A brief history of pumpkin spice

Moss and Fog looked at the history of pumpkin spice:

The fall’s unofficial flavor wasn’t always pumpkin spice. But as people’s love of autumn and all things nostalgic reached fever pitch, the unmistakable seasonal taste cemented its place

The history of that spice mix goes back much farther than you might think. Indeed, this American invention can be traced back as far as 1796 in the cookbook American Cookery. In that very old book, they talk about recipes for ‘pompkin’ that include the same spices.

Pumpkin spice’s memeification detracts away from its origins but its popularity has given Certain Demographics the chance to experience a bit of seasoning in their otherwise flavourless food. That can only be a good thing.

What was François Mitterrand's final meal and why was it so controversial?

The ortolan is a small bird from the bunting family that lives in Europe and western Asia. It is also the last meal that former French president François Mitterrand ever ate, 8 days before his death. But eating ortolans is illegal in France (even though some chefs will still make it) and it comes with some… unique traditions:

[…] To prepare it, the ortolan is drowned in a glass of Armagnac. This is not a metaphor. It is actually drowned, and then it is cooked in a cassoulet.

[…]

You place a white cloth over your head and pick the bird up with your fingers, and then you eat it whole, wings, feet, organs, head, everything except the feet. The ortolan is supposed to represent the soul of France.

The white cloth is to create a closed sensory world of just taste and scent.

The cloth is also, traditionally, to hide the act from God.

via Interconnected

For more on Mitterand’s last meal and the ortolan, read Michael Paterniti’s 1998 piece for Esquire magazine. You can also read this Smithsonian article on the ortolan from 2018 and how it is/was eaten into extinction. (A note that while the ortolan’s global conservation listing is “Least Concern”, in France, it is “Endangered”.)

Hungarian cuisine: 5 delicious dishes & recipes

Our article on Hungarian chess master Paul Charles Dozsa has been quite popular (although we now know the man from the meme was actually Cecil George Edwards). But regardless, it got me thinking—what are the best dishes in Hungarian cuisine?

In this list, I’ll be looking at 5 recipes and dishes from Hungary.

1. Goulash (gulyás)

Let’s get goulash out of the way. In the realms of Hungarian cuisine, this dish is the one everyone thinks of. The name originates from gulyás, a word for “herdsmen”. It still means that but it also takes the meaning of the actual stew. There’s also gulyásleves which is a thinner soup than goulash.

Most modern recipes include tomatoes but they were nowhere to be seen in the original recipes. Meats in goulash recipes include lamb, pork, beef, and veal and a wide variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrots and peppers. To quote my friend, Tom: “Goulash in a bread basket is also beautiful.”

Beef Goulash - Hungarian Beef Goulash Recipe - Paprika Beef Stew

2. Chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke/csirkepaprikás)

I love to season my meat with paprika (keep your mind out of the gutter, please) and so do the Hungarians. They love the paprika peppers and spice so much, they have two museums dedicated to them. For chicken paprikash, the meat is cooked in a roux containing paprika, then simmered in a sauce for around 40 minutes.

Fun fact: Jonathan Harker ate chicken paprikash while he travelled to Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. (And in case you didn’t know, Transylvania was part of the Hungarian Empire until the 20th century.)

3. Pörkölt

It’s another meat stew. Pörkölt is similar to goulash in that it contains meat (boneless), paprika, and vegetables. But the main difference between pörkölt and goulash is the latter has more gravy and the meats can contain bones.

The most popular variant of this Hungarian dish contains beef and onion as detailed in this Daring Gourmet recipe. Pork is another popular choice, served with nokedli like the one in the Where Is My Spoon recipe.

4. Sour cherry soup (meggyleves)

Let me preface this by saying: I hate cherries. So the idea of a cold sour cherry soup is hell for me. But not for the Hungarian population so my opinion is invalid here.

Meggyleves is made with sour cherries (which come in 2 variants: Morello cherries and Amarelle cherries). It’s traditionally served as a dinner course, either as a starter, main soup or a dessert and it works best served during the summer.

Random fact: Turkey produced 187,941 tonnes of sour cherries in 2012, compared to Hungary’s 53,425 tonnes.

5. Spätzle (nokedli)

Spätzle, or nokedli, is a type of pasta made with fresh eggs, bread flour, and salt. The geographic origin of spätzle is unknown, leading to many nations claiming it as theirs.

The pasta is best known as a German delicacy but Hungarians love it and serve it with soup or you could have it with cherries in kirschspätzle.

Honourable mentions

You should also try:

  • Palacsinta (a thin crêpe-like variety of pancake)
  • Halászlé (a hot, spicy paprika-based fish soup)
  • Főzelék (a thick Hungarian vegetable stew or soup)
  • Dobosh (a Hungarian sponge cake)
  • Lángos (a deep fried flatbread although my friend Tom recommends to have it at a restaurant rather than a takeaway)

Hungarian cookbooks to buy

Enjoyed all the food? Want to nose dive into the world of Hungarian cuisine? Check out the list of books below and experience Hungary without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Well, you’ll have to make the short journey from there to the kitchen but someone’s got to do it.

The Collapse of Bon Appétit

Rick, Priya, and Sohla, formerly of Bon Appetit

Last year, I got into Bon Appétit and fell in love with the format of cooking but with a more personable touch. I was used to shows like Kitchen Nightmares, Masterchef (back when Lloyd Grossman presented it), and Saturday Kitchen. But Bon Appétit was fun and entertaining. Until we all found out about the racism.

Jack Saint made a brilliant video called The Collapse of Bon Appétit which deconstructed the ideology behind the channel’s demise and why it was more a symptom of a racist system than an error of judgement. My favourite line was this:

“This was a burgeoning giant of online video, and it just completely shit the bed because it couldn’t stop being racist.”

For me, it was a terrible shame but also a wake up call that this is an issue for all media conglomerates trying to curry favour from the masses. We’ve seen first hand how White these corporations are and how they ill-treat their employees of colour (if they even have any). And for Condé Nast, they weren’t paying their BIPOC workers what they deserved.

But one of the most poignant points that Jack made was about how the chummy relationship between Bon Appétit cast members and their fans was very one-sided. I found myself slipping into that kind of behaviour but nowhere near the apparent fanfics people had made. Yikes. It reminded me of something my friend Keidra once said about fans:

Please y’all, don’t make these idols like your friends. They are doing a job. They have friends that are not you.

I’m not going to police how other people navigate their fandoms, especially when I’ve never been that ingratiated in one myself. From my experience, it’s probably for the best that this kind of ideology was dismantled but I wish it wasn’t off the back of racial exploitation. Again.

The Collapse of Bon Appetit | Jack Saint

İşkembe Çorbası - A Turkish hangover cure

işkembe çorbası

There is a myriad of old wives’ tales describing ways of curing hangovers. But one popular cure in Turkey is işkembe çorbası, translated as literally “tripe soup”. Naturally, this isn’t vegetarian​ or vegan but it’s not reserved for the morning after a boozy night either.

İşkembe Çorbası Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. veal tripe (about 230g)
  • 4-5 cups water (about 1 litre)
  • Salt
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 3 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup milk (about 60ml)

For finishing

  • Butter
  • Red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Cook the tripe in water and salt for about 1½ – 2 hours or until tender. You can use a pressure cooker to cook it faster. Remove the foam from the surface. Take the cooked tripe out of the water and cut it into bite-size chunks. Keep the water for later.
  2. Melt butter, add flour, stir, and add about 2 cups of the water, stirring constantly. Blend until smooth; then add the tripe. Cook 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat. 
  3. Slowly pour the egg yolk and milk into the pot and stir very slowly. Cook for 3-4 more minutes over medium heat. If it’s too thick, add some more boiled water. Pour the soup into bowls. 
  4. Add mixture of melted butter and red pepper to the soup. Finally, add the garlic and vinegar in a small bowl, pouring 1 tbs. into the soup.

(via Gastro Obscura, and drink responsibly.)