It is October,  but before we say “Hello, Pumpkin,” we must bid adieu to the faithful friend Zucchini. Botanically, the zucchini is a fruit, a type of botanical berry called a pepo. Of course, in the kitchen, the zucchini is a vegetable–appearing in everything from soup to bread to chocolate cake.  To prove this point, see a fun article by Molly O’Neill in The New York Times that concludes with recipes for Zucchini-and-Almond Soup, Shepherd’s Pie-Style Stuffed Zucchini, Francesca’s Zucchini Carpaccio, Pasta With Zucchini, Shrimp and Saffron,  and Zucchini Cake With Ginger and Hazelnuts.

M.F. K. Fisher noted that when she can “buy zucchini not over four inches long and preferably with the little withered blossom still clinging to the umbilicus,” she cooks them and saves the juice for midmorning broth to borscht.

All squash originated in the Americas, specifically a region known as mesoamerica. In the 19th century the zucchini was cultivated in Italy and didn’t reach the U.S. until  the 20th century, brought here by Italian immigrants.

Is any vegetable subject to as many jokes and funny stories as the Zucchini? Here are a few classics.

  • The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini. Minutes after you plant a single seed,hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt.–Dave Barry
  • Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate that they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each.–Andy Rooney, Word for Word
  • They have Elvis Presley zucchini molds now: you clamp them around your zucchini while it’s young, and as it grows it’s deformed into the shape of Elvis Presley’s head. Is this why he sang? To become a zucchini? Vegetarianism and reincarnation are in the air, but that’s taking it too far.–Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
  • One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke.–Barbara Kingsolver

Celebrated writer Marge Piercy’s poetry generally focuses on social and environmental concerns, but in “Attack of the Squash People”  she has some fun with zucchini. Here’s a snippet:

Recite fifty zucchini recipes!                                                                                     Zucchini tempura; creamed soup;                                                                                 sauté with olive oil and cumin,                                                                                casserole of lamb; baked                                                                                             topped with cheese; marinated;                                                                                stuffed; stewed….

Sneak out before dawn to drop                                                                                              them in other people’s gardens,                                                                                            in baby buggies at churchdoors.

 Shot, smuggling zucchini into                                                                                               mailboxes, a federal offense.


When you’re ready for good reading about good food and good people, Rick Bragg’s The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table comes with the highest recommendation. It is available both in print form and as an outstanding recording with Rick Bragg reading his book. Not surprisingly, Momma has a few words to say about her Creamed Onions, a dish without actual cream or milk:  Don’t cook your sliced onions too long, just until they begin to wilt “and get to smelling good.” Bragg notes, “Do not be dismayed if the onions seem to cook down to almost nothing. They are so rich, a spoonful or two is usually enough per serving. If you really like this, “next time use more onions,” Momma advises.

Bragg observes that Thanksgiving dinner was the great meal that began the holiday season,  the holiday kickoff for Christmas. “Working people started looking forward to this meal as soon as the weather slipped below ninety-two in the shade….” And of course turkey was the foundation of the meal. Bragg’s mother “had turkey down to a science, and an art…My mother never bought a turkey early, believing that if you waited till the last minute you would somehow get a turkey shopped to the grocery as part of a second or even third wave, which she believed to be fresher, and not one that had been frozen rock-hard  since before Halloween.”

Bragg offers his own views as well as Momma’s: “I believe that turkeys just freeze harder than other substances on earth. They seemed to have more in common with bowling balls and anvils than with something a person might, someday, be able to consume. This was perhaps the time when I began to see my mother as some kind of alchemist, able to turn lead to gold.”

 Bragg notes that his mother’s recipe is “the simplest recipe I have ever seen, or even heard of.” Going back through all the recipes, he thinks he’s figured it out: “I went back through these pages and counted the number of times that “1 stick butter” was the measurement we used, except in this one, where it was “1 pound.”

Momma offered advice on how long to cook the turkey: “Till it’s done.”

And to bring this full circle with this month’s celebration of the onion, creamed onions cooked in bacon fat were always part of the grand meal at the Bragg home.

As a PS, we’ll add this morsel of memory from Julia Alvarez, who, in We Are What We Ate: 24 Memories of Food, recalls a story that her husband likes to tell a lot: the one time she invited him over for dinner before they were married, “I served him salad with bottled dressing and a side plate of fried onions and tofu squired with chili sauce…I am always aggrieved that he forgets the dinner rolls, which I bought at the Grand Union bakery, something I would normally not do, since I much preferred crackers as ‘the bread’ with my dinner.”.


Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.

                         –M.F. K. Fisher

Everybody’s heard of Elvis’s infamous sandwich:  a long baguette filled with peanut butter, grape jelly. The famous industrialist Henry Ford went to the other extreme. Abstemious about food, he often acquired his lunch by picking greens from his backyard.  Albert Einstein was known to wash down a grasshopper with a glass of celery juice.

In the 18th century ice cream, brought to this country from France,was a delicacy for the rich because making it was no easy task. First, you needed a cow and not need to sell her milk and cream. Sugar and salt were imported commodities. And getting the ice and storing it was quite an operation.  An NPR feature George Washington’s Ice Cream Recipe: First, Cut Ice From River, offers details.

Thomas Jefferson made a number of new foods popular.  He sketched a maccaroni machine and after he served macaroni and cheese at a state dinner, people were clamoring for it. Jefferson is credited with bringing pommes de terres frites back from France, not to mention champagne.

Richard Nixon was infamous for preference of cottage cheese with ketchup dumped on top. But on the day he announced his resignation, a photo of his lunch of cottage cheese with  pineapple slices   causes one to pause.

Try to guess which president loved tapioca pudding–and then, from cherries to nachos, see all their favorites here .


Begin the year by celebrating the food available to you at the Senior Center this month: Leeks and Bacon, Raspberries and cream, Beef and Barley, Smoked Sausage and Shrimp, Potato Salad, Caesar Salad with Chicken, Apple Crisp. And lots more.

Let others argue about whether you are what you eat or that you eat what you are. Read a book and discover the history of the world through just a single dish. Mark Kulansky performs this feat in four books, all available at the Charlotte Library. 

  • Cod: The Biography of a Fish That Changed the World
  •  Salt: A World History
  •  The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell
  • Milk!: a 10,000-year Food Fracus

May joyful, informative reading join your joyful, nutritious eating at the Senior Center in the coming year.


February 4 is Homemade Soup Day, and you can celebrate a day early  with a good bowl of soup, Of course, there is soup and other tasty eating available throughout the rest of the month. Alas, you probably missed Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, which was February 1.

Next year!

Search the Internet and you’ll find more national food days than you can imagine. Here are February entries from Foodimentary blogger John-Bryan Hopkins, who has a book out, also titled Foodimentary, offering a food holiday (and recipes) for every day of the year.

Canned Food Month
National Chocolate Lovers Month
National Cherry Month 
National Grapefruit Month
National Snack Food Month
National Potato Lovers Month
Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month
National Hot Breakfast Month
1st week of Feb– African Heritage & Health Week
3rd Weekend of February: National Margarita Weekend
“Superbowl Sunday” : National Pork Rind Day (aka National Pork Rind Appreciation Day)
But maybe you’d rather look forward to March, when you can celebrate Ranch Dressing Day.
Savory Sightings
As much as we love our glorious white landscape, by the time February arrives, we are ready for some Savory Sightings, and here are two:
First, there’s the adolescent Emily Dickinson’s mostly forgotten album of more than 400 pressed flowers and plants. If you have a couple of thousand dollars floating in your pocket, you can buy a fascimile edition of this fourteen-year-old’s work, but the original is a carefully preserved treasure at Harvard’s Houghton Library. It is so fragile that not even scholars can examine it, but Harvard has made a digitalized version available. 
Brainpickings, a provocative weekly newsletter by Maria Popova, shows the beautifully illustrated guide to medicinal plants published against all odds by Elizabeth Blackwell, a Scottish woman (1707–1758) with a husband in debtor’s prison finding herself desperate to support their children. This Blackwell is not to be confused with the 19th century physician of the same name.
Blackwell’s story is mind-boggling. She painted the plants and took them to her husband’s cell in debtor’s prison so he could identify them by name. Popova calls it “a rare triumph of turning desperation into inspiration”  and offers a fuller story, with spectacular documentation, here .
Stop and savor the sights.


Explore the wonderful cookbook section of the Charlotte Library. Here are a few suggestions for February.

This cookbook, of delicious home-style recipes and stories from Syria by a refugee woman…carries in a true spirit of America. America, the place people across the world come to for comfort, safety, a better future for their children.–Francis Lam, host of The Splendid Table

Try the Everyday Chicken Schawarma. When we served this at the Senior Center, it met with great enthusiasm

Try Tuna Pomodoro or Mustard Crusted Salmon

Try the Poppy Seed Coleslaw

Relive your childhood–and pass it on to the younger generation–with another savory tidbit from a library resource:

  • What’s the difference between an elephant and a cookie?
    • Have you ever tried dunking an elephant in milk?–Joke-Lopedia: The Biggest, Best, Silliest, Dumbest Joke Book Ever!  269 pages of groans 818.6 WEI at the Charlotte Library


“Success in preparing the New England Boiled Dinner begins with the character of the cook.”

The Transcendental Boiled Dinner by John J. Pullen is a book about cooking one dish, written with a fanatical solemnity that produces great comic delight in its commentary on how we live our lives in and out of the kitchen. Published in 1972, look for it in used bookstores.

Quoting from the dust jacket: You will learn that Benjamin Franklin couldn’t have cooked it if he tried. Gertrude Stein preferred roses. Julia Child had other fish to fry. And Harriet Beecher Stowe would have missed the point completely. (After all, this isn’t Yankee pot roast!)

Jonathan Edwards was eminently suitable for making the dinner.

The meat must cook four hours, and Pullen develops a Standard Table for properly inserting the vegetables:

Beef starts simmer       2:00 p.m.

Turnip insertion             5:16 p.m.

Potato insertion             5:31 p.m.

Cabbage insertion         5:41 p.m. 

Carrot insertion              5:46 p.m.

Dinner done                   6:00 p.m.

“But there’s a problem. If the beef starts simmering,say, 5 minutes later than planned, the cook must prepare a MODIFIED TABLE.  But this isn’t enough. Pullen continues: “Yet, since we are are speaking in terms of the utmost precision, there is still another segment of our calculation to be entered, and this is the ADJUSTED TABLE. This is usually necessary for the following reason: When the cold vegetable is inserted, the water is momentarily cooled below the point where simmering ceases. If this hiatus lasts longer than a minute, its time must be added to this and each subsequent entry on the schedule.”

And so on and so on…from why certain vegetables must be omitted to directions for properly cutting up the vegetables that are allowed, and so on. 

While acknowledging that the Boiled Dinner maker may be “pressed into frenzy,” Pullen warns against drinking in the kitchen. 

“It is here that I must warn of a specific danger. At this stage of making the Dinner, when tension has been building up for more than three hours and when there is a natural tendency to seek relief, the idea of having the predinner cocktail may suggest itself. Here I must speculate–although I do not suggest it as an invariable or even a frequent condition–that those capable of preparing a really supernal Boiled Dinner may include a few persons who have a weakness long attributed to certain great geniuses (I think of Edgar Allen Poe) who, in reaching toward perfection, encounter a point beyond which their elevated concepts of Art cannot go and who therefore reach for the bottle.

“This tendency, from whatever motive it arises, must be resisted, especially in the last forty-five minutes, when the pace of time seems to pick up like that of a jet upon takeoff and when certain judgments must be made and adjustments managed within fractions of seconds. In this situation, the Boiled Dinner maker should not risk dulling the edge of his perceptions with alcohol. Let him, when his triumph is achieved and the Dinner is upon the platter, sink down into an easy chair and enjoy his Martini or Manhattan (if he can resist for a few moments the almost maniacal appetite which the sight and smell of the Boiled Dinner arouse). But while the Boiled Dinner is under preparation let him think of a cocktail no longer than he would consider downing a pint of Old Crow before starting down the New Jersey Turnpike behind the wheel of a powerful motorcar.”

In closing, Pullen offers a reminder of something stressed three chapters earlier: “It will surely be remembered how earnestly I have emphasized the necessity of a theological point of view that will exclude from the Dinner all ingredients except those I have appointed as being fit and worthy. To all these excluded things the onion stands as does Satan to his hosts of minor fiends, demons and evil spirits!

“It is the apotheosis of all that is foreign and unreconcilable to the Dinner–and of all that would subvert, corrupt and destroy it!

“Of all the vegetables forbidden to the Transcendental Boiled Dinner, the onion is the most damaging yet the most seductive–the one most likely to suggest itself.

“Heed not the voice of the Serpent!”

The onion lover can read this as evidence that one doesn’t have to agree with an author in order to enjoy his work immensely.


Jane Kramer, longtime staff writer at The New Yorker, has written the Letter from Europe since 1981, covering culture, politics, and social history. Her 2017 book The Reporter’s Kitchen is food-filled New Yorker pieces including profiles of remarkable chefs, gastronomic history, and her own culinary exploits. These exploits are wildly entertaining and informative, ranging from memorable expat Thanksgivings in Umbria–in July– to  foraging for everything from nettles and yarrow leaves to sea lettuce.  Kramer recounts that it took her two days to make Julia Child’s Beef Wellington, “owing, among other things to the fact that my kitchen was so small then that I had to scrub the hall floor in order to roll out the dough for the pain brioche after each rising.”  About twenty years later her husband said, “I was just wondering, why don’t we have beef Wellington anymore?”


You can find Kramer’s  engrossing account of food around the world  at the Charlotte Library.

Meanwhile, as we find ourselves unable to get a break from our own cooking, we should remember the counsel of Sam Sifton, New York Times food editor, offers good advice:  “Kitchen failures will happen and especially these days, as so many of us cook more regularly at home. Recall that Ted Williams was one of the best hitters in baseball history. His lifetime batting average was .344. You are doing just fine. We are all of us doing the best that we can.”

Get on Sam’s e-mail list and receive his good words several times a week.

In addition to cooking counsel and comfort, in his e-mails Sam also offers suggestions on what to read, what to watch, what to listen to. Here’s what he said in an interview with the Vineyard Gazette.

[Writing the email newsletter four times a week] “allows me to really think almost every day about our users, and what they are thinking about,” which isn’t always cooking. We don’t eat food in a vacuum. When the news is bad, when a terrible thing has happened in the world, our [readership] numbers go up.”

Part of the increase comes from people taking refuge from distressing news, but Mr. Sifton said that for others, “it’s about bringing succor to loved ones, so that at the end of a terrible day … to gather together and to serve those people is a great thing to do and makes people feel better.”

Sam Sifton also discussed his new cookbook See You On Sunday, a wonderful tribute to getting friends and family together to eat.  In Sam’s words, “People are lonely. They want to be a part of something, even when they can’t identify that longing as a need. They show up. Feed them. It isn’t much more complicated than that. The point of Sunday dinner is just to have it. Even if you don’t particularly like entertaining, there is great pleasure to be had in cooking for others, and great pleasure to be taken from the experience of gathering to eat with others. Sunday dinner isn’t a dinner party. It is not entertainment. It is just a fact, like a standing meeting or a regular touch football game in the park. It makes life a little better, almost every time.”

The recipes, which are easily scaled up or down in quantity, are great, even if you’re cooking just for yourself.

Book Notes: For laugh-out-loud reading, Don’t Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs offers gasps and guffaws.

Famed chef Daniel Boulud, who has more than one disaster tale to share, observes: “One place you don’t ever get lucky is in the kitchen. You either make the food right or you don’t.”

Senior Center cooks would add: Even when you make the food right, things sometimes happen.  We applaud chef Scott Peacock, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Like a dog, biscuit dough can smell fear. But as far as I know, there are no documented cases of a biscuit ever attacking someone. So what if your first batch or two don’t turn out like your father’s memory of his grandmother’s biscuits, or there aren’t angels singing when you take your first bite? Practice makes progress and that’s really what it’s all about–the satisfaction and enjoyment of learning as you go.”

Practice make progress: a motto to live by.

As it happens, The New York Times published Peacock’s recipe for buttermilk biscuits, noting that he does get a little fussy. In another article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution Peacock explained his own family ins and outs regarding biscuits. Who knew biscuits could be such a critical matter? This article was included in Best Food Writing 2008, ed. Holly Hughes

For a warm, funny, touching, and quite wonderful tribute to his momma and her Southern cooking, don’t miss Rick Bragg’s The Best Cook in the World…Tales from my Momma’s Table.

Each heart-warming story ends with one of Momma’s recipes.

Bonus: The Charlotte Library has a copy of Bragg’s book and also an audio with Rick Bragg reading. Not to be missed!


Julia Child advised that “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” She also noted, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”  The Sunday New York Times book reviewer doesn’t go quite this far but does advise No to Pseudoscientific Diets! Yes to Less Stress About Food!  

This means “Yes to amping up the vegetables and fruits, and yes to drinking more water, for many reasons. No to detoxing, a pseudoscience word that means nothing. Your liver and kidneys are detoxing as we speak, with no help from kale.”  And if you want to know about the Jane Austen Diet, the reviewer says it’s probably better as a literary romp than as a dieting tome. That said, Austen fans “will enjoy being reminded of how smart she actually is about our health, and how she uses food, eating and exercise as shorthand for character. “

The April 22 New Yorker eat-out columnist complained about the 3 ½ hour wait at a snazzy new restaurant in Manhattan. Once she got in, she had plenty of complaints about the food too: (“plate of mediocre nachos strewn with scrambled eggs”). You can eat at the Charlotte Senior Center on Mondays and Wednesdays with no wait, good company, and a great variety of menus. And for men, there are the Thursday breakfasts twice a month



Six Things That Food Snobs Like Even Though They’re Not Supposed To

Jif peanut butter. Yes, it has sugar and hydrogenated oil in it, but corporate peanut butter (Skippy, too) simply tastes better than natural peanut butter, whose oil and solids separate no matter how much they’re stirred, making some mouthfuls feel like an oil slick and others like tile grout.

The other five have equally fun descriptions:

Hot dogs.

Cheez Whiz

Iron Chef

French’s French Fried Onions


from The Food Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge, by David Kamp & Marion Rosenfeld

The book is out of print, but you can get a copy of these six guilty pleasures at Monday  and Wednesday lunches. After all, as Roald Dahl reminded us: “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” Dahl included this wisdom in his screenplay for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Scholars trace this back to Horace, leading Roman poet who died in 8 B.C. He put it this way:

                       Mingle a little folly with your wisdom;
                       a little nonsense now and then is pleasant.


Eat a few cucumbers!

Cucumis sativus, a part of our diet for around 4,000 years, is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Cucumbers may have originated in India and were known in Europe since classical times. Columbus introduced them to Haiti in 1494, and then they spread over North America. Some 100 varieties are now cultivated, most used for eating and about one-third for pickling.

For Vermont’s Harvest of the Month, July is Cucumber Month.  Green Mountain Farm-to-School offers Harvest of the month as a variety of programs promoting a different Vermont-grown crop each month and offering ready-to-use materials for classrooms, cafeterias, and communities. 

From the long thin Japanese cucumber, to short and squat cucumbers like the lemon cucumber or gherkin, cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes with varieties specialized for slicing and eating fresh, or pickling. Cucumbers are  packed with vitamin K and magnesium to promote a healthy immune system and muscle function. Because cucumbers are composed of about 96% water, they are especially effective at promoting hydration and can help you meet your daily fluid needs

To maximize their nutrient content, experts advise: Don’t peel your cucumbers.  But Julia Child peeled them for baking. Yes baked cucumbers. She offers quite a variety of “delicious concoctions”: Concombres au Beurre, Concombres Persilles, Concombres a la Creme, Concombres aux Champignons et a la Creme, and Concombres a la Mornay. 

Note: The Vermont Law School has introduced a new site Labels Unwrapped. In the Label Claims for Fruits and Vegetables section , you’ll learn that the FDA permits “good source of” claims if the food contains between 10 and  19 percent of the reference daily intake or daily reference value ordinarily consumed.




Thank you to Laura Lipmann for her wonderful ode to double boilers–and to quirky fathers, from the New York Times Sunday magazine, Aug. 4.

Blueberries, a healthy fruit to sing about!

1940 “Blueberry Hill,” introduced by Gene Autry in the western “The Singing Hill,” was later played and sung by many musicians: Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Louis Armstrong, Kay Kyser, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Andy Williams, Kiki, Cliff Richard, Bruce Cockburn. It was Fats Domino’s biggest hit, and in the TV series Happy Days, Ritchie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard), sang it whenever he found a date.

I found my thrill
On Blueberry Hill
On Blueberry Hill
When I found you

And there’s some more blueberry lore!

1949 Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal was a Caldecott Honor Book

In 1971, The vain, self-centered, snobby, disrespectful, Violet Beauregarde is turned into a very large blueberry in Roald Dahl’s  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

In 1981 Blueberry jelly bellies were created for Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration in 1981  A portrait of President Reagan made from 10,000  jelly belly beans hangs in his presidential library in Simi Valley California 

2010 We come full circle with Vladamir Putin playing “Blueberry Hill” on piano–and singing it–at a children’s charity dinner in St. Petersburg

As always, take a look at the wonderful cookbooks in the Charlotte Library for a good recipe. Here are a couple:

New England Open House Cookbook has everything from Blueberry Sangria to Blueberry Pancakes. And Blue Hill Blueberry Bliss, a version of blueberry buckle, with nectarines.

The Vermont Country Store Cookbook has a recipe that combines two summer favorites: Blueberries and Zucchini. 

                              “Wild Fruits”

I know of no more agreeable and nutritious food at this season than bread and butter and melons, and you need not be afraid of eating too much of the latter.–Henry David Thoreau

As it happens, Henry David Thoreau was quite right about watermelon’s nutrition. One of summer’s most iconic fruits,  it is low in calories and is an excellent source of lycopene and vitamins A and C. So eat and enjoy!

Terrance Hayes wrote a sonnet that repeats this line 14 times. It is well worth reading aloud. We invite you to come read it in unison at Monday Munch at the Senior Center, before or after you eat your Cool Water Melon Salad.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

Keep going: 11 more times.

Here’s a New York Times 2019 story on  What it takes to be a Texas watermelon queen

Luling, Texas has been choosing a high school junior to be the Watermelon Thump Queen for well over half a century. Unlike other Queens of Texas (i.e. Peanut, Strawberry, Onion or Rattlesnake), to be Queen of the Watermelon Thump requires running a political campaign. . . . (Watch a short film)

Who Wants to Work on a Vermont Dairy Farm? A Reporter Spent a Week Finding Out 



September is for Tomatoes

In the days before Twitter, we had a president who kept careful records of his gardening. Besides that, when he was president Thomas Jefferson kept a record of when tomatoes appeared in Washington markets. In his account, tomatoes vine-ripened in local gardens were available from July 16 to November 17.

In Tomatoland, Barry Estabrook says that the best way to experience true tomato taste is to grow your own. “Both The Tomato That Would Not Die and the heirloom Brandywines in my Vermont garden are of the species Solanum lycopersicum, and both are red. But the similarity ends there. My Brandywines are downright homely–lumpy, deeply creased, and scarred, they look like badly sunburned Rubens derrieres. Nor are they made for travel. More often than not, one will spontaneously split during the twenty-five-yard stroll from garden to kitchen. If not eaten within a day or so after being picked, they develop brownish bruises and begin leaking a watery orange liquid. But that rarely happens. Around our place, Brandywines go fast. They may be ugly. And fragile. Yet there is no better-tasting tomato than a garden-ripe Brandywine.”

Read more in this book about America’s most popular “vegetable” and get insight into the way America farms. The book is available in the Charlotte Library’s overdrive collection.

The documentary “Food Chains” builds on Estabrook’s work  and The Atlantic provides a provocative discussion.

 In his wonderfully poignant, funny, rollicking food memoir, cookbook, and loving tribute to his mother and his region, Rick Bragg writes about tomatoes in Chapter 18. Tomatoes without Taste, Tomatoes without End, starts with Momma’s complaints that tomatoes haven’t been good for the last 50 years. “She has openly disdained beefsteaks, Big Boys, Heatmasters, Sunmasters, Sweet Millions, Mountain Masters, and Boxcar Willies. She does not give a damn. It is understandable that she would feel that way about supermarket tomatoes, which are not actually food, and most likely ripened somewhere on a truck between here and Homestead, or Mexico, or in the hold of a tramp steamer. A supermarket tomato is food the way a frozen burrito is food: of last resort.”

The chapter ends with  Momma’s recipe for Ham and Redeye Gravy over Fresh Diced Tomato, along with her observation: “What I learned from it was how things can go together than ought not go together, like how that meat-grease-and-coffee mixture could wilt that tomato just the the right amount, but how you salt it first, to begin the process of wilting it, to get it all goin’.” 

Rick Bragg’s The Best Cook in the World…Tales from my Momma’s Table is available from the Charlotte Library as a book and as a CD audio. The book is heartfelt; it’s hilarious; it’s highly recommended. And to hear Rick Bragg read it is a wonderful delight.

In their book Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days, James and Kay Salter observe, “You can assess the quality of any Mexican restaurant by one of the first things brought to the table: the salsa. The word itself is Spanish for “sauce” or “gravy” and appears as early as 1571 in accounts on conquistadors in the New World.

“Salsa was originally made by the ancient Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas from tomatoes, native to the region, along with onions and spices. It was served as a condiment by Aztecs rich enough to have meat and fish on their tables, while the poor used it on tortillas…. In the U.S. it is even more popular than ketchup.”