kept the imperatives in the second-person plural, which was typical of most French culinary recipes at that time, the Argentine-born Spaniard Ventura de la Vega—who wrote many occasional poems—chose the first-person singular when he described his method of making garlic soup, sopa de ajo. The Voltaire-admirer-turned-Catholic paid tribute to the soup as a dish for Lent, but he also declared it the basis of the Castilian diet. The personal tone in the poem creates an atmosphere similar to the one in Pablo Neruda’s Odas elementales (which is about tomatoes, potatoes, and other foodstuffs), combining the solemn and the ordinary: In a casserole, boil salt, pepper, and small bits of bread in olive oil, and in this swelling mixture, “I will hide two well-peeled cloves of Spanish garlic.” Instead of Neruda’s free verse, Vega chose the bound form, and the Spanish composer José María Cásares later composed music for it. The text and the notes were printed in Angel Muro’s original cookbook, El practicón (1894).

Another original and much praised cookbook, Modern Cookery, by Eliza Acton, included a recipe in rhymed verse in the 1855 edition. In a note, Acton wrote that this was the first time the poem was printed, after it had been circulated among the friends of the author, the poetic reverend Sidney Smith. But in contrast to the serious, almost religious tone in Vega’s verse, Smith’s poem is filled with the light-hearted humor he was famous for. The ingredients for his salad dressing are enumerated with the common imperatives, but they are not always used in the traditional manner: “Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,” he instructed readers in one line, and in another, he told them to add “a magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.” He even resorted to alliteration: “Of mordant mustard add a simple spoon.” And then he expressed his enthusiasm for the result: “Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbacious treat!”

A final example, which also raises theoretical questions, is a poem the German romantic poet Eduard Mörike wrote about Frankfurter Brenten, a type of small cookies. The first surprise is perhaps his use of the imperative second-person singular, a dated and very uncommon form in the mid-nineteenth century:

Start with almonds, I suggest,

Take three pounds, or four at best.

This poem, which is included in Mörike’s collected works, was originally published in a German journal for ladies, Frauen-Zeitung für Hauswesen, weibliche Arbeiten und Moden, in 1852, and Horst Steinmetz used it as an example of how context may decide the reception of a text. The readers of Mörike’s complete works may have considered the recipe as a poem on a par with the other poems in the book, which describe feelings and phenomena of the human universe. The ladies who read “Frankfurter Brenten” in the journal may have looked at the text as a practical instruction—a recipe—even if they observed and appreciated the form as an amusing variation and perhaps made no practical use of the recipe in the kitchen. Yet a closer reading of Mörike’s text reveals that it has elements not expected in recipes. Consider, for example, these lines:

Now put all this while it is hot

Onto a plate (but poets need

A rhyme here now, and therefore feed

The finished stuff into a pot).

With this ironic remark, which breaks up the sequence of instructive steps, the poet seems to make fun of his own role; it is a kind of Verfremdung, or alienation, that creates a distance between Mörike as a poet and as a cooking teacher.

These rhymed recipes seem to have been written with very different intentions: to inform, to instruct, to entertain, or to create art. This is of course also true for recipe poems in unbound form by Günter Grass and others. But there is a noticeable difference in intention when recipes appear in prose works other than culinary works.

Notaker cookbook author photoHenry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.

National Cookbook Month: North African Filo Pastries

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Wednesday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

North African Filo Pastries (Bestels)

Bestels resemble borekas: thin layers of dough wrapped around a savory filling. But instead of a shortcrust or flaky pastry, Moroccan bestels are traditionally made with ouarka, which means “leaf” in Arabic. The same pastry is known as malsouka in Tunisia and as feuilles (leaves) de brik in France. The pastry is made from a rather springy semolina dough that is pressed in an overlapping circular pattern onto a hot flat pan called a tobsil and then peeled off when the paper-thin film of dough has set. Because the process is so time- consuming, most North African home cooks buy ouarka from those who specialize in making it. Feuilles de brik can be purchased from restaurant-food wholesalers, but first you must find a source and then the minimum order is typically quite large, usually about 250 sheets, which are difficult to store. (Some online sources have more reasonably-sized packages, but the pastry ends up costing about a dollar a sheet, which is insane, and it is likely not to arrive in the best condition because of the rigors of transit.) The good news is that you can make these pastries with filo, which is widely available.

Traditionally served during Rosh Hashanah and at special dinners, bestels come in two shapes, triangular and cylindrical; the latter are also called cigares or briouats. As evidence of the Spanish roots of these pastries, both Maguy Kakon in La cuisine juive du Maroc de mère en fille and Viviane and Nina Moryoussef in Moroccan Jewish Cookery call the meat filling migas, a Spanish term for bread crumbs enriched with meat juices. To ensure moisture, some cooks add a little tomato juice or some chopped tomatoes to the filling. Every family seasons the meat mixture in a different way. Some use quite a lot of garlic, others add onion, and still others favor ginger and turmeric along with, or in place of, the cinnamon. In Marrakech la Rouge, Hélène Gans Perez includes the juice of a lemon, and I have followed her lead. In 150 recettes et mille et un souvenirs d’une juive d’Algérie, Léone Jaffin offers an Algerian bestel filling that calls for a trio of large onions and nutmeg instead of cinnamon.
Continue reading “National Cookbook Month: North African Filo Pastries”

National Cookbook Month: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Wednesday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine (Mehalet)

This recipe, which is sometimes called tajine del sabana, is a cross between two tagine recipes in La cuisine juive du Maroc de mère en fille by Maguy Kakon. Similar dishes are found on the Rosh Hashanah table in Fez, Meknes, and Tangier. Almost any combination of vegetables will work for this fragrant stew, which is typically served with cous-cous. It includes both potatoes and sweet potatoes and the classic addition of preserved lemon and olives, which add salt and tang. If you like, 1 to 1/2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks, can be used in place of the sweet potatoes. Although not authentic, I sometimes add 1/2 cup plumped raisins for a note of sweetness. Continue reading “National Cookbook Month: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine”

National Cookbook Month: Fried Eggplant with Sugar

by Joyce Goldstein

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.


Eggplants were brought to Spain and Italy by the Arabs, and Jewish cooks quickly took to the new food. Initially, they were treated as a fruit and served sweetened with sugar. In the Middle East, cooks have long preserved eggplant in a sugar syrup, and in Morocco, a sweet eggplant condiment is popular. This Sephardic dish from Turkey, which is ideal for Rosh Hashanah, reveals its Hispano-Arabic origin in its use of double cooking: the eggplant slices are fried, sprinkled with sugar and salt, and then baked. Since the slices are cooked through after the frying step, you could skip the baking step, sprinkle the fried slices with sugar and salt, and eat them as is.


Fried Eggplant with Sugar

Serves 6 to 8.

2 1/2 pounds globe eggplants

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs


Olive or sunflower oil for frying and drizzling


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish.

Peel the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into slices about ⅓ inch thick. Soak the slices in a bowl of lightly salted water for 15 minutes, then drain and squeeze dry. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches into a large, deep sauté pan and heat to 360°F. When the oil is hot, in batches, dip the eggplant slices into the eggs and slip them into the oil. Fry just until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then place in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.

When the bottom of the dish is completely covered, sprinkle the eggplant slices with sugar and salt. Add another layer of eggplant and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Repeat until all the eggplant slices have been used. Drizzle the surface with oil.

Bake until the eggplant is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm directly from the dish.

Fresh Turmeric and Ginger Pickle

by Niloufer Ichaporia King

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

Turmeric” by bungasirait is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the 1995, researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center applied for and received a patent on turmeric. An outraged Indian government immediately took steps to revoke the patent based on the effrontery of anyone trying to corner the market on a plant substance of Asian origin with thousands of years of known and demonstrated medicinal, culinary and economic use. That’s our friend, the turmeric plant, Curcuma longa, now acknowledged by Western science as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-coagulant and anti-oxidant, for both internal and external use. I can’t think of an Indian household that wouldn’t have turmeric as one of the staple spices used widely but in small amounts in food and medicine.

Perhaps without knowing it, American kitchens have long played host to turmeric, too, in its contribution to the bright yellow colour of hot dog-type mustard. In recent years, turmeric’s value has reached the mainstream, or at least one of its large tributaries, the health food and supplement market., and now, even large supermarket chains. This is a great boon to our house, since we no longer have to trek across town or cross the bridge to Berkeley to find fresh turmeric, which we cannot do without. Fresh turmeric rhizomes, an intense carroty orange inside, pale to brown outside depending on their maturity, are strong and medicinal tasting, but the recipe below for the easiest possible pickle made with nothing more than lime juice and salt transforms the eating of it from a health-minded duty to pure greedy joy. Eat it as an accent to fish or chicken, with rice and yogurt, or our household favourite, in teasingly small amounts with goat cheese or labneh and flat bread. Be sure to serve it with a very small spoon so that unprepared eaters don’t get carried away thinking they’re eating a carrot salad.


Fresh Turmeric and Ginger Pickle

from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking

Serves 15 to 30.


2 to 3 ounces fresh turmeric rhizomes, mango ginger, or a combination

1 to 2 tablespoons very finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1 to 3 fresh green or red chiles, finely chopped (optional)

Juice of at least 3 Key or Mexican limes or 1 Persian lime

Salt to taste


Peel the turmeric and cut into very thin slices. If the turmeric rhizomes are as thick as a carrot, quarter them lengthwise first. If you’re worried about yellow stains on your hands, wear rubber gloves.

Mix the turmeric slices in a small nonreactive bowl with the ginger, the chiles if you like, and lime juice and salt to taste. You will probably need the juice of at least 3 Key limes or 1 Persian lime. Remember, this is a pickle, and it is supposed to taste bold.

Let stand a good hour before serving. Stir the turmeric in the salt and lime brine from time to time, so that it pickles evenly. This pickle keeps well for more than a week, refrigerated in a glass jar.


by Christopher Bakken

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

Herbs for Greek Salad” by The Boreka Diary is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Excerpted from Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table.

If you’re driving down the mountain from Mitata to the secluded paradise of Kaladi Beach on Kythira, it’s best to fortify yourself in advance: there’s nothing at Kaladi but bees, blue water, and stone, and you must descend a small precipice to get there. Hit Restaurant Skandeia first. It’s located beside a dry riverbed and the ruins of the ancient port (destroyed by a massive earthquake and tsunami around 350 BC) and is shaded by huge poplar trees, beneath which you can devour mezedakia prepared by the ebullient Evantheia Protopsaltis.

Always on the lookout for local dishes I haven’t seen before, I spied something strange on Evantheia’s menu called maïntanosalata, or “parsley salad.”

In addition to composed salads built around a foundation of greens, cabbage, tomatoes, or other raw vegetables, many Greek “salates” are actually smears and may not contain vegetables at all: common offerings include melitzanasalata (an eggplant mash vaguely resembling baba ganoush, but more typically made with grilled eggplant and brightened with lemon, garlic, and parsley), tyrosalata (feta smashed with olive oil and often some hot pepper), and taramasalata (a fish roe spread held together with potato or, more commonly, yesterday’s dampened bread).

Maïntainosalata turned out to be one of these. And no wonder I’d never heard of it before, since Evantheia invented it. Like so many Greek dishes, it came into being at the intersection of health and frugality. When she visited her herb garden one day and saw that flat-leaf parsley had taken over the entire bed, Evantheia set to work deforesting the plot, extracting a mountain of parsley she didn’t want to go to waste. Her family suffers from genetic anemia and so she’s always scheming to get her kids to eat iron-rich dishes: on the spot, she found this delicious solution. Turns out parsley—the most popular herb in the Greek kitchen—is rich in iron, not to mention Vitamin C. Her kids never suspected that the meze she created, which they devoured with abandon, contained a dose of powerful maternal medicine.

8 cups stale bread, crusts removed, cubed

2 large bunches flat-leaf parsley, larger stems discarded

3 garlic cloves

2 small red onions, quartered

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Soak the bread in warm water for ten minutes, then drain and squeeze out most of the water. Place the parsley, onion, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely minced, and then add the bread slowly, with the blade running, until well combined. Add the vinegar and lemon juice along with a healthy pinch of salt and ground pepper.   Then, with the blade running on low, slowly add the olive oil (about half a cup) until the mixture loosens slightly. Serve on small plates with an extra drizzle of very good oil.

Christopher Bakken is Frederick F. Seely Professor of English at Allegheny College.  He is the author of three books of poetry: After Greece, Goat Funeral, and the forthcoming Eternity & Oranges. His poems, essays, and translations have been published widely in the U.S. and Europe.

Adzhika – Georgian Hot Pepper Relish

by Darra Goldstein

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

Megrelian ajika” by Georgia About/GeorgianRecipes.net (via Wikimedia Commons) is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Adzhika is Georgia’s lively answer to salsa. My most memorable taste occurred way back in 1989, when my husband and I were traveling through Georgia. Our friend Zaza wanted to show us the beautiful Black Sea coast and dramatic mountains of western Georgia. But the country was caught up in political unrest. As we approached the city of Zugdidi, a ragtag unit of fifty men armed with rifles stopped our car and demanded to know who we were. Somehow Zaza managed to convince them of our innocent intentions, and after half an hour they let us move on. But the Russians wanted to quash these self-styled militias. By the time we got to Khobi, where we planned to spend the night, armored tanks were rolling in, a fearsome display of Soviet force.

We finally arrived at the house of Zaza’s friends Guram and Gulisa. There we encountered a different sort of display—lavish Georgian hospitality, the ability to celebrate even in difficult times, a skill honed over thousands of years of foreign invasion and occupation. Gulisa regaled us with dishes rich with walnuts and redolent of herbs. Guram piled up skewers of grilled beef marinated in pomegranate juice, served with a generous dollop of adzhika on the side.

Even today, when I make this relish, I’m reminded of Georgian generosity, and of the Latarias’ beautiful home, which they were forced to abandon when civil war broke out. For me, a taste of this relish comes with a taste of history.

Hot Pepper Relish (Adzhika)

8 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large celery stalk, including leaves

¼ pound fresh hot red peppers, including seeds

1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh dill

1½ cups coarsely chopped cilantro

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

Using the pulse control of a food processor, grind the garlic slightly. Coarsely chop the celery, hot peppers, and red bell pepper and add them to the garlic. Pulse again. Add the chopped herbs and pulse to a medium coarseness. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and salt. Cover and let stand overnight before packing into jars. Either store in the refrigerator or process in a water bath for longer storage. This relish tastes best when allowed to sit for 3 days before serving.

Makes about 1 pint.

From The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia

Darra Goldstein is Willcox and Harriet Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams College and founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. She has consulted for the Council of Europe as part of an international group exploring ways in which food can be used to promote tolerance and diversity and is the author of a number of books, including A Taste of Russia and The Winter Vegetarian.

Comfort in a Bowl – Mustard Green and Pork Soup

by Linda Anusasananan

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.


On a cool night nothing comforts me more than a bowl of Mustard Green and Pork Soup. The hot broth is enriched with pork, garlic, and fresh ginger. Mustard greens transform the soup with a pronounced pungency that balances the pork.This simple soup sends warmth throughout my body and soothes my soul.With a scoop of hot rice, it turns into a whole meal in a bowl.

I find almost any variety or maturity of mustard green works, from leafy to broad stem varieties. Buy Chinese mustard greens at the farmers’ or Asian market. Or choose leafy varieties found at the supermarket.

Sometimes I embellish the soup with the addition of sliced carrots and chunks of tofu, or replace the pork with chicken. In almost any variation, it is a feel-good meal.


Mustard Green and Pork Soup

Hakka love mustard greens–fresh, salted, pickled, and preserved. This soup shows off the flavor power of fresh mustard greens. As the greens simmer in the broth, their mustard pungency leaches into the broth for distinctive character.

Makes 6 to 8 servings as part of a multi-course meal or 3 or 4 main dish servings.


6 cups chicken broth homemade or purchased

3 thin slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

8 ounces ground pork (see note)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

12 to 14 ounces mustard greens


1. In a 4-quart pan over high heat bring the broth, ginger, and crushed garlic cloves to a boil.

2. Mix the ground pork, minced garlic, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Drop about 1/2-inch lumps (about 1 teaspoon each) of the pork mixture into boiling broth. Return to a boil, cover and simmer, until the pork is no longer pink in center of thickest part (cut to test), 3 to 5 minutes. Skim off fat and discard.

3. Meanwhile, trim the tough stem ends off the mustard greens and discard. Cut the greens into pieces 2 to 3 long and about 1/2-inch wide, to make about 8 cups. Rinse and drain. When the pork is done, add the mustard greens, bring to a boil, and cook until bright green and tender crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls or a large serving bowl.

Note: For a richer soup, omit the ground pork, minced garlic, and cornstarch and replace with 1 1/2 pounds bite-sized chunks of bone-in pork neck or 12 ounces boneless pork butt, cut into 1/2 inch-chunks. Simmer, covered, until the meat is tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, before adding greens. Add a little water or more broth, if some of the broth has evaporated.

Recipe from page 26 of The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from around the World. For more information visit http://TheHakkaCookbook.com