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The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #69: The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #69: The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

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In 1898, the United States Department of Agriculture created a special department of men, called “Agriculture Explorers,” to travel the globe searching for new food crops to bring back for farmers to grow in the U.S. These men introduced exotic specimens like the mango, the avocado, and the date. In 1900, the USDA sent plant explorer, Walter Swingle, to Algeria to study the date. As Swingle took temperature readings and soil temperature, he realized that the conditions were very much like those in California’s hot, arid Coachella Valley, sometimes referred to as the American Sahara. In order to market this new fruit and promote the region, date growers in the Coachella Valley began capitalizing on the exotic imagery and fantasy many Americans associated with the Middle East. During the 1950s date shops dotted the highway, attracting tourists. There was Pyramid Date shop where you could purchase your dates in a pyramid. Sniff’s Exotic Date Garden set up a tent like those used by nomadic tribes of the Sahara. One of the most well known date shops that still exists today is Shields Date Garden, established in 1924. Floyd Shields lured in customers with his lecture and slide show titled, “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”

This story was produced in collaboration with Lisa Morehouse. Check out more stories from Lisa and her California Foodways project.

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood – Spring 2017

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood – Spring 2017

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Dear Friends,

The last time we sent you Notes From The Kitchen Sisterhood we were urging you to vote. It’s a whole new ballgame now with arts, culture, climate, healthcare, immigrants all threatened and the mother of all bombs bursting in air. All around us storytellers, artists, organizers, teachers, librarians, athletes, scientists are stepping up, rising to this moment. We wanted to share a few things from our world and the world of those we admire.

On the homefront, The Kitchen Sisters have a bit of a Trifecta at the moment and now we need to ask for your vote.

Our podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present (until recently known as Fugitive Waves)was just nominated for a Webby Award for best documentary podcast. Please help us claim the title. Vote here, vote now!

We are also thrilled to say that we have been nominated for a 2017 James Beard Award for our latest season of NPR stories, Hidden Kitchens: Kimchi Diplomacy: War and Peace and Food.

And our TED Talk about Wall Streetthe self-schooled San Quentin inmate and stock market savant is now online. Take a look.

Forward ever,

The Kitchen Sisters
Davia & Nikki

Events we are going to / wish we were going to:

The Unplugged Soul: A Conference on the Podcast. The Kitchen Sisters, Benjamen Walker, Christopher Lydon, Jeff Emtman and a slew of other podcasters. April 14-15, Heyman Center, Columbia University.

Here and Home: A retrospective of the work of California photographer Larry Sultan. April 15-July 23, SFMOMA

Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit of Mount Everest and kayak the Grand Canyon, in conversation with Davia about his book, No Barriers, May 2, Lighthouse for the Blind, SF

Fake News Room: A response to Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s 1983 exhibition “Newsroom.” Artists include Jason Fulford, Jim Goldberg and Dru Donovan, as well as The Kitchen Sisters. Open now through April 29 at the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco

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What we’re watching:

Mifune, directed by Stephen Okazaki

I Called Him Morgan, directed by Kasper Collin. The jazz tragedy of Lee Morgan, exquisitely rendered.

An Inconvenient Sequel. Al Gore’s climate change sequel. Truth to Power.

Century of Self, Adam Curtis’ 2002 BBC documentary.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

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What we’re making:

This year, we are embarking on a new NPR/podcast series called The Keepers–activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators, historians–keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections that they keep. Guardians of history, large and small. Protectors of the free flow of ideas and information. People afflicted with what French philosopher Jacques Derrida called “Archive Fever.”

We welcome your tips and suggestions for who and what needs chronicling.

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What we’re reading:

Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

True South by Jon Else

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

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What we’re cooking:

Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge. A people’s history of the modern South set on farms, in kitchens and at tables.

King Solomon’s Table by Joan Nathan.

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet by Adrian Miller. African Americans who fed the First Families, from Washington to Obama.

Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt

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Music we’re spinning:

Save the Country by Laura Nyro.

We recently attended the SF Symphony Pride concert, a staggering night of LGBTQ music from Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, Stephen Sondheim and more. What got us most was was when conductor Michael Tilson Thomas accompanied Audra McDonald singing Laura Nyro’s barnburner Save the Country. It is our new national anthem.

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Podcasts we’re pumping:

RadioPublic podcast app. Free podcasts!

S-Town from Serial and This American Life. You know you wanna hear it.

The many splendored podcasts from the Radiotopia collective

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Citizens we’re admiring:

Russ Kickinvestigative archivist from Arizona and founder of the Memory Hole. Russ finds and preserves documents the government tries to keep hidden. A keeper.

Magnus Toren runs the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur that has been closed since mid-February after Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge into Big Sur was damaged due to relentless winter rains. They’re now raising funds to open The Henry Miller Library in the Barnyard in Carmel, bringing Big Sur to “town.” They could use your support.

Years ago we recorded Brian Eno talking about the weekly Tuesday “Sing” he holds with his friends–not professional musicians, just pals, gathered standing around a table, singing a capella for a few hours. Times like these call for communal singing. As Brian says, “Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call ‘civilizational benefits.’ When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community.”

Graffiti artists in Ho Chi Minh City Pushing Back Against Official Censorship. “For many in Vietnam, the spray can is a tool of rebellion—illicit spray-painting is a way of defying restrictions in an authoritarian country where artists must have their work approved before exhibitions, shows are routinely shut down, and works deemed controversial are replaced by a black ‘X’ on gallery walls.”

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Subscribe to our Webby Award nominated podcast

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #66 – Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Hidden Kitchen

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #66 – Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Hidden Kitchen

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Niloufer Ichaporia King lives in a house with three kitchens. She prowls through six farmer’s markets a week, at least, in search of unusual greens, roots and seeds, and traditional food plants from every immigrant culture. She is an anthropologist, a kitchen botanist, a one-of-a-kind cook, a Parsi from Bombay living in San Francisco, and the author of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking.

Niloufer is known for her ritual celebrations of Parsi New Year on the first day of Spring, when she creates an elaborate ceremonial meal based on the auspicious foods and traditions of her vanishing culture. The Parsi culture is some 3,000 years old and goes back from India to Persia. It’s estimated that there are now only 75,000 Parsis in the world. The prediction is that by 2020 the numbers will have dropped to 25,000.

This story also features writer Bharati Mukherjee, who passed away this last year, sharing her memories of the forbidden Bengali kitchen of her girlhood, with its four cooks and intricate rules of food preparation. And Harvard Professor Homi Bhabha, born in Mumbai to a Parsi family, who talks about auspicious lentils and the birth of his son.

RECIPES:

New Year’s Milk Shake (Falooda)

Niloufer Ichaporia King’s falooda, featuring basil seeds, rosewater, milk and vanilla ice cream.

Faludeh in Iran is a frozen dessert of wheat-starch noodles in a pre-scented syrup. Falooda in northern India is a dish of kulfi (rich ice cream) and wheat-starch noodles. Falooda in Bombay is a glorious milk-shakey affair in a tall glass. At the bottom, there’s a layer of soaked basil (Ocimum basilicum) seeds, tukhmuriya ni biya, with a slippery-crunchy texture that’s like nothing else. On top of the tukhmuriya ni biya is a layer of translucent noodles made of wheat starch. Both of these layers are seen through intense pink rose syrup, although amber-colored saffron syrup is an option. Milk appears to float over this foundation without disturbing it. For extra luxury, there might be a scoop of vanilla ice cream or kulfi. To eat the Falooda, you stir everything up with a long spoon.

Falooda is supposed to be eaten on March 21, Navroz, the old Persian New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it or eat it for the remaining 364 days.

The best places to find Falooda outside someone’s house is in Bombay’s beloved Irani-run restaurants, often named after British or Iranian royals. Rustom Jeejeebhoy, fountainhead of Parsi lore, used to tantalize me by describing the delights of his favorite Irani restaurant, the King Victoria, hidden away on the edges of the mill district, but he never found himself able to take me there or even come up with the address.

To make Falooda in the United States you need two common things, milk and ice cream, and two slightly more esoteric items, rose syrup and basil seeds. Rose syrup can be found in Indian or Middle Eastern groceries. I suggest the Middle Eastern brands, for a truer rose flavor. For total extravagance, look for exquisite organic rose syrup from Italy. Read the labels to make sure you’re not getting an entirely synthetic product. The basil seeds come from Indian or Southeast Asian markets. Buy the Southeast Asian ones; the Indian basil seeds are often sandy.

At Chez Panisse March 21 dinners, we serve Falooda in small glasses as a dessert drink. Instead of ice cream we use ice milk, which keeps things refreshing. Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon basil seeds

2 cups (or more) water

3 cups (about) chilled whole milk or half-and-half

1/2 cup (about) rose syrup

1/2 cup (about) vanilla ice cream or ice milk

• Soak the seeds in the water for 1 to 3 hours. A tablespoon doesn’t seem like much, but the seeds swell up enormously.

• Line up your glasses, tall or short. First put a spoonful of soaked seeds in the bottom of each glass, 2 teaspoons or so for small glasses, 1 to 2 tablespoons for tall glasses. Then pour in the milk to within an inch of the top of the glass. Follow that with 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of rose syrup, depending on the sweetness of the rose syrup, the size of the glass, and your taste. It doesn’t seem likely, but specific gravity will cause the syrup to sink below the milk in a neat band. If you do it the other way around, the syrup and milk get mixed and the dramatic banded effect is lost. Last, put a little ice cream in every glass.

Excerpted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King.

Eggs on Potato Chips (Wafer Par Ida)

“For years I thought that putting eggs on wafers, as we call potato chips in India, was a joke recipe, a loony fantasy or a way of lampooning our Parsi love affair with eggs. Then I tried it. In an ideal universe, your potato chips are homemade or fresh from one of Bombay’s several potato-chips works, where a vat of oil is always on the bubble or use the best of the commercial ones available to you. They shouldn’t be too brown or the dish will taste burnt.” — Niloufer Ichaporia King

Ingredients

1 tablespoon ghee, clarified butter, or mixture of vegetable oil and butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic paste (optional)

2 to 3 hot green chiles, finely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

4 good handfuls of plain potato chips from a just-opened bag

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon (about) water

• Heat the ghee over medium heat in a sturdy medium skillet, preferably cast iron. Add the onion and let it soften, stirring occasionally, a few minutes. Before it browns, add the paste if you like and the green chiles, and as soon as the mixture looks cooked, add the fresh coriander. Crumble in the potato chips, tossing the contents of the pan to combine them thoroughly. Make nests in the surface of the mixture—they won’t be perfect hollows—and crack an egg into each. Pour a tablespoon or so of water around the edges of the pan to generate some steam, cover the skillet tightly, and let the eggs cook just long enough to set the whites without turning the chips soggy.

• Turn out onto waiting plates.

Serves 2 to 4.

Note: One of my authorities on Parsi food, Firoza Kanga, says, “Oh yes, wafer par ida. Delicious. Next time, try it with a little bit of cream poured over the chips before the eggs go on.”

Excerpted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King.

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #64: Kimchi Diplomacy

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #64: Kimchi Diplomacy

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Kimchi in space. The Kimchi Bus. Government-sponsored chefs and restaurants spreading the word of Kimchi around the globe. South Korea is one of the nations most involved in branding itself through its food, using food as a part of it’s “soft power.” It’s called “Gastrodiplomacy” — the use of food as a diplomatic tool to help resolve conflicts and foster connections between nations.

“Kimchi is like air in Korea,” says Hyunjoo Albrecht, a San Francisco-based chef and owner of Sinto Gourmet who grew up near the DMZ border between South and North Korea. 1.5 million tons of kimchi are eaten each year in Korea and there are hundreds of different varieties. “The government gave financial support to some of the Korean restaurants in US,” says Hyunjoo. “They want more people outside Korea to eat more Korean food.”

Si-Hyeon Ryu is a chef and writer from South Korea who, with support from the government, has traveled in The Kimchi Bus to more than 34 countries cooking traditional Korean food and spreading his love of kimchi. “People on the street they know just about North and South Korea,” he says, but not much about Korean cuisine. “If I explain about kimchi they will understand about Korea.”

Astronaut Soyeon Yi, Korea’s first astronaut, describes the Korean government’s efforts to invent kimchi for space travel — not an easy task. Soyeon Yi prepared a special Korean meal for her Russian comrades in space. “Having kimchi in space, you are far from your home planet,” she says. “When you eat your own traditional food it makes you feel emotionally supported. I can feel my home.”

Read more.

The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

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Manga, the ubiquitous Japanese comic books written on just about every subject—sports, music, sex, shooting pool—represent about 40% of all books published in Japan. In recent decades ‘food manga’ has exploded. Stories of food and conflict and competition abound in mangas like Soldier of Food, Food Wars, Cooking Papa…The Kitchen Sisters Present—Hidden Kitchens: War and Food and Manga.

“Manga is a cradle to grave phenomenon,” says Deb Aoki, writer for Anime network and Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a visual storytelling medium that people enjoy from the day they first start reading or enjoying pictures to the day they die.

“There’s this Japanese concept, Otaku,” says Sylvan Mishima Brackett, chef and owner of Rintaro Restaurant in San Francisco. “Otaku is a deep, passionate enthusiasm about some obscure part of the universe. Manga tend to cluster around very specific Otaku. It’s a place where people can brush up on the hyper-specifics of their enthusiasms.”

“Food manga, gurume manga, gourmet manga, is one of the major genres within manga that’s just been growing exponentially,” says Nancy Stalker, Professor of Japanese History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote a paper called Gourmet Samurai: Changing Gender Norms in Japanese Food TV.

FOOD WARS, DETECTIVE GLUTTON, SOLDIER OF FOOD

Food manga first appeared in the 1980’s when the Japanese economy was very strong. One of the first, Oishinbo, ran for over 20 years and became the basis for an animated series, as have many manga since.

“There always has to be conflict in manga, especially in food manga,” says Zhong. “There is not any real peace in manga. If there is peace it’s really short, maybe one or two chapters, then back to war right afterwards. War produces content.”

Since Japan opened to the West in the nineteenth century, food has been an element of its international identity. “Traditionally the eating of four-legged creatures was proscribed by Buddhist belief,” says Stalker. “The Emperor first publicly ate meat in 1873. Eating beef was seen as something that would help build the national physique and make the Japanese more like westerners.” In order to compete with western soldiers, the Japanese military began to introduce more beef, more meat and fat, into the diet of the soldier to help build a strong army.

The modern manga industry came into being after World War II. It started with Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy, who was influenced by Walt Disney. “That American content was brought over by the American Occupation,” says Leyla Aker, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Viz Media, a company that specializes in Japanese graphic novels and anime. “During the American occupation of Japan a large portion of the Japanese population was subsisting on hand-outs given by the American forces.”

There were severe shortages of food during the Occupation and all foods were strictly rationed. When the circumstances of the war became dire many people resorted to eating bark from trees and replacing sawdust and wood dust in recipes for flour. Many Japanese died of starvation.
Miles Thomas, Brand Manager at CrunchyRoll, remembers an anime called Grave of the Fireflies. “One of the most evocative films I’ve seen, about two orphans during World War II who are starving, hungry. They steal food, trying their hardest to survive.

“It really makes you think about the darker side of food when people don’t have enough of it to survive,” adds Tiffany Chen who is also a Brand Manager with Crunchy Roll. “For a long time, World War II was just a history you studied in class. I never really felt connected to it personally. A lot of young people actually don’t even know about the atomic bomb. After watching this film, it was a pretty sobering moment.”

OISHINBO: JAPAN AND CULINARY NATIONALISM

Oishinbo, one of the oldest of the food manga is very popular with adult men, Aoki tells us. “The main character is this scrappy reporter. His father is this snooty gourmet who sets up this ritzy gourmet club for only rich people. They have dueling palette battles.” Oishinbo is written by Tetsu Kariya who is very opinionated about food. The manga creates drama about different food issues – about growing it and cooking it. “It’s kind of controversial,” says Aoki. “He defends eating whale meat, the history of it, how delicious, how dare anyone tell us not to.”

“Tetsu Kariya has a very progressive, political stance,” adds Lorie Brau, Associate Professor of Japanese Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of New Mexico, “He embeds these social messages inside his manga.” One of Oishinbo’s chief concerns is foreign influences. How do you maintain the important aspects of your culture while still engaging with the world at large? The manga uses food as a lens to address Japan’s place in the world.

YAWEH: MANGA FOR YOUNG WOMEN

There is a different subset of manga targeted at young Japanese women called Yaweh about homosexual love affairs. “Boys love” is one of the most popular sub-genres of manga. “Antique Bakery features a cast of tall, thin elegant beautiful young men. They all work in a western style bakery,” Aoki tells us. “Women fall in love with them because they are so handsome. But they’re not available,” says Brau. “But the cakes are available so they make many young women happy.”

What Did You Eat Yesterday? has become a very popular manga for recipes. The manga tells the story of a gay couple, one of whom is a lawyer, the other a hairdresser and the lawyer is very intent on creating economical, delicious meals for the two of them.
THE HERBIVORE MAN: MANGA AND GENDER NORMS

“In the last 10 years Japanese demographics have been shifting,” says Nancy. “Fewer and fewer people are getting married. The rate of unmarried men ages 30 to 34 climbed from 21% to 47%. For women it jumped from 9% to 34% in a decade. The media has come up with this term “herbivore men” Urban men in their 20 and 30’s who are more into fashion and culture than women. Rejecting flesh, therefore they are herbivores. Other conservative pundits say “well, it’s the increase of carnivorous women, women who are too aggressive and focused on their career and refuse to become a full time housewife they create the herbivore man. This is changing men’s relationship with food. They have to increasingly be responsible for their own meals. That is being reflected in these dramas that show a kind of everyman develop a sense of culinary confidence.”

Aoki tells us that Manga like Oishinbo and Food Wars in a way represent a war within people to be their best. “There’s honor in fighting to be the best you can be. That if you’re going to do it you’re going to be the best damn one doing it. The way of the sword, the way of the chef.”

Episode #62 – Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen

Episode #62 – Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen

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Black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, poems composed on the back of a coconut cake recipe —we journey into the steamy, myth-laden, hidden world of poet Emily Dickinson through her kitchen. In her lifetime, Emily was probably better known as a baker than a poet.

Filled with mystery, intrigue and readings by Patti Smith, Thornton Wilder, Jean Harris and an array of passionate poets and experts.

This is the first episode of our podcast under its new name, The Kitchen Sisters Present.

Special thanks to: Emilie Hardman, Emily Walhout and Heather Cole from the Houghton Library, Harvard University; Brenda Hillman, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at St. Mary’s College; Jean McClure Mudge writer and filmmaker; Christopher Benfey, writer and Professor of English, Mount Holyoke College; Aife Murray, author of Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language; and Elaine Hardman who led us to this story; and Zoe Kurland.

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“This is a cake that calls for nineteen eggs!  All assembled it’s 19 lbs. 4 oz! And that’s before you put the brandy in! The black cake first appears in the 1840s in cookbooks. It’s Caribbean in its origin — the cinnamon, the mace the nutmeg, its very tied up with the sugar trade and molasses.

“When you think about Emily Dickinson, the myth in the white dress, and then you think about her in the kitchen. The physicality of that cake — of making that cake that you share with people. It’s a social cake! This is a woman who is doing something that we think so counter to Emily and her remove from the world.”  Emilie Hardman, Houghton Library, Harvard

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Emily Dickinson wrote this poem on the back of her recipe for coconut cake.

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“People have wanted to turn her into a lady poet, a romantic version of her, that is not untrue, it’s just probably partial. She did stay in her room and she did have what she referred to as her “white election,” putting on her white dress and going upstairs, not going out anymore. What choice did she have? In her time, she couldn’t have gotten her writing done by being the spinster in the community, a nice church lady that takes care of bodies coming home from the Civil War. She goes on to write 700 poems in two years. I mean 700! For Pete’s sake!”  Brenda Hillman, Poet and Professor of Literature, St. Mary’s College, editor of The Pocket Emily Dickinson

Almost every year or two a new photograph comes to light that has some claim to be a new undiscovered photograph of Emily Dickinson. And we are all terribly excited because we only have one true recognized photograph with a good provenance for Dickinson taken when she was 16 years old (photo at top of blog).

Most recently a photograph has come to light which may show an adult Emily Dickinson with her close friend Kate Scott Anthon. It was back in the early 1950s that Rebecca Patterson wrote a book called “The Riddle of Emily Dickinson.” And the riddle that she claimed to solve was that Emily Dickinson was a lesbian and that one of her lovers was Kate Scott Anthon. And it is a very tantalizing photograph.

I’ve stared at it a long time. Sometimes I look at that photograph and I say, “It’s her!  Emily!”  And there are other times I look at it and I say, “Uh, nay”.  I’ve always felt that one of the problems with new Dickinson photos coming to light is that they all look too much like the old one.”  Christopher Benfey, author of Emily Dickinson and the Problem of Others, and Summer of Hummingbirds.

“Sometimes her poems are like recipes…

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

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Margaret Maher (left), an Irish immigrant, worked as cook and maid in the Dickinson household sharing the kitchen with baker Emily for 17 years. Emily chose Thomas Kelley (center), who worked as a laborer for the family, to be her chief pallbearer along with five other Irish immigrants who worked for the household.

“The influence of the kitchen and the language around her — Irish immigrants, Native Americans, people who are of African descent, slave descent—in and out of that kitchen, coming and going in that yard and barn. All of these different vernaculars played into the ways in which she approaches language.”
Aife Murray, author of Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language

Emily Dickinson’s Recipe for Gingerbread 

1 quart flour
½ cup butter
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
Make up with molasses

From Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as Cook from Dickinson’s original manuscript.The editors of the book add the following about Emily Dickinson’s gingerbread recipe:

“Cream the butter and mix with lightly whipped cream. Sift dry ingredients together and combine with other ingredients. The dough is stiff and needs to be pressed into whatever pan you choose. A round or small square pan is suitable. The recipe also fits perfectly into a cast iron muffin pan, if you happen to have one which makes oval cakes. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.”

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“Her gingerbread was the first thing that struck me. Emily would bake gingerbread in little oval cakes. She would glaze them, put little flowers on top and put them in a basket and lower them from her window to the children below. A mystery.” Jean McClure Mudge

Jean McClure Mudge (center) lived with her family in Emily Dickinson’s house from 1965-76 while Jean’s husband Lou, was teaching at Amherst. Jean was the first resident curator of the Homestead. She is the author of Emily Dickinson and the Image of Home, co-editor of Emily Dickinson Profile of the Poet as Cook, and most recently Mr. Emerson’s Revolution.

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen on NPR’s Morning Edition

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen on NPR’s Morning Edition

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A journey into the hidden world of Emily Dickinson — through her kitchen.

Special thanks to: Emilie Hardman, Emily Walhout and Heather Cole from the Houghton Library, Harvard University; Brenda Hillman, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at St. Mary’s College; Jean McClure Mudge writer and filmmaker; Christopher Benfey, writer and Professor of English, Mount Holyoke College; Elaine Hardman who led us to this story; and Zoe Kurland. The readings heard are by: Julie Harris, Mary Jo Salter, and Patti Smith.

Black Cake: Emily Dickinson’s Hidden Kitchen was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) in collaboration with Brandi Howell & Nathan Dalton. Mixed by Jim McKee.


Here’s Emily’s Recipe for Black Cake. We dare you to make it. Serves your entire community.

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Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS

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A journey into the mysterious and controversial world of raw milk.

Tucked away in the vanishing farm land on the outskirts of Indianapolis, the Apple Family and their neighbors created a kind of fellowship of milking. Milk Cow Blues tells the story of the Apples’ effort to bring raw milk to their community.

Jo Apple and her husband owned the Apple Family Farm in McCordsville Indiana for over 50 years. It was originally a dairy farm, but it became too much for the couple. It wasn’t financially feasible so they gave up the cows and planted corn and soy beans. Their son, Mark told to his father about a vision he had — farming naturally, without chemicals, hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. Just before he died, Mark’s dad agreed.

They started with sheep and chickens and cattle then bought a milk cow for themselves. They quickly found that there was a demand for unpasteurized milk. Women started showing up at their farm with glass jars to buy milk. The Apples had no idea it was illegal. But Indiana, like most states has very strict rules about buying and selling raw milk.

The Indiana State Veterinarian became aware that the Apple family was selling raw milk. He felt there was the possibility of harmful pathogens in these raw milk products and with pressure from other farmers in the area the Apples were served a cease and desist order.

The Apples were ready to give up. But their community encouraged them — they were selling milk, not cocaine or crack. The Apples checked the laws.

They could not trade raw milk, sell it, or deliver it. The only way people could legally obtain fresh milk in Indiana was to own a cow. So they decided, if people want raw milk they will have to buy the cow. The Apples set up the Indiana Cow Share Association and charged people $50. It worked.

A year-and-a-half after the cease and desist order there was a knock on the Apples’ door. A man they had never met before said that he was the one that had turned them in. He talked about how he was furious that they were selling milk for three times more than he was getting for his milk.

He couldn’t make it farming anymore and as a last resort had come to talk to them. His son was bagging groceries — but his heart was to farm. The man wanted to know if they thought he could do the same thing with pasteurized milk — sell directly to the public. He needed to make a change.

It’s a story that is happening all over the country, “All the farmers that are throwing in the towel saying, ‘OK, I can’t afford a $60,000 combine. I have to do something else. Maybe I’ll get some cattle and see if I can just sell them to my neighbors. That’s how it starts.”

Since we produced this Hidden Kitchens story The Apple Family Farm has closed down. In 2014 the Fortville Town Council tried to annex their farmland for development. It was a long, grueling fight. That combined with tax increases and the rising cost of farming became too much for this third generation family farm.

So Many Stories in Store

So Many Stories in Store

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In 2017 we all move into unknown territory. It’s times like these that call for strong stories. Bruce Springsteen said it best, “People need stories in hard times. People go to storytellers when times are like that.” People go to storytellers when it’s hard to decipher the world, when they need to feel hope and possibilities, when they just want a good tale. Here at The Kitchen Sisters we are getting ready to tell some of the deepest stories we’ve done yet. Stories that keep the spirit moving and light the path. Stories that reveal new ideas and new community leaders.

Today we ask for your support, and for your ongoing collaboration. It is our community that makes these stories possible. Our stories, our internship and mentoring program, and our many community visions. To those of you who have supported and collaborated with us over the years, thank you. To those of you who have recently discovered us, welcome to The Kitchen Sisterhood.

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In 2016 your contribution helped spawn so much new work. Our series, Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food aired to much acclaim on NPR’s Morning Edition. Some 14 million people around the world heard these stories of the transformative power of food. There are more in store in 2017.

2017 also has many other projects in store — our new series about archivists as activists — about librarians and historical society curators who are keepers of the history and embroiled in battles and deeply committed to preservation, a free press and the truth. We’re also deep in the weeds on our second book, Show the Girls the Snakes, and working still on our Broadway musical and more. And we are gearing up for a new year of interns, mentoring and workshops.

We have also been asked to create an installation for Prospect.4,the International New Orleans Triennial (sort of the Venice Biennale of New Orleans that was created in the wake of Katrina to help revive the city through culture) where we’ll be collaborating with the Houston-based art collective, Otabenga Jones and Associates. Prospect.4 opens at the end of 2017 and goes for three months. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Deep thanks for your support, your ideas, your music, your stories, all the things you share with us.

Keep the faith,
Davia & Nikki

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Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

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During World War II, In desolate inland internment camps in the US, like Manzanar, Topaz, and Tule Lake, some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were incarcerated for the duration of the war— their traditional food replaced by US government commodities and war surplus — hotdogs, ketchup, spam, potatoes — erasing the traditional Japanese diet and family table.

Akemi Tamaribuchi, a third generation Japanese American, artist Howard Ikemoto, Berkeley graduate Tami Takahashi, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” Jimi Yamaichi of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, and George “Sulu” Takei of Star Trek, talk about how the internment forever impacted their lives, their food and their family table.