Archive for the Cooking Category

Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages

Posted in Cooking, Things You Should Read, Things You Should See with tags , , , , on February, 2014 by melendwyr

If you have an interest in plants, unusual spices, the botanical aspects of cooking, or herbal etymology, either you’ve been to Gernot Katzer’s site or you should give it a look.

The topics range from common spices to ancient herbs extinct for millennia, but the kinds of information provided for each are similar.  Every flavoring entry discusses its source, including which part(s) of the plant are used, their taste and scent (as much as they can be described in words), some brief notes on their use in the kitchen.  The natures of the primary active chemicals involved are mentioned.  And, perhaps most importantly, the names of the spice in many languages are provided, along with historical notes on where they originated and what meanings they originally had.

This last is especially important if you’re dealing with cooking instructions that are in a language other than those you are deeply familiar with, or a recipe that is being translated from a foreign tongue.  Many vegetables and spices are improperly identified or poorly translated in such cases.  Local names and references frequently produce false cognates in other contexts or languages, and acquiring ingredients according to the instructions you’re given can produce highly variable results, from unpalatable messes to potentially dangerous toxins in some cases.

The illustrations are not only pleasant to look at but highly useful, making it easy to identify relatively exotic and unfamiliar flavorings when you’re looking for or encountering them.  And since people in temperate climates are unlikely to ever see such things as ginger flowers or fresh pepper berries, the photos are educational in addition to being informative.

Culinary backgrounds to linguistic data, it’s all here.  The only thing not present which you might possibly expect is information on finding or growing the source plants.  But that isn’t the intended function of the site.

For English speakers, the website is found at


Posted in Cooking, Gardening with tags on November, 2013 by melendwyr

Over the weekend, I braved the cheerless cold and wind of the end of autumn to harvest some tubers.  Dahlia tubers.
Not many people realize that this cherished flower was originally bred for consumption by the pre-Columbian Mexican peoples.  It’s as though the potato were never eaten and instead grown competitively for decoration.

The primary problem with the plant is that the various animal pests infesting the local community garden have no prejudices about strange foods.  I pried about twenty pounds of tubers from the ground, stretching my supply of available carrying containers to the limit, but I had to throw away between a third and a half of the tubers because they’d been partly gnawed by voles.

They’re remarkably tasty things, like a cross between a potato and a peppery celery stalk.  I suspect that the cultivar I possess is the ‘Wisconsin Red’, known for its prolific production.  When you consider that three plants produced roughly thirty pounds of edible tuber, you can see why I’m interested in developing it further.  Alas, my clone doesn’t seem to self-fertilize no matter how many bees are about, so experimenting with cross-breeding will require growing and testing more cultivars.

Stop putting bacon on everything!

Posted in Cooking with tags , , on October, 2011 by melendwyr

I occasionally catch cooking shows such as the ones on Food Network, and rarely browse/purchase magazines when I pass by them.  And one of the recent trends which I keep coming across is putting bacon (or its classy Italian sibling, prosciutto) on everything.  Everything!  On breads,on seafoods, on roasts, on fruits!  On watermelon, even.

I’m sure it tastes delicious.  It’s bacon, after all.  But it seems like cheating – practically anything would be delicious wrapped in bacon.  Even sticks and mud would taste good that way.  Shouldn’t attempts to get people to cook well involve more than wrapping their offerings in overpoweringly-esculent meat products?