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World’s Most Unexpected Table Manners

World’s Most Unexpected Table Manners


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Do's and don'ts for the international traveler that go way beyond keeping your elbows off the table.

France

Never cut the lettuce in salad because it's considered rude. Salads in France (and many other European countries) are meant to be folded up and eaten with a fork, not cut.

Mexico

Good news for the tardy! It is considered inappropriate to arrive early or on time in most social circumstances. Always aim to be about 30 minutes late.

Bulgaria

Don't bring yellow flowers to your host as a gift. In Bulgaria, they symbolize hatred.

England

Always eat your banana with a knife and fork. This custom dates back to the late 19th century, when a banana was viewed as an exotic treat.

Russia

Being disrespectful to bread (i.e. throwing it) is considered a sin.

Germany

In Germany, it is rude to cut potatoes with a knife. Instead, the Germans smash potatoes with their fork to allow more room for gravy.

Japan and Korea

Tipping after your meal has long been considered offensive to the Japanese, who think of getting tips as similar to begging. As more Westerners travel throughout Japan, though, this custom is becoming a little more lax.

Austria

iStock/webphotographeer

Make sure to make eye contact with every person you clink glasses with during toasts. If you don't, they're convinced you'll incur seven years of bad sex.

Morocco

You can throw bones or other inedible parts from your meal onto the table, if the table is covered with plastic.

Tanzania

In Tanzania, it is rude to drink beer straight from the bottle. The beer must be poured into a glass.

Italy

When it comes to pasta — and pasta only — don't wait for everyone to be served before eating; dig right in once you're served. For other dishes, you must wait until everyone receives their food.

France

When eating, it is always polite to have both hands visible. Otherwise, guests will assume you are playing with the legs of your dinner companions.

Egypt

Salting food is considered an insult in Egypt. The person cooking your meal intended for the food to taste like that.

Kagoro Tribe, Nigeria

Women aren't allowed to eat with a spoon.

Egypt

It's customary to keep pouring tea into a cup until it spills over into the saucer.

Afghanistan

Wikimedia/Zlerman

Only eat with your right hand. Guests eat first and are seated farthest from the door. If bread falls onto the floor, you should pick it up, kiss it, and then raise it to your forehead before putting it back own.

France

Never doggy bag your meals. Either eat all of it at the restaurant or leave it.

Mongolia

If offered vodka, first flick a few drops in the air, "into the wind" (to the side), then on the floor. Then, touch your forehead with your finger and drink.

Japan

Make sure you slurp your udon noodle soup — they consider it the best way to make sure you're getting all the flavors of the soup in every bite.

Russia

Drinking vodka is part of everyday life, and not drinking is actually offensive.


8 Unexpected Twists On the Classic S’More

It’s hard to think of a snack more directly associated with summertime camping trips than the s’more. Traditionally made by toasting a marshmallow, layering it on a store-bought graham cracker, adding a square of Hershey’s chocolate, and finishing it off with another graham cracker, this dessert thrives on its simplicity. That said, the combination of nutty graham crackers, sweet and fluffy marshmallow, and just-rich-enough chocolate hits a lot of flavor points beloved by high-end dessert makers, which led us to wonder if there are fancier spins on the s’more out there that both respect the treat’s humble origins and bring a touch of sophistication to the table. According to the professional chefs we consulted, there are at least eight excellent and not-too-difficult ways to upcycle this campfire classic.


10 Of The Food World’s Most Offensive Types

They say you are what you eat, and we’re alright with admitting that makes us all one big quinoa-loving, green juice-drinking society. But allow us to venture a little deeper and hypothesize that you are what you act like when you eat. Having spent a significant amount of time dining out while working as a food writer, I’ve noticed quite a fair number of individuals exhibit cringeworthy behavior that causes me to roll my eyes…or make me want to gauge them out altogether. Here below is a roundup of ten of the food world’s most offensive types, each witnessed firsthand over the past several years.

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1. The Chronic Postmater
You call yourself an artist, an entrepreneur and/or a venture capitalist. In any regard, you work from home (#WFH) every day. Being that you — naturally — never have any time to leave the workspace, you regularly delegate meaningless tasks, such as providing yourself with sustenance, to third-party services. Yes, Shake Shack is just three blocks away, but it’s only two clicks away. After all, you need those precious 15 minutes to glean inspiration.

2. The Endless Substituter
You love Cobb salads. Just without chicken, bacon or blue cheese. You instead request shrimp, ham and cheddar cheese, mixed together with kale. Omakase is your absolute favorite style of dining — so long as the chef serves exclusively fish flown in from Japan, no freshwater fish and uses exactly two dabs of wasabi under each piece of nigiri. Nothing screams “weekend!” to you like a bottomless mimosa brunch. Just please sub gin in for Champagne and hold the orange juice!

Soba noodles make for the perfect meal for gluten-free diners…until it’s revealed they contain gluten.

3. The “Gluten-Free” (Non-Celiac) Diner
No doctor has ever diagnosed you with any sort of dietary restriction, let alone Celiac Disease. All you remember is that slight feeling of fatigue that you felt during one traumatic night two years ago, hours after you ate a burger. It’s been bun-less burgers — and stern warnings to chefs and waiters alike — ever since. You’ve been enjoying soba noodles (which you believed to be “safe”) regularly for the duration of this time…until an astute friend points out that they’re made from a mixture of buckwheat and — gasp — wheat flour. You no longer enjoy soba noodles. You did always know you felt slightly fatigued after eating them, anyway.

4. The Email Abuser
You work at a large company that is partially involved with the food industry, though your job has no connection to it whatsoever. Sure, you’re technically an Associate Developer in the Technology Department at TripAdvisor, but that’s basically Head of Food Reviews. Heck, it might as well be CEO. Fire away an email to the city’s hottest restaurant and ask for an 8 p.m. reservation this Saturday night. Your email signature is bound to terrify them into submission. No go? No problem. Daddy(’s assistant) will take care of it. He is actually CEO.

5. The Habitual No-Show-er
Why make a reservation at one restaurant when you can make one at six of them, all for the same date and time? You’re not a fortune-teller — who could possibly know what your party will feel like eating a week-and-a-half in advance? This way, you can take a group vote an hour or so beforehand. You’ve heard that no-shows are a huge problem in the restaurant industry but — most importantly — there’s no way for any of this to be traced back to you, as you took great care in ensuring that each reservation was made under a different name and email address.

6. The Michelin-Star Counter
The month of November brings with it much anticipation — it’s Michelin-star season! You can’t sleep a wink the night before the announcements: not because you are affiliated with any restaurant, but because you’ll be busy the entire next day booking tables at newly minted establishments. You’ve accrued exactly 49 stars in your distinguished dining career (repeat visits not included, obviously) and your deepest fear of losing a star or two this year is confirmed when Jean-Georges is knocked down a tier. Damn you, JG! You have a sick fascination with taking the Michelin-star virginities of members of the opposite sex and especially revel in doing so on the first date.

NO! Why on earth is the tagline for Yelp Elite Squad “YES”?

7. The Elite Yelper
You frequently drop your Elite Yelper status in (frequently unrelated) conversation, reasoning with whomever will listen that you are looking to do your part in helping out small businesses — though a quick search reveals you bestow an average of 2.75 stars. You take pride in pointing out that you would never threaten an establishment with a poor rating. Casually muttering something about Yelp while the waitress is taking your order? Totally different.

8. The Social-Media Boaster
You frequently consume gimmicky items, such as deathly hot tortilla chips, for the sole purpose of garnering attention on social media, finding great joy in the ensuing communication from amazed friends. Should said friends be somewhat lacking, fear not — you have no issue with self-promotion via “accidentally” steering them towards footage of your big moment. Should there remain minimal traction, you delete all photographic and video evidence, quietly ashamed that the stunt didn’t meet your self-imposed threshold of relevance (most commonly measured in number of “likes”).

9. The “Owner”
You saturate your connections’ News Feeds with posts reminding them of your impending restaurant opening, along with messages imploring them to support the new venture. You strew phrases like “so much hard work,” “sleepless nights,” and “dream come true” throughout. You appeal to their curiosities while effectively causing them to feel clear senses of obligation. Neither the waiter nor the manager recognizes your name when friends ask excitedly about your whereabouts upon dining. And why would they? You’re only an exceedingly small minority investor. In fact, the extravagant meal one of them just paid for — complete with the magnum bottle of ’07 Cabernet sprung for solely to support you — just may have cost more than the total amount you invested.

10. The Self-Proclaimed “Connoisseur”
You cannot stand eating with Jared. The thought of a meal with Daniel repulses you. You refuse to ever dine out with Josh. You actively avoid scheduling dinner with Andrew. Why? Jared holds his fork right-handed and knife left-handed. Daniel mixes wasabi into his soy-sauce dish. Josh orders his steak well-done. Andrew often requests ketchup with his meat entrées. Luckily, you have other friends who actually know how to eat out properly. You’ll stick with their company, thank you very much.


9 War Cake

Continuing with another sweet dish&mdashpeople do love their desserts&mdashthat developed from rationing. Without ingredients like sugar, eggs, and milk, what was the home baker to do?

Home cooks got crafty and created a bunch of makeshift recipes for popular dishes, using ingredients like applesauce, molasses, or lard to stand in for the usual fats and sweeteners, and deploying lots of common spices to mask the taste.

There were several options for dessert that emerged from the rationing in WWII. Apple Brown Betty was a popular option as it used old or stale bread crumbs and maple syrup instead of sugar. Baked custards were also adapted, based on what items were being rationed that week.

War Cake or Ration Cake was a popular option as it required no eggs, milk, or butter. With only a few essential ingredients and some spices, this cake recipe was easy to make. It originated in Canada before making its way to the United States and Britain. Try making your own War Cake tonight&mdashhere&rsquos the recipe. Happy Baking!

Mix 2 cups sugar, 2 cups hot water, 3 tablespoons lard, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon each of cloves and cinnamon, and 1 package seedless raisins. Boil all ingredients together for 5 minutes and let cool. Then add 2-3 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved (in 1 tablespoon water). (You can also add 1 teaspoon baking powder.) Bake for one hour in a slow oven (about 300-325°). [2]


The Good, The Bad, and The Delicious: 20 Unexpected Literary Cookbooks

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, which means that many cooks in America are gearing up for a few solid days of cooking. (As one very poor chef once reminded us, Thanksgiving is a sham, but it’s a sham with yams. It’s a yam sham.) Many of those avid cookers and consumers of yams being also avid consumers of literature, I thought I’d find out how many literary cookbooks were out there in the world. The answer is: there are many. Some are predictable: there are Redwall cookbooks, Jane Austen-themed cookbooks, Little House on the Prairie cookbooks. There’s that Tequila Mockingbird book that everyone who works in the book world has received at least once as a gift (stop). Others are a little more puzzling: the A Confederacy of Dunces cookbook? Cooking with Anne McCaffrey? I don’t know why they exist, but I have to admit that I’m glad they do. For your holiday planning, or just your holiday amusement, I present an incomplete collection of unexpected literary cookbooks that you can buy and hold and spill hot cheese on.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles (2015)

In John Kennedy Toole’s iconic novel, Ignatius J. Reilly is never short of opinions about food or far away from his next bite. Whether issuing gibes such as “canned food is a perversion,” or taking a break from his literary ambitions with “an occasional cheese dip,” this lover of Lucky Dogs, café au lait, and wine cakes navigates 1960s New Orleans focused on gastronomical pursuits. . . . Dishes inspired by Ignatius’s favorites—macaroons and “toothsome” steak—as well as recipes based on supporting characters—Officer Mancuso’s Pork and Beans and Dr. Talc’s Bloody Marys—complement a wealth of fascinating detail about the epicurean side of the novel’s memorable settings. A guide to the D. H. Holmes Department Store’s legendary Chicken Salad, the likely offerings of the fictitious German’s Bakery, and an in-depth interview with the general manager of Lucky Dogs round out this delightful cookbook.

A Confederacy of Dunces is not a novel that makes me hungry, particularly, and most of the food described therein sounds . . . pretty bad. But the word “toothsome” should really come back in style.

The Bloomsbury Cookbook, Jans Ondaatje Rolls (2014)

Part cookbook, part social and cultural history, the book tells the story of the Bloomsbury Group with nearly 300 recipes, many from previously unpublished material by members such as Frances Partridge, Helen Anrep and David and Angelica Garnett, accompanied by paintings, photographs, quotations, letters and personal reminiscences.

Together they paint an intimate and astonishingly detailed portrait of the group, conjuring up the scents, colours and textures of breakfasts at Monk’s House, lunches at Charleston, tea in Tidmarsh, evening parties in Gordon Square and dinners in the south of France.

Again, I don’t exactly associate the Bloomsbury Group—Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Vanessa Bell, etc.—with fine dining (this is England, after all), but that said, I would like to have dinner parties like theirs.

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, Roald Dahl, Felicity Dahl, and Josie Fison (1997)

Who but Roald Dahl could think up such mouthwatering and deliciously disgusting foods as Lickable Wallpaper, Stink Bugs Eggs, and Eatable Pillows? Now theres a practical guide to making these and other delicacies featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Roald Dahl’s other books, with easy, step-by-step recipes that range from the delectable to the truly revolting. Quentin Blake’s illustrations combine with full-color photographs of the luscious results to perfectly capture Roald Dahls wicked sense of fun.

Cute—as long as we don’t have to swallow any of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Politics. . .

Cather’s Kitchens: Foodways in Literature and Life, Roger L. Welsch and Linda K. Welsch (2002)

Roger and Linda Welsch matched references from Willa Cather’s writing with recipes they collected from Cather family recipe files, from other period cookbooks, and from old-time ethnic cooks still living in the Bohemian tradition. Cather’s Kitchens comes as close as possible to the precise recipes Cather had in mind and memory as she wrote.

The first in the somewhat odd category of collections of writers’ personal recipes—as though their literary prowess should make us interested in copying their culinary habits. Maybe it’s because there’s something alluring about tasting the food that fueled the masterpieces, or maybe because our instinct to mythologize and lionize our literary heroes knows no actual bound.

Serve it Forth: Cooking With Anne McCaffrey, Anne McCaffrey (1996)

From the promotional copy:

What do the world’s most imaginative minds feast upon? Spiderfish Stew . . . Shrimp Anarchy . . . Surrealistic Fudge . . . Pa’s Peasant Soup . . . and Marvelous Morphed Meat. How do the world’s great science fiction and fantasy authors feed themselves when they’re not whipping up tales of wonder? What did they eat before they were famous-and what do they serve to their friends? Compiled and annotated by bestselling author Anne McCaffrey, Serve it Forth is an unparalleled collection of recipes submitted by the writers themselves, so you can eat like Patricia Anthony (The I’ve-Been-to-Brazil-I-Know-What-Black-Beans-Are Dip), David Gerrold (Death to the Enemies of the Revolution Chili), and Poul Anderson (The Great Pumpkin). Each wonderful, dunce-proof recipe is accompanied by personal notes from the author-chefs, as they guide you into the preparation of such repasts as: Sherried Walnut Cake by Lois McMaster Bujold, Pig by David Drake, Comforting Clam Chowder by Peter S. Beagle, Night of the Living Meatloaf by Allen Steele, How (and Why) to Dress and Prepare Texas Armadillo by Ardath Mayhar, Catfish and Red Meat Flavoring by Larry Niven and over 100 more!

This was the first of McCaffrey’s cookbooks—the second was Cooking Out of This World, also a compilation of submitted essays from other writers in the SFF community. The names of the dishes are deeply silly but you have to love that book cover.

Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale: Tolstoy’s Family Vegetarian Recipes Adapted For The Modern Kitchen, S. Pavlenko (2016)

From the promotional copy:

Leo Tolstoy was a trendsetter. He was one of the most important and prolific writers of his time—his novels, like Anna Karenina and War and Peace, are still being taught in schools and adapted for the screen. But he was also one of the first widely known vegetarians. Though a meat-eater early in his life, by the time he turned 50 he’d decided it was immoral for someone to kill on his behalf just so he could enjoy a slab of beef for lunch. He became an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but because of the time in which he lived it was up to him (and particularly his lovely wife, Sofia) to create vegan and vegetarian recipes that would both taste good and keep him healthy. Now, for the first time ever, Tolstoy’s mouth-watering, meat-free meals have been collected in Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale. This book features vegan and vegetarian recipes from Tolstoy’s wife. Sophia Tolstoy’s 1874 “Cookery Book,” which was compiled for her by her brother from her diaries, provides a rich tapestry of the Tolstoy family’s dining habits. The recipes range from homemade Macaroni and Cheese to Potatoes a la Maître D’Hôtel, with plenty of tasty options in between (including family specialties you can’t find anywhere else, such as Tolstoy’s Herbal Liqueur). Many of the original versions of the recipes lacked exact descriptions of ingredients and cooking times, but the recipes were edited by chef de cuisine at some of Moscow’s best fine-dining restaurants to insert the missing elements to make the meals you prepare as delicious as possible. So whether you’re looking for a modern revision on a classic or the original recipe right from the 1800s, you’re guaranteed to find a meal you’ll love.

Who knew? (Apparently the vegetarians in the Literary Hub office knew, but I did not.)

Dinner with Tennessee Williams: Recipes and Stories inspired by America’s Southern Playwright, Troy Gilbert and Chef Greg Picolo with Dr. W. Kenneth Holditch (2001)

From the promotional copy:

Each chapter is based on one of Williams’ plays and includes a short essay on food references within that play highlighted food related quotes from the dialogue a menu divined from the play and archived photographs from Williams’ life. With more than 80 recipes, fans will love the 50 full-color and black and white photos that showcase the recipes, locale, and history of this beloved American writer.

In case you love Tennessee Williams’s plays so much you’d like to eat them.

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, Alice B. Toklas (1954)

Long before Julia Child discovered French cooking, Alice B. Toklas was sampling local dishes, collecting recipes, and cooking for the writers, artists, and expats who lived in Paris between the wars. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wilder, Matisse, and Picasso shared meals at the home she kept with Gertrude Stein, who famously memorialized her in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, however, is her true memoir: a collection of traditional French recipes that predates Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This is of the most famous cookbooks of all time, for two main reasons: First, its proximity and connection to Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas—”the similarity of tone of the two books only deepens the mystery of who influenced whom,” Janet Malcolm wrote. Was Stein imitating Toklas when she wrote in Toklas’s voice in the Autobiography, or did she invent the voice, and did Toklas then imitate Stein’s invention when she wrote the Cook Book? It is impossible to say.” Second, that infamous recipe for Hashish Fudge (“which anyone could whip up on a rainy day”).

John Keats’s Porridge: Favorite Recipes of American Poets, ed. Victoria McCabe (1975)

The title of this cookbook makes me want to stroke it fondly on the head, but I’m not sure such a thing would be appreciated. Anyway, after all my stroking was done, I got curious about it, because Keats is . . . not American. Turns out it may be a reference to the Robert Browning poem “Popularity,” whose final stanza goes like this:

Hobbs hints blue,—Straight he turtle eats:
Nobbs prints blue,—claret crowns his cup:
Nokes outdares Stokes in azure feats,—
Both gorge. Who fished the murex up?
What porridge had John Keats?

Extremely meta for the book and also for this list.

The Barbara Pym Cookbook, Hilary Pym, Honor Wyatt (1988)

Straight from the kitchen of Barbara Pym, this winning cookbook delivers a delectable treat for readers who like their meals served with a generous helping of literary aplomb. Sharing favorite family recipes that Pym incorporated into her novels, The Barbara Pym Cookbook reveals how the author’s life intersected with those of her memorable characters. Inside you’ll find British classics such as steak and kidney pie, plum cake, sausage rolls, and toad-in-the-hole—dishes that Pym’s characters would often prepare for each other. Other treats, such as moussaka and risotto, reflect Pym’s fascination with Greece and Italy. Throughout, the recipes are interwoven with references to Pym’s novels Dulcie’s musings on “love apples” from No Fond Return of Love accompany directions for tomatoes à la Provençale, for instance. There are glimpses of Pym’s personal life, too, such as her description of kipper pâté for lunch with Philip Larkin. The Barbara Pym Cookbook is a must-have for both budding cooks and Pym aficionados.

If, like many Pym heroines, you are less than transcendent in the kitchen, you probably will not be improved by this cookbook (it’s English cuisine from the 50s, okay), but Pym herself is so transcendent on the page that you won’t be able to hold it against her.

The Boxcar Children Cookbook, Diane Blain, Kathy Tucker (1991)

The Boxcar Children love to cook! In all their adventures, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny take time out to make and eat great food. Now you can impress your family and friends with these delicious homestyle Boxcar favorites, including:

Mystery Ranch French Toast
Golden Horn Pizza
Benny’s #1 Favorite Sandwich
Aunt Jane’s Birthday Cake

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my memory the Boxcar Children lived in a boxcar in the 40s. Why should we be emulating their diets? Even after they move in with their rich grandfather, their food isn’t particularly inspiring. Oh well, mystery-solving fuel, I suppose.

Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook, Arnold Dobrin (1977)

From the table of contents:

BREAKFAST AND BREADS
Samuel Whisker’s Roly-Poly Pancakes
Timmy Willie’s Sunny Sunday Scrambled Eggs
Squirrel Nutkin’s Banana-Nut Loaf
Pigling and Pigwig’s Hot Rice Breakfast Treat
Johnny Town-Mouse’s Granola
Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod’s Wheat Germ Muffins

SANDWICHES
Alder-Rat Squeaker’s Homemade Peanut Butter
Little Pig Robinson’s Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Mr. Pricklepin’s Cream or Cottage Cheese Sandwiches
The Flopsy Bunnies’ Vegetable Sandwiches

VEGETABLES
Duchess and Ribbey’s Tomato-Cheese Pie
Little Black Rabbit’s Orange-Honey Carrots
Piggery Porcombe Green Beans and Mushrooms

This is actually adorable: of course Peter Rabbit would be eating what my extremely carnivorous father would refer to as “rabbit food.” One imagines that every culinary rabbit at least has a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook in their warren.

Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook, Theresa Carle-Sanders (2016)

Claire Beauchamp Randall’s incredible journey from postwar Britain to 18th-century Scotland and France is a feast for all five senses, and taste is no exception. From Claire’s first lonely bowl of porridge at Castle Leoch to the decadent roast beef served after her hasty wedding to Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, from gypsy stew and jam tarts to fried chicken and buttermilk drop biscuits, there are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.

Now professional chef and founder of OutlanderKitchen.com Theresa Carle-Sanders offers up this extraordinary cuisine for your table. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Yet amateur chefs need not fear: These doable, delectable recipes have been updated for today’s modern kitchens.

I thought these books were mostly about sex and time travel, but adding food to those two excellent items can only improve things.

Drinking with Dickens, Cedric Dickens (1981)

From the promotional copy:

Drinking with Dickens is a light-hearted sketch by Cedric Dickens, the great-grandson of Charles Dickens. There are vivid and memorable drinking scenes in Dickens’ books, and Drinking with Dickens abounds in recipes, many based on the drinks of Dickensian England and America: Bishop, Dog’s Nose, Hot Bowl Punch, Milk Punch, Mint Julep, Sherry Cobbler, Shrub and Negus, to mention only a few. Unbelievably it seems to be the first book on this vast and important subject, and Cedric has added some recipes and experiences of his own. The Victorian sources include a penny notebook dated 1859 and kept by “Auntie Georgie,” Georgina Hogarth, when she was looking after the younger children of Charles Dickens at Gads Hill. It starts with a recipe for Ginger Beer, a teetotal drink which calls for a quart of brandy! Then there is the catalogue for the sale of Gads Hill after Charles Dickens died which shows what was in the cellar at that time. This book transcends the generations. Cedric, with an eye for people and detail, describes a whole series of joyous episodes where drink, wisely taken, has been the catalyst.”

Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers, Rita Mae Brown (1999)

From the promotional copy:

What do you serve when a kitty is bored with all the old standbys? Since cookbooks are written by humans for humans, Sneaky Pie Brown has produced a cookbook with appeal for fastidious felines, including such treats as Veal Kidney and Salmon Pie.

Ever the thoughtful hostess, Miss Pie has also included plenty of recipes to accommodate the visiting human or finicky dog. There’s Mother’s Fried Chicken, Christmas Goose, Big Dog’s Delight, and, of course, Mrs. Hogendobber’s Orange Buns, the very thought of which makes Mrs. Murphy fans’ mouths water.

So yes, the author of Rubyfruit Jungle is also the author of a series of cozy mystery novels featuring (and co-written by) her cat, who is named Sneaky Pie Brown, who has apparently written this cookbook. (This is why she is the Queen of the Cat Cozy.) The recipes alternate between Human food and Cat food, so don’t have too many glasses of brandy and find yourself confusedly eating a mash of tuna and half-and-half.

Grandpa’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Cookbook, Judi Barrett, Ron Barrett

From the promotional copy:

The tiny town of Chewandswallow is known for its edible weather: soup rain, mashed potato snow, and hamburger windstorms. And now people everywhere can also enjoy the delectable dishes featured in the bestselling Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Grandpa has been hard at work editing and compiling his favorite recipes, and he’s ready to share.

However, this is Grandpa we’re talking about, so don’t expect a dry, straightforward collection. No, in addition to his thorough directions on how to make everything from Strawberry Tallcake to—oh yes, yes, yes—Meatballs, this spiral-bound book is filled with clever asides and scrumptious illustrations.

From the Foggy Pea Soup to the Hamburgers Heading Toward Earth, these legendary recipes are delicious and easy to follow—so you can re-create culinary scenes from a cherished classic (no umbrellas necessary).

For those who dream of cooking up . . . weather . . . in their kitchens.

Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook: A Useful and Improving Almanack of Information Including Astonishing Recipes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Terry Pratchett

From the promotional copy:

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach which just goes to show they’re as confused about anatomy as they gen’rally are about everything else, unless they’re talking about instructions on how to stab him, in which case a better way is up and under the ribcage. Anyway, we do not live in a perfect world and it is foresighted and useful for a young woman to become proficient in those arts which will keep a weak-willed man from straying. Learning to cook is also useful.

Nanny Ogg, one of Discworld’s most famous witches, here passes on some of her huge collection of tasty and interesting recipes. In addition to such dishes as Nobby’s Mum’s Distressed Pudding, Mrs. Ogg imparts her thoughts on such matters as life, death, and courtship, all in a refined style that should not offend the most delicate of sensibilities. Well, not much. Most of the recipes have been tried out on people who are still alive.

Ah well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Moomins Cookbook: An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine, Tove Jansson and Sami Malila

From the promotional copy:

Now readers can prepare a feast: Moomin-style! The Moomins Cookbook contains all the secrets to the tasty dishes prepared by the unflappable Moominmamma for the lovely little characters that live in Moominvalley. The recipes are a wonderful introduction to Finnish cuisine, presented by season, and include over 150 differest forest dishes ranging from salads, soups, fish, meat and desserts plus all the delicacies of Finnish life, from breakfast at the end of a sunny Nordic summer night to garden parties, campfires and birthday celebrations.

It is actually shocking how much this cookbook covers: it tells you how to make tea, offers nine different kinds of porridge/gruel, many, many different kinds of sandwiches, plus soups and pies and all sorts of goodies. It’s the only one on this list that makes me excited to have dinner later.

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook, Georgeanne Brennan and Frankie Frankeny (2006)

Ever wonder what green eggs and ham really taste like? They’re yummy. And now everyone can whip up a batch for themselves using this fabulous cookbook. Filled with simple, scrumptious, wacky recipes for such foods as Cat in the Hat Pudding and Moose Juice and Schlopp, this unique cookbook will have the whole family hamming it up in the kitchen. Each recipe is accompanied by the original verse that inspired it, and the pages are laminated to protect against getting splatters of Sneetch Salad, Oobleck, and Solla Sollew Stew.

It seems rather limited, is all I’m saying.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Cook Book, Monica Bayley, W. W. Denslow (1981)

Sample recipe: Cowardly Lion Quivering Gelatin

1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup ice water
1 3/4 cups orange juice
4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Soak gelatin in cold water until soft. Heat 1/2 cup water to boiling in a saucepan. Add gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add ice water, orange and lime juice and stir well. Add grated orange peel. Pour into a buttered quart-size mold. Chill until quivery.

If you don’t know what other recipes one might wring from L. Frank Baum’s legacy, well, apparently there are over 100 of them in this book.

BONUS: The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook, Marty Smith (1987)

This is a parody, originally published in the Portland alternative newspaper The Free Agent in March 1987. It begins: “We have recently been lucky enough to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Aparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write “a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever.” The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.” You’re welcome!

Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.

Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.


Episodes from 2002

This week we're off to a region of Italy only 20 minutes outside Venice—yet known and visited by few. The wonderful cuisine here could be called a fusion of "Northern Italian Soul" meets the Arabian Knights. The greatest varieties of wines in all of Italy come from the area, and the scenery is pretty good too. It's Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and our guide is none other than culinary explorer Fred Plotkin, author of the new book La Terra Fortunata. Fred shares a few undiscovered wine bargains from the region and a recipe for Polenta With Five Flavors, a dish containing most of the classic foods of central Friuli.

230: Nigella Lawson

This week it's talk of life, food, and Christmas dinner with television food star Nigella Lawson. Her show Nigella Bites (which also happens to be the title of her latest book,) is all about the sheer lustiness of food. Get ready to be a guest at your own party with holiday eats from Nigella. It's the perfect menu for entertaining, because everything is made in advance!

229: Miss Manners

If a dinner party place setting with more than a knife and fork causes angst, this week's show brings relief. Judith Martin, the high priestess of etiquette known as Miss Manners, has tips for maneuvering smoothly through the minefield of dining and entertaining at this most social of seasons. Her new book, Star Spangled Manners, defends American etiquette and takes a look at what sets it apart.

228: Kermit Lynch

Our guest this week is Kermit Lynch, a wine pioneer who's been bucking trends since he began importing wine from France in the 1970s. He's devoted his career to seeking out the small and unique in a world of big and uniform. His book, Adventures on the Wine Route, chronicles his life in wine.

192: Madhur Jaffrey

Her father wanted her to be a diplomat. She had other ideas. We'll hear the story of how two passions came together to define the life of legendary cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey. You've seen her in Merchant-Ivory films as well as her own productions, and her books introduced Americans to authentic Indian food. Her latest work, Madhur Jaffrey's Step-By-Step Cooking, takes readers from India to Thailand, Indonesia to Malaysia, and has her recipe for Lamb Cooked in Dark Almond Sauce.

227: Thanksgiving at Zuni Cafe

This year it's Thanksgiving big time with Judy Rodgers, one of America's most gifted chefs and author of The Zuni Café Cookbook. Judy's Thanksgiving Menu is modern but homey, and includes a turkey roasting technique designed to free up precious oven space and an interesting stuffing idea.

191: MIT's Media Lab

The kitchen of tomorrow is on scientists' drawing boards today at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, and we love what they're cooking up. Are you ready for a kitchen table that cleans itself and a coffeemaker in your car? We are! How about dial-a-smell that sends the tantalizing scent of tonight's dinner wafting over the telephone line to family and friends? It's the new kitchen science, and we've got the scoop.

189: Food Journalism

Award-winning journalist Russ Parsons, food editor of the Los Angeles Times, joins us to explain what goes into making a leading newspaper food section and shares three simple tips to make life in the kitchen easier. His new book, How to Read a French Fry, explores the science behind basic cooking techniques and includes recipes, such as his Seafood Rice Salad, that illustrate cooking principles.

222: American Restaurants

We're eating out in America with Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. Ruth will talk about what's driving chefs these days, how our eating habits are changing, and where in the entire country she would eat if given only two choices and they couldn't be famous restaurants. Gourmet's October 2002 issue is all about restaurants—from big-city, upscale, and grand to local, down-home, and cozy.

220: An American Wine Family

This week Gina Gallo, a third-generation member and first female winemaker in the famed Gallo family, joins us with tales of Ernest and Julio and growing up in the family business.

219: A Splendid Autumn Menu

Hints of fall are in the air, we want to get back into the kitchen and cook, and Sally Schneider, author of A New Way to Cook, is going with us. Sally's healthy, lusty food is what we want to eat right now, and her sensational Fall Menu for A Splendid Table is the best inspiration we know.

188: Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table

"We journey to Vietnam this week with our guide Mai Pham, author of Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. We'll hear about street life, street food, and home cooking as she tells of a country at peace for the first time in a century and of a cuisine that's perhaps the freshest and brightest in all of Southeast Asia. We can't wait to try Mai's recipe for Lemongrass Beef on Cool Noodles.

131: Beer Anthropology

We're talking with scholar, explorer, and beer anthropologist Alan Eames, author of The Secret Life of Beer. Alan has tracked down beers in Amazon jungles and Egyptian temples, and survived being held at gunpoint by guerrillas in his quest to discover beer's origins. He believes it's at the heart of nearly every culture and he claims beer is, and always was, about women! Jane and Michael Stern have found cheeseburger heaven in upstate Connecticut. Minimalist cook Mark Bittman has had a life-changing experience with chickpeas. He stops by to tell all and give us his recipe for Chickpea Soup with Sausage.

216: Politics of Farmers' Markets

This week we're taking a look at farmers' markets with award-winning author Deborah Madison, whose latest book is Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets. Deborah traveled America to determine if local markets can save the vanishing family farm and whether farmers can even make a living selling their harvest at these markets. She leaves us with a menu and recipes for a Late Summer Vegetarian Feast, just the thing right now to take advantage of summer's bounty.

187: The Ape and the Sushi Master

It's a real variety show this week with controversies over apes with Dr. Frans de Waal, one of the world's leading primatologists and author of The Ape and the Sushi Master. Dr. de Waal theorizes that apes are more like us than we think, and it's demonstrated in how they deal with food.

211: Aspen Food and Wine Classic

This week we're coming to you from the Food and Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen, Colorado—the annual extravaganza where food and wine lovers mingle with the culinary world's superstars and sample everything from outrageous champagnes to duck-liver lollipops.

186: The Conquest of Cold

The next time you open your refrigerator door, consider that, centuries ago, cold was a mystery—something seemingly without a source, often associated with danger and death, and altogether too fearsome to explore. Tom Shachtman, author of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, examines the subject that baffled ancient mankind before it brought conveniences like refrigeration and air conditioning that we take for granted today.

185: American Vintage

Just a generation ago American wines were dismissed by Europeans as pedestrian and of little consequence. Thirty years later things changed, and the best French wines began falling behind American varietals in international competitions. Our guest Paul Lukacs, author of American Vintage, traces the rise of American wine and tells the story of the famous blind tasting that started the revolution. From teetotalers to bootleggers, Paul introduces an array of interesting characters who contributed to America becoming a formidable leader in the wine industry.

184: Polar Exploration

Polar explorer Ann Bancroft, who recently skied 1,700 miles across Antarctica with her partner Liv Arnesen, joins us this week with tales from her third expedition. She also tells of a lavishly outfitted Arctic expedition from 150 years ago and the food that doomed the members to starvation and insanity.

209: Wedding Celebration Food

"This week British writer Elizabeth Luard, author of Sacred Food: Cooking for Spiritual Nourishment, takes a look at the traditional foods different cultures serve at significant life events. We'll focus on food for a wedding celebration as Elizabeth explains why the French favor cream puffs hit with a hammer over cake cut with a knife, why the British avoid greens at a nuptial feast, and why higher is better when it comes to the cake. Her recipe for Soupe de Mariage is pot-au-feu for a wedding party or any time.

183: Botany of Desire

This week it's an unusual take on botany and the issue of control—plants vs. humans—with our guest, journalist and gardener Michael Pollan. In his new book, The Botany of Desire, Michael claims that plants manipulate us by taking advantage of our basic desires. (Starts at 20:41.)

181: Thai Food Traditions

This week it's a look at Thai food traditions with Su-Mei Yu, chef/owner of Saffron Restaurant in San Diego and author of Cracking the Coconut: Classic Thai Home Cooking. Su Mei tells of the rather curious way she researched her heritage, and leaves us with etiquette tips for dining in Thai restaurants and a recipe for sticky rice.

182: Pike Place Market

This week it's a private tour of Seattle's Pike Place Market, the gold standard among farmers markets. Our guide is none other than award-winning chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas, who was just named Best Chef in the Northwest by the James Beard Foundation. Tom reveals some of his favorite market vendors and shares his recipe for Sake-Steamed Sockeye Salmon with Sake Butter. His new book, Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, is a celebration of the city's rich and diverse culinary heritage and wealth of fresh local ingredients.

205: Off The Shelf

Donna Hay, Australia's diva of divine dining, is credited with rescuing a generation of young people from the clutches of take-out and fast-food. Her latest book, Off the Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry, offers tips and recipes for fresh, quick, stylish, and flavorful meals using what you have on hand. Her recipe for Chili Fish with Sweet Lemon Salad is a fine example.

204: The American Cocktail

When Americans first mixed spirits and poured them over ice, they took a path with alcohol that set them apart from the rest of the world. William Grimes, restaurant critic for The New York Times and author of Straight Up Or On the Rocks, joins us with the story of how the cocktail came to be and why it has a place alongside other Americana like animated cartoons, comic strips, and jazz. He shares recipes for a Vesper (the James Bond martini) and a Champagne Cocktail.

178: Good Beer

This week it's out with Chardonnay and Cabernet and in with lager and ale, as we look at pairing food with beer. From grilled chicken with ale to chocolate cake with stout, bold-tasting premium beers are what to drink now. Stephen Beaumont, author of Premium Beer Drinker's Guide, joins us with tips for matching these unusual beers with what you're having for dinner tonight.

177: Fast Food Nation

Journalist Eric Schlosser, author of the New York Times best-seller Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, says the fast-food industry should be exposed to the same scrutiny given tobacco and drug companies. We'll take a look at what's become the All-American Meal — a take-out burger, fries and soda — and find out what's really in those "goodies" that will have us shelling out over $110 billion this year.

200: A Valentine Classic

If you've ever wondered who comes up with the messages printed on those little heart-shaped candies that appear every year at this time, tune in for the story behind a Valentine's Day classic from the New England Confectionary Company.

171: Offbeat Food

It's a look at the unusual, the unexpected, and the extraordinary aspects of food and food culture this week with Alan Ridenour, author of Offbeat Food: Adventures in an Omnivorous World. From how Betty Crocker has changed through the years to the dangers of Pez dispensers and a history of pie throwing, we promise an entertaining look at popular culture that we hope sparks a dinner table conversation or two.

174: A Spoonful of Ginger

Asian-food authority Nina Simonds joins us this week with remedies and relief for those of us suffering the miseries of a cold or flu. Nina, author of A Spoonful of Ginger and star of the public television special by the same name, tells us how the Chinese use food as medicine. Her recipe for Ginger-Scallion Root Tea is the elixir you'll want when sniffles and chills set in.

172: The Spice Coast

This week we're off to the Spice Coast of southern India where the air is fragrant with cinnamon and pepper, the people are gracious, and the food is grand. It's the family home of our guest, Maya Kaimal, author of Savoring the Spice Coast of India, and hospitality is a way of life. Maya's recipe for Steamed Mussels in Coconut Milk is an example of the exotic fare you'll encounter here.


Embracing the Spice of Life: Why Grow the World’s Hottest Pepper?

With a paintbrush and a whole lot of patience, the man we’re about to meet is pushing the definition of one vegetable to new extremes! You know his most famous creation by the name of Carolina Reaper— a mind-bendingly hot pepper. His story begs the question: what else is seen as impossible right now that our unique creativity and passions could make happen?

“Smokin’ Ed” Currie has turned his passion for breeding the hottest peppers in the world into a celebration of challenge and joy for himself and others. Now, people from all over the world send him videos of their experience with something he’s created. Perhaps this article will be just the thing to inspire you to dive in to what you love, too!

For the blistery, warty love of peppers

When Ed discovered his obsession with spice and breeding peppers, he turned it into an experiment of just how hot he could go. Coming in at 1,641,300 SHU (Scoville Heat Units), the Carolina Reaper is about 300 times hotter than a jalapeño. That’s definitely too hot for me, but it’s floored the hot pepper world. It’s the one to beat, the show stopper, and eye-waterer—the one that people all over the globe have filmed themselves trying.

But why make something like this? The answer will sound more familiar than you’d think!

At first, you may think that Ed’s passion for spice stems from some sort of masochistic drive. And while it very well might, what really keeps him breeding the world’s hottest peppers is that it’s a creative outlet unlike any other.

What else can peppers do? How will the baby of “this” pepper and “that” pepper turn out? Can they get even hotter? What’s the limit?!

In essence, Ed’s been combining traits of multiple peppers to get the hottest ones since the 1980s—it’s what he loves! So, let’s meet Ed and his peppers in this very spicy video, to see how adding spice to our lives can really pay off.

Want to plant a Carolina Reaper yourself? You can purchase seeds over at PuckerButt Pepper Company’s website! They also have great pepper-growing advice over there if you’d like to even try your hand at growing a pepper with a lower Scoville Heat Unit. Like, say, a bell pepper, that comes in at a whopping 0 SHU.

But if you do grow a Carolina Reaper, maybe don’t eat the whole thing like these folks did. Your body may find it difficult!

Big thanks to the late Great Big Story for creating such a wonderful short piece about Ed and his peppers. If you’d like to see more of their work, make sure you check them out on YouTube!

For more on exactly how Ed breeds the hottest of hot peppers, check out this awesome video from WIRED next!

Following that burning passion

What started as Ed’s attempt to home-grow healthier food over three decades ago has turned into hundreds of new varieties of a vegetable that we thought we knew so well. His pepper passion has entirely reframed the possibilities of spice, and it’s people like this—hyper focused on what they love—that help us all see untapped potential.

Is there something that you love to do? Something that others may see as a little strange or over the top? Keep doing it! The world needs your unique blend of knowledge, skill, and passion to keep moving forward in a positive direction, because the more people who are out there pursuing what they love, the more wonderful our world becomes. I mean, what’s a better world than one where everyone’s finding joy?

So, get out there! See where your burning passion can take you.

Playing with our food!

Now, let’s talk a little more about this whole changing food idea. Humans have been designing our food for as long as we’ve been around, combining traits from this and that to create plants that produce more, survive diseases better, or more popularly: just for their appearance.

Take carrots, for example. The humble orange carrot that we all know was actually never orange to begin with—it changed color because of politics of all things! Originally sporting vibrant colors of white, purple, and yellow, carrots changed their look in the 17th century when Dutch growers wanted to pay tribute to William of Orange, who led the struggle for Dutch independence. 2 (What an honor!)

Or you can look at watermelons—yep!

According to a very interesting study combining some of the earliest art we have and genetic analysis of plant material from the same time, it was discovered that the sweet, juicy, summer staple we love has been tracked to have tasted like cucumber when the ancient Egyptians munched on it. Still sounds tasty, but how did it get to where it is today?

We’ve always been playing with our food, and people like Ed who continue this tradition are helping connect us all back to our roots just a bit more. Fruits and vegetables come in all shapes and sizes—varieties that you never would have thought existed! We’ve all become so used to thinking that “this is how a tomato looks” or “this is how a cucumber needs to look” that a lot of us haven’t discovered the phenomenal opportunities we have for creative exploration within each plant family.

The world’s always open to new possibilities, and as always, my friend, I hope you do the same.

If you’d like to discover some other fun ways people are testing what plants can really do, make sure you check out these articles from our archive next!

This Tree Can Grow 40 Different Fruits!

Today on EWC we take a look at a pretty funky topic: Sam Van Aken's Tree of 40 Fruits! This tree grows not one, but (you guessed it) 40 different varieties of stone fruit! How amazing! But how could this be? Read more to find out!

How to Grow Your Own Bowls, Lamps, and Baskets!

Can we seriously grow everything we need in our backyard? To explore this question, on this edition of Saturday's Around the World we're traveling to an enchanting land to meet a woman who can transform plants into almost any object you desire!

Introducing The Vegetable Orchestra!

Have you ever wandered through the produce section and thought to yourself "Look at all these instruments!" Meet The Vegetable Orchestra, a group of musicians who aren't afraid to play with their food and create wonder for us all!

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Golden Rules

These rules may seem obvious, but times change, and while it is now ok to politely ask someone to pass the potatoes, it was once considered a faux pas to ask someone to pass the salt. Luckily, most of the golden rules of table etiquette are really based on being a considerate guest and companion, so they ought to be a little easier to figure out.

One such consideration is to chew with the mouth closed, and only talk with an empty mouth. While the bread with whipped butter and onion ash may look incredible when served, it’s not so attractive part-masticated, so keep it hidden.

Napkins are for knees, not for collars, nor even just for decoration. After being used they should be left on the table in a heap to make it clear that they are soiled and need to be washed.

Never use personal cutlery for communal bowls, and likewise, dipping a pre-bitten item (or any item for that matter) in a communal sauce is likely to make the other guests feel queasy. Transferring foods or sauces from the communal dish with the serving implements provided will keep everyone happy.

Additionally, as David Thomas points out, it is very rude to use a device at the table, or even to put a device on the table nearby. A beautifully prepared meal is a chance to engage in scintillating conversation with fellow guests – definitely not the right moment to Instagram the pudding.


The yum cha rules you need to know

From finishing every grain of rice in the bowl to knocking on the table, these etiquettes have been passed down through generations.

As a born and bred Hong-Konger, going to yum cha with my family every Sunday is an important tradition that has lasted many generations. Here, stories old and new are recounted over a table full of bamboo baskets that hold a variety of dim sum &ndash small bites that encompass everything from delicately translucent prawn dumplings and silky rice rolls to molten lava custard buns and sweet roasted pork buns.

Literally meaning &lsquodrink tea&rsquo in Cantonese, yum cha is as common a meal in Hong Kong as coffee and toast in Western culture, where Chinese tea is enjoyed with dim sum at traditional tea houses. Dating back to ancient China, teahouses have long been a place of rest and conversations for the common people.

After World War Two, new immigrants from China brought yum cha culture with them, often becoming a regular routine between family and friends, and still now it remains an important part of Hong Kong society. Though it is a Cantonese cuisine originating from China&rsquos Guangdong province, Hong Kong remains one of the best places in the world for authentic yum cha food and atmosphere.

Yum cha is a group activity that involves everyone around the table. As it&rsquos centred on sharing, there are certain things to bear in mind when you&rsquore being served or serving others. My grandmother, the eldest in our weekly yum cha gathering, has always been quick to straighten out everyone&rsquos table manners. A few rules that she frequently mentions include finishing the last grain of rice in the bowl so a future spouse&rsquos skin will resemble the smoothness of the clean bowl and to never stick chopsticks straight down into a bowl of rice because it resembles incense for the dead and will bring bad luck. She also reminds us to never bang our chopsticks on the bowl for fun because that was what beggars used to do for attention and is thus believed to bring poverty to the family.

To the uninitiated, these rules may seem random. But they are etiquettes that have been passed down from one generation to another through anecdotes that trace all the way back to ancient China.

One of my favourite examples relates to flying elephants. In Chinese chess, or Xiangqi, the two opposing sides are divided by a river, and the goal of the game is to move across the board and capture your opponent&rsquos king piece. As a rule, the pieces labelled elephant or xiang play a defensive role and are not allowed to cross the river into the opponent&rsquos side.

Just like the elephants in Chinese chess, I was taught from a young age that at the yum cha table you are not supposed to &lsquocross the river&rsquo and go beyond your reach for dishes that are placed further away or in front of someone sitting opposite you. It is considered rude and undesirable behaviour at the table. Instead you should wait until the dish is placed in front of you or ask someone to pass it. That is also why, whenever I did occasionally forget the rule, my grandmother would tell me not to &lsquo飛象過河&rsquo, the neat four words that describe an elephant flying across the river and a reminder to stay within my reach.

While my family and I enjoy a few rounds of dim sum and catch up on stories from the past week, Chinese tea makes for the perfect drink to sip on and help cut through the oiliness of the food. To begin every meal, the task falls on me, the younger generation, to order and serve the Pu-erh tea my family likes, then make sure everybody&rsquos cups are filled throughout the meal. My grandmother, who has spent many years working at a local teahouse, will knock on the table as a way of signalling thanks to the person who poured her drink. And the story behind this is one that many locals, including myself, will have heard many times before.

According to legend, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty once visited a town in China dressed as a civilian, accompanied by several staff as security. The group decided to go to a teahouse to yum cha, and the emperor took a teapot and poured his staff some tea. The staff were terrified, but could not kneel to thank the emperor for fear of breaking his cover. Instead, they had a lightbulb moment, and knocked on the table three times with three fingers curled to signify kneeling three times as gratitude.

Since then, the ritual has been well noted in modern literature, such as in Kung Fu Tea Dialogue (功夫茶話) by Cao Peng, as a way to thank someone during yum cha without interrupting the conversation or talking with a full mouth. Cao also noted that the gesture means both saying yes to more tea, as well as gratitude.

Unfortunately, the possibility of this story being historically accurate is rather low, according Dr Siu Yan-ho, a lecturer in the Department of Chinese at Hong Kong&rsquos Lingnan University.

&ldquoThe chance of the Qianlong Emperor visiting the society in civilian clothing was not high. The official diary of the emperor, as well as other related historic records in the era, are considered very well preserved, but there is currently no record of him doing such a thing,&rdquo he explained.

However, an alternative source for the tradition comes from Xu Jie-Xun in his book Han Dynasty&rsquos Folk Customs (汉族民间风俗). He explains that during banquets in the Tang and Song Dynasties, guests had to sing a song for each round of drinks while the listeners created a beat for the singer. Without proper percussion instruments on hand, people would instead knock their fingers on the table, known in Chinese as ji-jie (擊節). Although the custom of singing at banquets has faded away, knocking on wood has become a sign of thanks and encouragement used now solely for tea-pouring. The meaning of the Chinese term ji-jie also transformed from &lsquocreating a beat&rsquo into &lsquoknocking on the table&rsquo.

There are different ways to knock, depending on your relationship with the person pouring the tea. To elders, you should knock with a closed fist, to symbolise prostration and admiration. Between people of the same generation, knock with your index and middle fingers, much like cupping one fist as a sign of respect. Towards younger people, as my grandmother would do to me, just a single finger rap is needed as a nod of thanks.

We drink so much tea that we usually need to refill the single teapot on the table every half hour or so. Whenever we need the wait staff to top up the pots with hot water, we know to leave the lid of the teapot open and the lid balanced on the handle as a cue. This move is done for the wait staff&rsquos sake, so they don&rsquot have to check on the pots or be waved down &ndash but what started this is said to be far more than just convenience.

According to Siu, the origin legend has been long passed down through Chinese families as a fun anecdote. &ldquoThe story goes, back in the late Qing Dynasty, there was a man who was the nephew of a powerful palace, and who was often avoided by civilians in fear of being bullied,&rdquo Siu explained. &ldquoOne day, he went to a teahouse after a big loss at the bird-fighting ring, and decided to set up a scam to get his money back. He took an empty tea pot and placed his bird into it. The waiter came to fill up the pot, but once he opened the lid, the bird escaped and flew away. The man then began to throw a fit, demanding compensation. Luckily, a martial arts master intervened and dissolved the situation, but ever since that day, the teahouse owner made a rule that customers must open the teapot lid to show that it needs filling up.&rdquo

Another version was told to me by Mr Lam, who works at iconic teahouse Lin Heung Kui in Sheung Wan, in which the scalding tea killed the rich man&rsquos bird in the tea pot, hence the rule to avoid future compensation. Thus began this tradition of a silent symbol, gladly adopted by the industry and diners alike, and passed down through generations for the sake of first transparency, then efficiency.

Nowadays, hot water in insulated pots is usually available on each table so that diners can top up the tea pots themselves. But even now during our weekly yum cha sessions, my family will still leave the lid balanced on the handle of an empty tea pot, even as we refill the tea pot ourselves, and continue to teach younger family members the stories behind the table manners and rules.

So next time you&rsquore heading to yum cha in Hong Kong, be sure to knock on wood as a sign of thanks to the tea-pourer, think of the flying elephant before reaching for food, and ask a local about the many fun tales of Chinese table manners.

The Ritual of Eating is a BBC Travel series that explores interesting culinary rituals and food etiquette around the world.

Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


For the love of mystery meats!

Spam may not be the most appetizing food in the world for many, but it sits in a cultural pantheon of beloved meat dishes beside hotdogs, braunschweiger, head cheese, and haggis. Despite its reputation, though, it’s actually made of just six ingredients: pork shoulder (once considered an undesirable part of the hog), water, salt, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate.

Like so many dishes that don’t employ the “finest cuts” of meat, Spam’s cultural significance didn’t come from the upper crust of society. Instead, it was people using what they had in difficult times to survive, and making something delicious out of the ingredients at hand.

Spam was first released by Hormel Foods in 1937, a nd it spread around the world as it journeyed with soldiers during World War II to army bases and places devastated by war. As it became a staple source of meat, this ever-so-American product married with local dishes and culinary tradition, taking on an international flare all its own.

So, it’s high time we took a look at some of these extraordinary ways people ha ve taken Spam to new cultural and culinary levels, don’t you think!

To take us on the adventure, we join up with Beryl Shereshewsky on her remarkable journey to create a dish from every country around the world! This time, she’s exploring the world through the lens of Spam!

‌If you want to travel the world of food from the comfort of your home, check out more from Beryl Shereshewsky over on YouTube! Her channel has quickly become one of my favorites.

Oh, have you ever wondered why those annoying, endless emails are c alled “spam”? Well, it’s a strange story that involves the comedy troupe Monty Python, Spam, and of course, weird internet culture. You can read all about it here!

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.” —Guy Fieri

Okay, so I promised I’d get around to making a connection between Spam and our shared humanity, and I think that quote from Guy Fieri (which also feels fitting here) sums it up. Food is universal. Regardless of where we are in the world, what we eat is a celebration of who we are, our culture, and our humanity. Beloved dishes often come with stories, even if sometimes those stories are difficult.

Every plate tells a tale of its own. Whether it’s how the food got there, how the recipe was passed down, or the circumstances that brought the dish to life. What could be more human than sharing a meal, telling a story, and reflecting on our history?!

If you want a few more beloved food storie s to dig into, here are th ree of my favorites!

To Chase a Cheese

The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival might be one of the strangest annual events in the world. This is what happens when thousands of people cram onto a hillside to watch brave souls chase a wheel of cheese down an almost vertical incline.

Mole Poblano Asuncion: The Sauce Made with 3 Generations of Love

What tastes like home to you? When we're far from home, food can bring us comfort and make us feel a little less homesick. The three generations of women at Mole Poblano Asuncion are bringing the flavors of Mexico to those who miss it most in New York City. Here's their remarkable story!

Explore the Universe in Your Coffee Cup

Your cup of coffee contains the forces that keep the universe in motion! It's a great reminder of how being a lifelong learner makes the world more incredible!

Maybe you’re inspired to make a beloved dish from your family recipe book, or perhaps, try out one of these Spam delicacies. Either way, the next time you dig into your favorite dish, pause and take a minute to think about how all those ingredients made their way there. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself even more connected to the human story we all share!

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11 Fine-Dining Etiquette Rules You've Probably Broken Your Whole Life

While restaurant etiquette standards have loosened in recent decades, formal dining conduct is still taught at finishing schools and etiquette classes, and they&aposre honored at many fine-dining establishments in both Europe and America.

If you&aposve ever been nervous about where to put your napkin on your lap, or how to excuse yourself to use the restroom (first rule of the restroom: never talk about the restroom), you may find this article useful. We attended an abbreviated etiquette course thrown by Uber Eats with expert Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette and The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program, and we were scandalized by what we learned. Meier, who trained in London under a former member of The Royal Household of the Queen and served as a consultant for Downtown Abbey, taught us a few rules of formal dining that you can follow even if you&aposre hosting in your own home, serving delivery that you are trying to pass off as your own cooking.

Below, find the unexpected fine-dining etiquette you probably haven&apost been following.



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