I hope you will find things among my random thoughts that resonate with you and yours. I'd love to read your reactions in the Comments, and I'll be sure to visit you in return. Best regards, Mary

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Culinary Historians

By now everyone has heard of Julia Child, that tall lady with a passion for food who brought French cuisine to American kitchens. I think she would have great fun with today's foodies. And she surely would have loved her 100th birthday party despite the Michigan heat of an August day in 2012. That was just one of many events regularly hosted by the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA).

A cardboard Julia Child surveys the many dishes prepared in honor of her 100th birthday by the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor. With a yellow 'Julia Child' rose.
Kim Bayer | AnnArbor.com Contributor

Until recently I had not heard of "culinary historians". Nor could I have imagined the passion such a calling could generate. That was before my introduction to CHAA. The program on my first visit was a lecture about The Egg! Did you know there are many similarities between human and chicken reproductive systems? That was just the first of many startling and fascinating facts presented that day. And our lecturer was so knowledgeable and entertaining that after the Q&A members followed him to his car with more questions!

There's even a blog written by an Atlanta nutritional anthropologist (another unusual field of study) - The Culinary Historian. Dig a little deeper and you will find whole sections in some libraries devoted to food preparation and consumption dating back as far as the Greeks and Romans. A fine example is our own University of Michigan Clements Library's archive. There a small and devoted volunteer staff works tirelessly to gather and catalog information relating to American culinary history, as well as presenting the occasional program.

And speaking of "the spice of life",  according to a recent lecture it was spices from the East that literally made life bearable for the Greeks and Romans. Theirs was a "fragrant" existence without plumbing or many other waste disposal conveniences that we take for granted. To counteract that situation they regularly dispatched fleets of ships and land-based caravans to the Orient to procure for them huge quantities of rich spices. This vast and steady traffic resulted in the creation of a whole system of enterprise and travel along routes still in use today.

FLASH  This just in, a new book compiled in part by going through Lincoln's grocery bills: