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Your Inspiration?  

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi Leslie,

I guess one of the big questions on my mind given the number of topics that you have written about what motivated you to write a book about the foods of the Lewis & Clark expedition?

Thanks,

Nicko
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
post #2 of 6
Dear Nicko,

I am originally from Oregon and grew up steeped in the lore of the extrordinary voyage of Lewis and Clark. The Lewis and Clark Cookbook grew out of my curiosity of what foods were available 200 hundred years ago in America. In 1993, I wrote 'The Oregon Trail Cookbook' which was about the pioneer expansion from 1850 to 1900. It is very interesting to follow the trails of different cuisines from Europe to the West Coast of America and see how they have changed and stayed the same over centuries.

As with all chefs, I love food and I am fascinated with the history of everything edible. Imagine Thai food without chiles, Italian food without tomatoes, or Ireland without potatoes. These are all native foods from the Americas that have traveled and enriched cuisines around the world. Following trade throughout time illustrates how people adapt new products and make it their own.

But I digress! Back to our stalwart heros who opened the West.

The early 1800's was a time of an incredible Renaisance around the World in all of Man's glorious pursuits of philosophy, art, literature, science, and exploration. Thomas Jefferson was a true visionary and genius who wanted the fledgling United States to grow strong and its citizens to prosper. The most important aspect of growth was the need for land to be developed into productive farms and cities to foster industry for worldwide trade. He hoped for a navigable water route for a Northwest Passage to the Pacific and sent Lewis and Clark to find it. Alas, it was not to be, however the incredible richness of plantable land and furs that were discovered encouraged pioneers and traders to settle and explore.

Thomas Jefferson hoped to have Americans self sufficient and able to have their goods traded to Europe and the world so he experimented with hundreds of different grains, vegetables and fruits to see what would become the most profitable to his countrymen. He freely distributed successful plantings and encouraged trade. In one instance, when ambassador to France, he found that the French chose Italian rice over the American varieties. So he traveled to Italy and upon pain of death if caught, smuggled rice out of the country by sewing false pockets into his coat. Thus he started the cultivation of rice in the Carolinas and Georgia.

While in Europe, he became enamored of fine food and wine and when he returned, gave elegant dinners almost every night. These dinners were mentioned by many visitors and I was able to track down these writings and replicate the dishes.

Of course Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were certainly roughing it, but they always seemed in good spirits and you can feel the comraderie when reading about the men singing around the campfire with Pierre Cruzatte playing the fiddle and Lewis making Buffalo Stew with Suet Dumplings. Seeing the foods avaliable along the journey, such as the buffalo on the Plains and salmon on the Coast, is so interesting. Our heritage is so rich.

Leslie
post #3 of 6
I'm facinated by the Italian rice.....was it just a long grain or was it short/arborio? why so protective?

I noticed on your bio that you preserve!!! I'd really like to know more about what you put up...and how. This year I'm delving into preservation at the Farmer's Market I run.....we've got different communittee groups demonstrating and handing out recipes for local products. There are always numerous weeks when tomatoes,peppers, peaches, berries etc, are prolific....one of the farmer's raised San Marzano tomatoes last year after roasting them I drained off the liquid and used it as an apertif with a salted rim glass....nothing else was needed, the rest went in the freezer...still pulling them out as well as the white peaches...reminents of fraise de bois jam and black raspberry jam are waiting for replenishment.
So Leslie, what do you preserve?
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #4 of 6
Dear Shroomgirl,

The Turin government was so protective of their excellent short-grain arborio type rice because it was one of their main export items that brought in revenue. The Italian rice was whiter, better flavored, and easier to hull (so that it stayed unbroken) than the varieties being grown in America. Once the rice was well established in the Southern States, the trade balance shifted in favor of the U.S. Incidentally, the previous rice production in America had been destroyed by the British during the Revelutionary War.

I LOVE to preserve! Nothing is more satisfying than to go to the cellar during the cold winter and see the shelves of colorful jars of preserved sunshine. We have quince, pears, apricots, plums, and Meyer lemons and the farms and orchards here in Northern California have just about anything you could want. Except sour cherries for some reason. In The Lewis and Clark Cookbook I have several great preserve recipes including an incredible Spiced Watermelon Rind that was very popular in the 1800s.

One of the most suprising facts that I discovered was that America was starting to use hot chile sauce in the early 1800s! Thomas Jefferson was corresponding with a fellow named Bernard McMahon in the "province of Techas" (Texas) who sent Jefferson hot chile seeds and described a hot sauce made of chiles, vinegar, and salt--the same ingredients as Tabasco sauce. I then found a recipe for Hot Chile Sauce in Mary Randolf's cookbook 'The Virginia Housewife' written in 1828. I adapted it and included it in my book.

Your tomato aperitif sounds lovely and there is nothing more delicate and flavorful than fraise de bois. Do you grow your own? Do you have a favorite preserving book?

During the research for my book I came across a wonderful Rose Jelly that is so beautiful and flavorful that I could swoon! Hmm, must go make some scones...

Leslie
post #5 of 6
Ball canning jars had a great 7 day sweet pickle recipe. I really use Sure-jell light and adapt with zests, liquors, spices/herbs.
"Home Preserving Made Easy", by Vera Gewanter and Dorothy Parker 1975 Viking Press. is a good one. I was born in Rancho Cordova and spent my first seven years there....almond trees, vegetable garden, 9 fruit trees....I grew up with BING cherryculls; the doubles are too fun!!!
Tabasco and southern Louisiana was bound to have pepper sauce early on...I spent 15 years (adult) in Baton Rouge area. There's a great story where a fort was under siege and the agressors relayed back to the home country that the fort would go under soon because they were reduced to eating turtles, crawfish and oysters. New Orleans and River Road are such fun places to delve into for history. St. Louis (where I am) has the oldest contiguous farmer's Market west of the Mississippi. Are you coming this way for the Lewis and Clark festivities? The Arch has an incredible museum set up with a L&C exhibit.

*Kumquats were a marmalade disaster....I never spent so much time slicing and seeding to get product. Mango chutney was also a no go....the bought stuff was so much better than I could make. So I stick to fraise de bois....I don't grow just pick or buy from my farmers....raspberries and white peaches (these are exceptional).
I char and freeze tinker bell red peppers, thaw and stuff them with chevre lightened with egg white and bake them until they puff. San Marzanos are incredible....what a super tomato to roast and freeze. I did not dry any but they would work well.

I have rose hips at my front door.....do you make jelly from those also?
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #6 of 6
Dear Shroomgirl,

I will indeed be coming to St. Louis in the Spring of 2004 for the Lewis and Clark celebration. In fact I will be going to all of their Signature Events over the next three years starting with Louisville KY this October. You can see allof the terrific events planned at www.lewisandclark200.org . This will be a great opportunity for me to be able to see this great Country and the incredible journey of L&C!

I agree with you that kumquats a too fiddley to bother with and I am not sure about using rosehips. I have heard of it but a quick look through my books sidn't turn one up.

Following is the best mango chutney, I promise!

Mango Chutney

3 1/2 cups sliced mangoes, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried hot chilies
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves, tied in cheesecloth
1/2 cup raisins

Combine mangoes and sugars and refrigerate overnight. In a large non-reactive pot, combine all of the ingredients and simmer until the mangoes are very tender and mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove cloves and discard. Ladle hot chutney into sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield: about 3 pints
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