First in with her dish was CTB co-host Debra of Eliot's Eats saying, "I was struck by the non-diversity of American agriculture during the late 19th Century. If it weren’t for Farichild’s Office of Plant and Seed Introduction, the U.S., and the western world in many cases, would not know the taste of mangoes, pistachios, many citruses, quinoa, zucchini, chayote, avocados, broccoli, seedless grapes, sesame seeds, chickpeas, kale…(this list would go to infinity and beyond). In the later chapters when Fairchild became more of a bureaucrat and turned the exploring over to Frank Meyer, I was more than intrigued. I would love to read a biography of this man who walked Asia on a solitary journey. He is probably most famous for the lemon that bears his name." Debra made a Kale-Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Raisins and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette saying, "Because of the kale, quinoa, pistachios and raisins that Fairchild “discovered” along with wanting to give a nod to Meyer, I decided to make a salad combining all these flavors."
Next it was Camilla of Culinary Adventures of Camilla who found she didn't like the book as much as she thought, saying "...the book's pacing was a little slow and fell flat in my mind. Still, I did learn a lot...but it was a little like reading a textbook at times. And with over seventy pages as a bibliography and footnotes, it might actually be considered a textbook of sorts!" Camilla tried making Kale Chips for her bookish dish and said, "I have never like kale chips despite liking most other kinds of chips, but I decided to take the plunge this past weekend - just to say that I had done it - and because it fit into a passage from this edition of Cook the Books. I don't think I'll be making these again. I much prefer to use kale for a sauteed side dish, folded into airy malfatti, or baked into a frittata. But this is an easy snack! Though, as I thought, my boys really did think that it was a waste of perfectly good kale. I have to agree."
Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm found the book dry at times saying, "This was an interesting, if somewhat textbook like, read. I guess I never really gave much thought as to how certain foods were brought here to be farmed. I guess I just thought the people who emigrated from other countries brought them with them but that, I found out, was not the case." For her dish Wendy used what she learned about zucchini for her Zoodle Slaw, "Nature's real intent was for zucchini to be eaten small, before its blossoms fell--it's name is Italian for "little squash". She said, "So save those giant zucchini for making breads, jam, cakes and muffins but when serving this slaw or cooking to eat by itself or in enchiladas, breakfast casseroles, or stand alone dishes like these zoodles with Thai peanut sauce, you want to use flavorful, small squash."
Fellow CTB host, Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "Very informative however, despite some of it being a bit dry, there's enough to keep one interested, with all his travel adventures and mishaps, the variety of seeds, cuttings and plants Fairchild, as well as his protegee, Frank Meyer, and contemporary, Walter Swingle, were able to ship back to the US, or carry themselves." For her entry, Claudia says, "As far as a dish inspired by this book, it would have to include something brought to the US by our featured explorers. I ended up making a Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Peppers, Pancetta and Asiago Cheese, based loosely on Mario Batali's recipe in Babbo (his had parsnips). The explorers sent back so many thousands of plants, among them a number of varieties of peppers. At one point, the USDA reported "more than ten new plants were arriving in America each day." Asparagus was first introduced to America by Fairchild's associate, Frank Meyer, who traveled extensively in China during a time Fairchild was based in Washington."
Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures said, "I started the book in plenty of time, and it was interesting. Yet, it was a slog at the same time. It was almost like reading a textbook - fascinating, but so slow and dry in between! I loved learning about David Fairchild and all of the other great minds of the time. According to the book (and the ostentatiously long subtitle), David Fairchild is responsible for the introduction of literally thousands of plants (many of them edible) to the United States in the late 1800's and early 1900's." Amy made Balsamic-Thyme Roasted Carrots saying, "And here we are, with all these foods, and literally no inspiration for a recipe. It was kinda like, "here! All food ever, and go!" It was too much! After I finally finished the book (with not a single inspiring food/dish written down, I stewed on it for several days. Finally, I decided to take the carrots I just harvested from my garden and roast them for dinner. I have no idea if carrots are one of the foods David Fairchild introduced to the US, but I went with it nonetheless. These carrots are a great way to spice up your garden bounty or those sad wintertime carrots in a few months!"
Simona of briciole loved the book and said, "Before reading the book, I didn't know who David Fairchild was. Also, I didn't know who Frank Meyer was, though I am a great fan of the Meyer lemon, named after him; had never read the full story behind the Haas avocado; had no idea how Japanese cherry blossom trees had ended up blooming in Washington D.C. and wondered why a town in Southern California was called Mecca." About her Fruit Salad with Fresh Dates Simona said, "Fairchild introduced many types of fruit to the US (though his personal favorite, the mangosteen, never took hold here), so it was easy to decide to make a fruit salad (macedonia) for my breakfast (colazione) with fruit we eat because of his and his department's work and that is available now at the farmers market: Asian pear (pera asiatica), watermelon (cocomero), fig (fico), besides dates. Fairchild also tried to introduce the cashew tree, but domestic production never took hold, though consumption of cashew nuts (anacardi) did."
Finally at Kahakai Kitchen, I enjoyed learning about where our variety of food comes from and following along on Fairchild's and Meyer's journeys. I decided to go with kale or capuzzo as it was called in Austria-Hungary for my bookish ingredient. My favorite variety is Tuscan kale (aka black or lacinato kale) and I love it in a simple Caldo Verde, a Portuguese soup with potatoes and garlic and sometimes sausage. I made a vegan version of a Nigel Slater classic recipe that really hit the spot.
I believe that I have all of the entries captured here--at least from comments and emails but if I have missed anyone, please let me know.
Mahalo to all of you for joining in!
Our next selection will be The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klenic and hosted by Claudia of Honey from Rock. Happy Reading and Eating
Thanks for hosting this month. I learned a lot and it provided for some amazing recipes.
Such a fascinating read! I find myself looking at certain foods with a complete new perspective. Thank you for hosting, Deb. I am looking forward to reading what everybody has cooked.
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