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Food Sites for November 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Assorted pumpkins, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Remember George Henry Boughton’s famous painting of pilgrims, walking solemnly to church? It was done in 1867, only four years after Lincoln created Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It will soon be dragged out of hiding, as it is every November. It always makes me think of how grimly drab and gray the season is, and how many months more of such weather we can expect to endure.

Then I remember that much of that time will be spent cooking for—and maybe even eating with—friends. I imagine the warm kitchen, filled with savory aromas, and I start ransacking my cookbook collection.

Penwipe Publishing remains on staycation, but the pandemic is good for something: it provides plenty of time for writing. This month, our blog posted another short story; “A Girl to Do the Cleaning” is more for our still-growing collection of fables. It has only a tenuous connection to our food writing, but still...

Look below for a few more podcasts—and a little humor—to distract you from the media’s never-ending chatter about trying to survive in the plague year.

You can, if you wish, follow us on Facebook (where, among other things, we post a LOT of photographs), and Twitter. Still more of our online scribbles can be found at A Quiet Little Table in the Corner. There’s even an Amazon author’s page, mostly about our food writing.

In honor of November, a few large squashes from On the Table’s culinary quote collection:

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. Jim Davis, Garfield

What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie? John Greenleaf Whittier

My favorite word is “pumpkin.” You can’t take it seriously. But you can’t ignore it, either. It takes ahold of your head and that’s it. You are a pumpkin. Or you are not. I am. Harrison Salisbury

November, 2020

PS: If you encounter broken links, changed URLs—or know of wonderful sites we’ve missed—please drop us a line. It helps to keep this resource as useful as possible for all of us. To those who have pointed out corrections or tasty sites (this month we’re tipping our hat to Dianne Jacob), thanks, and keep them coming!

PPS: If you wish to change the e-mail address at which you receive these newsletters, or otherwise modify the way you receive our postings or—if you’ve received this newsletter by mistake, and/or don’t wish to receive future issues—you have our sincere apology and can have your e-mail address deleted from the list immediately. We’re happy (and continuously amazed) that so few people have decided to leave the list but, should you choose to be one of them, let us know and we’ll see that your in-box is never afflicted by these updates again. You’ll find links at the bottom of this page to fix everything to your liking.

— the new sites —

2,000-Year-Old History of Vending Machines, The

(Chason Gordon’s article at Food52, about mechanically-enhanced instant gratification)

Cooking Pom

(Karen Vaneker’s paper on the traditional taro-based dish of Surinam)

Food for Healing: Convalescent Cookery in the Early Modern Era

(Ken Albala’s 2011 essay about soft bland food meant for invalids, in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences)

Food on Table, The: History, Culture, Art and Popular Expression in Roman Cooking

(an overview by Rose Gaudiano)

Jewish Food Legacies from Spain

(Annette B. Fromm’s 2105 paper)

Medieval Arabic Cookbooks: Reviving the Taste of History

(Marcia Lynx Qualey’s Al Jazeera account of ancient books in modern English translation, with details of Arabic food, culture, and etiquette)


(YouTube video, from CIMMYT—the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center—explaining the production and use of nixtamalized corn)

Race to Redesign Sugar, The

(Nicola Twilley’s New Yorker article about the science behind making sugar sweeter—so formulations won’t need as much)

Travel Back in Time with Mcgill University’s Cookbook Collection that Spans 350 Years

(Gail Dever’s blog post about an internet archive of 264 cookbooks that were written between 1615 and 1966)

Ultimate Guide to Ingredient Substitutions and Equivalents, The

(Kristin Stangl provides links to lots of substitution strategies at The Spruce Eats)

Who Invented Hummus?

(Diana Spechler deals with a contentious subject for the BBC)

— inspirational (or otherwise useful) sites for writers/bloggers —

50+ Pitching Guides for NYT, Natgeo, Wired, Wapo, Bustle and More

Adapting and Adopting: The Migrating Recipe

Cheese can Protect You from 'All Forms of Death', According to Scientists from the University of Łódź

Colorado Couple’s 20-Year Search for Extinct Fruit Finally Pays Off

Did Early Humans Invent Hot Pot in Geothermal Pools?

Fat Chance

Genetic Fix to Put the Taste Back in Tomatoes, A

Republishing Content: How to Update Old Blog Posts for SEO

Tasty Only in Afterthought: 6 Words That Didn’t Always Describe Food

— podcasts, etcetera —

All the Eater Shows You Love, in All the Places You Love to Watch Them

Aunty Sylvie’s Sponge: Foodmaking, Cookbooks and Nostalgia

Babish Culinary Universe

Genius Recipe TapesThe 

Homemade Podcast Episode 17: Dorie Greenspan on Baking, Butter, and Elbows-On-the-Table Food 

Your Fave Food52 Shows Are Now Streaming on a TV Near You

— a little humor —

How to Make a Bodega Sandwich

Off-Kilter History of British Cuisine, The

— that’s all for now —

Except, of course, for the usual legalistic mumbo-jumbo and commercial flim-flam:

As an Amazon Associate, this newsletter earns from qualifying purchases made through it. These include my own books (listed below), and occasional books mentioned in the entries above. If you order any books via those links, the price you pay is not increased by my commission.

Occasionally, URLs we provide may link to commercial sites (that is, they’ll cost you money to take full advantage of them). We do not receive any compensation for listing them here, and provide them without any form of recommendation—other than the fact that they looked interesting to us.

Your privacy is important to us. We will not give, sell or share your e-mail address with anyone, for any purpose—ever. Nonetheless, we will expose you to the following irredeemably brazen plugs for our books:

The Resource Guide for Food Writers
(newsletters like this merely update the contents of the book; what doesn’t appear here is already in the book)

The Herbalist in the Kitchen

The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food And Drink Industries

Human Cuisine

Herbs: A Global History

Sausage: A Global History

Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Foods

Sauces Reconsidered: Après Escoffier


Terms of Vegery

How to Serve Man:
On Cannibalism, Sex, Sacrifice, & the Nature of Eating

How to Write a Great Book

The Digressions of Dr Sanscravat: Gastronomical Ramblings & Other Diversions

Ephemera: a short collection of short stories

Prophet Amidst Losses


Future Tense: Remembrance of Things Not Yet Past

Here endeth the sales pitch(es)...

...for the moment, anyway.


The Resource Guide for Food Writers, Update #241 is protected by copyright, and is provided at no cost, for your personal use only. It may not be copied or retransmitted unless this notice remains affixed. Any other form of republication—unless with the author’s prior written permission—is strictly prohibited.

Copyright ©2020 by Gary Allen.

A Girl to Do the Cleaning

Sunday, October 4, 2020


You know, when Snow White first showed up at our little home, I felt for her.

She gave us a long—and very sad—spiel about being mistreated by her vain step-mother. You know how Freudians are always going on and on and on about the tsuris that patients get from their mothers? Let me tell you, mothers got nothing on step-mothers in that department.

Endless guilt-trips are one thing; sending a kid into the forest to be slaughtered by some hunter in a goyishe red plaid jacket is something else altogether. Sure, the guy didn’t go through with it, but—just telling her that he was supposed to cut out her kishkes, and bring them back for her step-mother’s dinner—it’s the sort of thing that could keep a girl in therapy forever.

Besides, at fifty bucks a pop, who was going to pay for all those sessions?

Anyway, the outdoorsman let her go. In a kind of mitzvah—not that goyim have any idea what a mitzvah is—he kills a wild boar, and cuts out the lungs and liver to fool the old bitch. I ask you, how ironic was that? She had no idea that, instead of step-daughter, she was noshing on treyf!

Anyway, let me get back to her story. Snow White had been wandering around in the forest for some time, when she stumbled upon our house. We were all at work at the time, so she just walked in and helped herself to my left-over kugel, washing it down with our last bottle of Doctor Brown’s Cel-Ray tonic. Losing that soda was the first thing that made me question the wisdom of keeping her around. You know how hard it is to find Cel-Ray out here in the sticks?

Anyway, tired from all that wandering in the wilderness, and stuffed with the last of our food—and tonic—she decided to take a nap. One-by-one, she tried out all seven beds, without even thinking of making them afterwards. She finally found my bed, and fell fast asleep.

When we got home from work, that’s where we found her. Everyone was annoyed, at first, by the mess she made—but they got over it once they got a good look at her. She was a knock-out, I’ll admit it. Still, her looks didn’t make up for taking over my bed.

Flustered, and still a little groggy, she told us her story. Six of us took pity, and invited her to stay. Not for free, of course. A little rent would’ve been fair, but the girl didn’t have a penny to her name. I knew I would be out-voted, so I kept my opinions of her to myself. I did manage to get her to agree to work off her rent by keeping house for us.

I should tell you that it’s been ages since we had a cleaning lady come in. Actually, we’ve never had a cleaning lady come in. The place looked it, too. Still, it was our schmutz—our cobwebs, our greasy dishes, our dust-bunnies, our moldy crusts of rye bread, our dirty socks—we were used to things being the way they were and we liked them that way.

Then we discovered that, in addition to an OCD approach to cleaning, the girl could cook.

I have always done the cooking for all of us, in exchange for having someone else do the dishes. Of course, that meant that no one did the dishes, but given the general appearance of the place, no one much cared. Still, I was hesitant to give up my status as head cook. At least until I tried her kasha varnishkes. And her kreplach. And her knishes. And her matzoh ball soup. And her latkes. And her brisket that was to die for.

Even her kugel was better than mine. So, I decided to keep her around. Considering what she had told us, we warned her to never let anyone but us in the house—and be especially careful when we were at work.

We have to go to work every day—except Saturday, of course. We work in the mines, prying gemstones out of the rock. I know, I know—you’re going to ask, “what are seven good Jewish boys doing, working in a godforsaken mine, doing physical labor?” While our mothers wanted us to be lawyers, doctors, or—at least—CPAs, that kind of work is hard to find in the forest.

We usually tell people that we’re in the jewelry business.

Anyway, Snow White agreed that our advice was worth taking—so, every morning, it was off to work we’d go. When we came home, each night, tired and hungry, she was waiting for us. In a clean house. With a table heaped with food that was so heavy it could choke a bear. Not that any of us had ever seen a bear, but still. Heavy food—and heartburn—are part of our heritage, and we would never give them up.

What else would we have to complain about?

Speaking of complaints, I didn’t really have any—despite my earlier reservations about her. Well, almost no complaints. I wasn’t thrilled when she made up new names for all of us. She called Avram “Doc;” I have no idea why. Ethan became “Sneezy.” Itzhak was renamed “Sleepy.” Tzvika became “Bashful.” Zadoc, for reasons I’ll never understand, she rebranded as “Happy.” It made no sense; Zadoc has been a nudnik as long as I’ve known him. Maybe the girl had a sarcastic streak. She called Reuben “Dopey.”

That, at least made some sense because he’s always been a schmendrik.

I guess what really galled me was the name she chose for me: “Grumpy.” My mother named me “Malachi,” which—while not perfect—was at least bearable.

Anyway—we were at work, a couple of weeks ago, when Snow White answered a knock at the door. The girl is, as I’ve said, pretty, but she’s also pretty dumb. Or maybe she’s just not a good listener. Whatever. So—as we later learned—she invited in an old seamstress who was trying to sell some special dresses she had made. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, over the years, is that pretty girls always want to be prettier. That made her a sucker for the old woman’s sales pitch. She tried on a kind of corset gown, and let the seamstress adjust the ties at the back. She was thrilled to see that her waist seemed to shrink away—at least until she began to find it hard to breathe. She begged the old woman to loosen the ties, but when she turned around, the woman was gone.

By the time we got home from the mines, Snow White was on the floor, gasping for air. She did look good; practically no waistline and her bosom bulging out in a most provocative fashion. Well, it would have been provocative if her normally creamy skin hadn’t taken on a bluish cast from lack of oxygen.

Avram grabbed a scissor and cut her out of the dress.

When she recovered enough to speak, she gasped, “Thanks, Doc… but I really wish you hadn’t ruined the dress. I bought it wholesale… on credit… and now I won’t be able to return it!” Nothing was ever good enough for her; she always found a way to kvetch about something. We explained, again, what a bad idea it had been to let a stranger into the house.

She looked like she believed us.

Still, only a few days later, another old woman knocked on the door. She was selling beautiful combs and brushes. Naturally, our girl couldn’t resist. The woman showed Snow White a particularly lovely comb made of genuine mother-of-pearl—and offered to let her try it. After just a few strokes through her wavy black hair, Snow white began to feel woozy. The poisoned comb was still in her hair when she dropped to the floor. She tried to get the woman’s attention but, once again, the old woman was gone.

Again, Avram was the one to save her; he plucked the comb from her hair and flung it into the fireplace. Again, she said, “Thanks, Doc… but did you have to ruin it? It was so pretty!” Once again, we explained how foolish it had been to let a stranger into the house.

She looked like she believed us.

Still, a week later, we got home to find our girl lying on the floor. A partially-eaten apple was beside her, right next to her outstretched fingers. Snow White has always been a slow learner, but it looked like she had finally learned her lesson. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t do her any good, as she was also as cold and dead as leftover kugel.

I had mixed feelings about all this. Sure, it was sad that she was gone. And I would miss her cooking. And she did brighten up the place, just by being there. It didn’t hurt that she also washed the windows, which made a big difference. Who knew? On the other hand, I never really adjusted to all the new names she’d given us. No matter how dumb, no good Jewish boy wants to named “Dopey.” Or “Grumpy,” for that matter, ‘though “Grumpy” was a whole lot better than “Dopey.”

We took her out to a clearing in the woods, where she would be surrounded by birds and flowers, and laid her on a glass-covered bier. Despite the solemn occasion, I couldn’t hold back a smirk when I thought it looked like a deli’s showcase. We could have called her “Goldilox.”

The gems weren’t going to spoil in the mine, so we took a week off work to sit shiva. On the third day, we heard hooves on the path. Looking up, we saw the most elegant rider we’d ever seen. He was so clean-cut, I would’ve bet a dollar that he was goyishe. He swung down from his big white horse, and walked solemnly to the bier. He knelt beside it, and removed his big plumed hat. That’s when I spotted the prince’s payes. I never would have guessed he was one of us. 

He gazed longingly at Snow White’s face, then raised the glass lid, and kissed lips that were as cold as a pickled herring. To make a long story short, she woke up, they embraced, they got married, we kvelled. The reception was fabulous, with more chicken liver pâte, schmaltz and gribenes—and Cel-Ray—then even I could finish. 

It was bittersweet to lose her—again—but at least we can brag that we once had a princess who did housework.

This story is excerpted from Backstories: As retold by Gary Allen, available in two formats:


©2020 Gary Allen


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