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Monday, Jul 23, 2012
Unlike its sugary sister, the cupcake, the muffin is unlikely to have its 15 minutes of fame. Nobody in foodieland is filling muffins with salted caramel or lavender essences.

There is nothing hip about the humble muffin. Unlike its sugary sister, the cupcake, the muffin is unlikely to have its 15 minutes of fame. The muffin is far too plebian for bakery display windows or breathless magazine write-ups. Nobody in foodieland is filling muffins with salted caramel or lavender essences. It’s difficult to imagine a muffin pop-up or muffin food truck, parked proudly between the pork belly tacos and pho. 

No, the muffin is either relegated to the puffy horrors of chain supermarket bakeries or the indigestibly fibrous offerings calling themselves health food.

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Thursday, Jul 12, 2012
Marion Cunningham, cooking teacher and cookbook author, is dead at age 90.

Marion Cunningham was more than just another talented cook. 

Her career did not begin until she was 49. Until then she was an agoraphobic, alcoholic housewife. Determined to turn her life around, she overcame her fears, stopped drinking, and focused on her love for cooking. Cooking classes led to work with James Beard. When Knopf Publishing began considering revamping the dated Fannie Farmer cookbook, Beard recommended Cunningham to cookbook editor Judith Jones (another great lady). Cunningham’s career took off.  She wrote numerous cookbooks, won numerous awards, and proved that second acts are possible.

Marion Cunningham died this morning, July 12th, in Walnut Creek, California. She was 90. Rest in peace, Ms. Cunningham. You will be missed.

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Monday, Jul 2, 2012
"Variety" meats like tongue, testicles, feet, and tails have long been consigned to meat purgatory. It's time to change that.

“Lucky indeed is the cook with the gift of tongues!”
—Irma S. Rombaur and Marion Rombaur Becker, The Joy of Cooking, 1975 Edition

Recently I bought a beef tongue. Actually, I bought the tongue, the only one in the butcher case. The butcher did not flinch. He removed it and took a formidably curved knife to it, trimming some especially fatty-looking, gristly bits from the throat end before wrapping it up and handing it over.

My tongue cost $16.00, or almost €13: not cheap. Offal, or what Americans refer to as “variety cuts” like tongue, liver, tripe, heart and gizzards, are supposed to be cheap due to their unpopularity. Not my tongue.

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Monday, Jun 11, 2012
What can happen in a 45-year-old, 80 square-foot kitchen? At the hands of master canner, Marisa McClellan, magic.

When you admit to acquaintances that you can food, they either are filled with admiration, think you crazy, or a bit of both.

But canning, like many other slightly faded domestic arts, has made a huge comeback, appealing to do-it-yourselfers, end-of-days folks, artisanal foodies, and cooks interested in preserving the glories of summer fruits and vegetables. Nor should we forget the cooks who never ceased canning: Mormons, whose religious beliefs include extensive food storage, or people like my husband’s aunt, who tends an enormous garden and cans the results, thus spending far less at the market. 

Yes, high-quality, commerically canned food is readily available, but home-canned fruits, vegetables,  pickles, and fish (yes, fish) are far better than anything off a supermarket shelf. There’s the added advantage of knowing exactly what went into your jar—ideally, fresh organic food. Think of this in January as you eat pasta sauce made from organic Roma tomatoes you spent a sweaty August weekend canning, or as you tuck marinated red peppers and goat cheese into a midweek luncheon sandwich.

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Friday, May 25, 2012
Even the most timid cook, possessed of the most rudimentary kitchen, will benefit from Seductions of Rice. Read it and allow yourself to be enthralled. Then get cooking. (Hands holding rice. Image from

“In both cities where I live—San Francisco and Paris—robust Asian communities have seductive markets offering such enticing ingredients it’s impossible for a curious cook to remain stubbornly, foolishly Western.”
—David Tanis, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

Prior to their 2009 divorce, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid collaborated on six cookbooks, glorious combinations of recipes, travelogues, history, and foodways. Both talented photographers, they shot on site, in markets, villages, farms, and side streets, creating exquisitely designed books. Together and apart, they had the ability to befriend total strangers and get invited into homes, where their requests to learn authentic dishes were granted. While the authors and their two sons are a presence in the texts, they opt for a narrative rather than central role. Instead, we see the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, their homes, their kitchens, their cookware, their food.

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