Obvious, Wondrous, and Straight-Up-Kooky Information I've Read in Cookbooks
One of my favorite ways to relax and invigorate myself is to read a cookbook. When I say I "read a cookbook," I sometimes hear the person I say this statement to laugh for a second, maybe because the person I'm about to explain some sort of happenstance wisdom to doesn't think of a collection of recipes as anything more than lists of directions; or maybe because reading a cookbook sounds domestic or dull or irrelevant to the springboard into the impending subject or why I'm bringing up cookbook reading.
A cookbook, though, is anything but irrelevant or dull. A cookbook (or a decent one, anyway, and there are plenty of variations on the notion of decent) is a concentrated concoction of one great reason anyone likes (beyond necessity and satiation) to eat or cook: appreciating all five senses.
Every time I read a cookbook − whether the reading is magazine-style-fanning or poem-memorizing-engaged or plot-immersing-focused or just general weak-kneed swooning − I find something that stays with me. And as with any hobby, learning more about one interest opens the window to other very relevant and surprising discoveries.
Right now in Columbia, MO, the school season is about to begin; and the road to the store and the park, or the trail to a good exercise buzz, is a little more crowded than the paths have been the past couple months. I'm not sure how old I'll have to be to think of the start of the school season as anything but reason to be giddy and anticipatory. This is the beginning of my most beloved season.
So in tribute of a new timeframe for searching and researching and learning, now seems like a good time to share a haphazard cross section of some of the entertaining and illuminating things (both food-related and beyond) I've come across, so far, when reading, of all things, cookbooks.
"Popcorn is a different subspecies from sweet corn. It dries in a way that encloses a dot of moisture in the kernel's center. When the kernel gets hot enough, the moisture dries suddenly, causing the kernel to explode." - "The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking" (1997) by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker
"Plant historians believe that the first five fruits to be brought in from the wild were olives, figs, dates, grapes, and pomegranates. Their earliest cultivation was in the so-called Fertile Crescent, which begins on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and curves around like a sickle moon to the Persian Gulf. All five appear in Egyptian tomb frescoes and are mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts." - "The Olive Harvest Cookbook" by Gerald Gass and Jacqueline Mallorca
"The pizza is really just an irregular shaped 200-gram ball of dough which has been left to rise. It's important to get the right moment to start rolling it out on the floured marble, beat it and then knead it so as to produce a circular pancake about the same shape as the Bay of Naples − thin and almost transparent in the middle, and as rugged as its coastline around the edges. Easier said than done; in effect it is like taming a wild beast − just try getting it ready to receive the bits of mozzarella, like white sails, the tomatoes, like the sails of the Turk, and the green basil leaves which bear all similarity to the crests of dark waves. - Domenico Rea, from "Naples Guide" from the Naples Chamber of Commerce, as quoted in "Pizza: Any Way You Slice It" by Charles and Michele Scicolone
"El Dorado County, which stretches from Folsom Lake in the west to Lake Tahoe in the east, got its name because it was at John Sutter's mill, in Coloma, that the Gold Rush began. An enormous influx of treasure seekers swarmed into the area, and neither the county nor California would ever be the same. Towns sprung up overnight like winter mushrooms, and many disappeared as quickly; the names of some of the towns linger on in tales of the era − Murderer's Bar, Loafer's Hollow, and Spanish Hill, for example. Today, the old ghost towns draw tourists to the area. Fruit farming is the primary agriculture, with a thriving industry in secondary products like preserves, jams, jellies, and applesauces."
"Oranges were first introduced into California in 1770; by 1792 they ...