Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cheese Author Interviewed by BBC

Hannah Briggs of the BBC consulted our own Andrew Dalby, author of Cheese: A Global History, when writing this piece on new evidence that's been uncovered in Poland that reveals more about mankind's oldest methods of cheese-making. If you'd like to know more about the history of cheese and cheese-making – including that seasonal staple, the mighty stilton – why not pick up a copy of his book to add to your Christmas stocking?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

BBC Radio 4 - Hot Dog Revisited

Bruce Kraig, the author of Hot Dog in Reaktion's Edible Series, appeared on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme in the episode 'Rethinking the Hot Dog'. If you missed it, you can listen here.

Cocktails in the Village Voice

Read all about it here. Joe Carlin will be giving a talk at Harvard University
Schlesinger Library on the evening of December 4th - you can see the details on our Events page.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Lemon Panna Cotta

Recipe by Toby Sonneman, author of Lemon: A Global History, now available in all good bookshops! 

·      1 envelope gelatin
·      1 cup sugar
·      1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
·      1 cup lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
·      2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest from unwaxed lemons (organic if possible)
·      1 cup non-fat Greek-style yogurt

1.     Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup of cold water in a small bowl. Let it soften until there are no dry spots, about five minutes.
2.     Combine sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan and brink to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
3.     Turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved.
4.     Add the cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let cool slightly.
5.     Put the yogurt in a mixing bowl and whisk it to loosen it.
6.     Add the cream mixture, little by little, gently stirring after each addition to break up the lumps. Do not over-stir as it adds air bubbles.
7.     Pour the mixture into 4-6 small glasses, teacups or ramekins. Tap them on the side to remove air bubbles. Cover each with plastic wrap, and chill until set – six hours or overnight.

This recipe is adapted from one for Meyer lemon panna cotta by Marlena Spieler. Meyer lemons, which are sweeter, are popular in California but are hard to find in the UK.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Punching Demonstration

No, that's not Muhammad Ali - it's Joe Carlin demonstrating how to give Colonial Punch some welly at his talk at the  Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Edible Author Makes Front Page

Joe Carlin is on the front cover of the Ipswich Chronicle! For non-Ipswich, Massachusetts, residents, the link is here. Both his book, Cocktails, and Champagne by Becky Sue Epstein, recently got great reviews in the UK photography magazine State/F22.


'It takes an American to contribute to the Edible Series' pocket history of cocktails and Joseph M. Carlin is that soldier.'


'After digesting Epstein's global history of champagne you will be able to impress any sommelier with an informed scrutiny of the label on any house champagne that might be offered . . . this is the book that will help you.'

Monday, 17 September 2012

Edible authors celebrate the publication of Vodka

L-R: Jeri Quinzio, author of Pudding; Patricia Herlihy, author of Vodka; and Joseph M. Carlin, author of Cocktails.
The authors were giving a talk at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Also pictured is their celebratory tipple (for educational purposes, of course).

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Pizza, Hamburger and Ice Cream in Chinese

Pizza, Hamburger and Ice Cream are now available in Chinese Complex Character! Here are the covers of the Chinese editions.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Madgooga: An Iraqi Date Confection

'This confection is called madgooga (literally ‘the pounded’) as it was traditionally made of equal amounts of dry dates and walnut or rashi/tahini (sesame paste) pounded into paste with a mortar and pestle for a long time, nowadays conveniently replaced with the food processor', Nawal Nasrallah explains on her blog, In My Iraqi Kitchen.

You can read her recipe for madgooga here. She is the author of Dates: A Global History as well as the award-winning History of the Iraqi Cuisine

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Gin review in Sydney Daily Telegraph

"This is a fascinating little book crammed with intriguing facts and topped off with cocktail recipes with names like ``corpse reviver''. It makes a person very thirsty . . . for knowledge, of course."

Gin: A Global History is by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rum, Vodka and Gin at the New School, New York

Edible authors Richard Foss, Patricia Herlihy and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson gave talks at the New School on the history of spirits in the USA. You can watch footage from the event here.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Spirits of America event in Wall Street Journal

The Spirits of America event, led by Richard Foss, author of Rum, Patricia Herlihy, author of Vodka, and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, author of Gin, was held last week at the New School, New York.

You can read about it here.

Patricia Herlihy also gave a talk and led a tasting at the Hermitage Museum Foundation, New York.

Patricia Herlihy (centre) demonstrating what to eat with vodka.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Big in Japan

Cake by Nicola Humble and Ice Cream by Laura B. Weiss are also now available in Japanese translation. 

Time for Ice Cream?

If the hot weather in the USA wasn't enough to make you want an ice-cold treat, perhaps Ice Cream: A Global History will tickle your tastebuds. Laura B. Weiss, author of Ice Cream, was interviewed by about the book, ice cream history and her favourite places to eat it in Long Island, NY.
Ice Cream is now available as an ebook for both Amazon Kindle and epub readers.

Laura also runs Facebook and a Pinterest pages about the book, as well as her Foodandthings blog.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Gin by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson reviewed in the Guardian

'The author of this effervescent little history traces modern gin's origins (as the Dutch drink genever) and its subsequent use for "medicinal" purposes and in the military ("Dutch courage"), and its demonisation during the London gin panic. "Never again," the author writes wistfully, "would the city of London be as consistently intoxicated as it was between 1720 and 1751." – The Guardian

Gin: A Global History is available here (USA) and here (UK and rest of world), and now as an ebook for Amazon Kindle or an epub reader.

The Edible Series Goes Electronic

Twelve books in the Edible series are now available as ebooks! Rum, Bread, Gin, Vodka, Herbs, Olive, Apple, Curry, Lobster, Chocolate, Cheese and Ice Cream can now be downloaded either for the Amazon Kindle or for .epub devices such as the Sony readers. The other published titles will be available as ebooks very soon. Watch this space for more updates.

So why not download Ice Cream to read in the park, or Rum, Gin or Vodka from the comfort of a bar stool? 

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Short History of the Ramos Gin Fizz

Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, author of Gin: A Global History, available here (USA) and here (UK and rest of world)

With the Summer Solstice just behind us, it seems the perfect time to think about summer cocktails, and gin is the hands-down winner when it comes to refreshing, hot weather libations.   Think lawn parties,  croquet, brunch, and seersucker.  All of these bucolic visions deserve an equally leisurely beverage, and gin’s crisp, clean profile fits the bill. 

Enter the Ramos Gin Fizz, a frothy, creamy, aromatic wonder created by New Orleans saloon keeper extraordinaire Henry Charles Ramos in 1888.  The key to a gin fizz, Ramos or otherwise, is the shaking to emulsify the ingredients.  Ramos employed over 35 ‘shaker men’ who shook the fizz until his arms tired, then passed along the shaker to the next fellow in line, and so on.  My good friend and bartender Brian Rea suggests sprinkling the orange flower water on the top, so the aroma wafts to the nose as you sip.

Bartenders at Ramos's famous saloon in New Orleans, late 19th century.

The Ramos’s parent, the basic gin fizz, evolved during the golden age of the cocktail in the 19th century. Basically, it’s a “sour”-based drink with soda water added.  The standard recipe calls for gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda water.  Darcy O’Neill, soda expert par excellence, notes that soda water’s effervescence help release the gin aromatics (or any other spirit, for that matter).  Moreover, the gin fizz is a perfect base for variations – add egg yolk, you have a Golden Fizz; egg white produces a Silver Fizz; a whole egg makes a Royal Fizz, and so on. 

But, in my opinion, the Ramos Gin Fizz, with its addition of cream and orange flower water, is where the magic lies.  As cocktail historian David Wondrich has said, “If the Sidecar is jazz, the Ramos Fizz is ragtime . . . Like ragtime, Henry C. Ramos's creation is a matter of poise, of balance, of delicacy. This isn't a drink to throw together from whatever you've got lying around; every part of the formula is crucial.”

The recipe below is from Gin: A Global History, courtesy of Wondrich.  His version calls for an Old Tom gin, which would have been the gin of choice back in the day.  In the States, you can find Hayman’s Old Tom, which is lightly sweetened, as well as Ransom Old Tom (co-created by Wondrich in a style whose sweetness comes from the botanicals).  In the UK, Jensen’s Old Tom is worth seeking out, and Hayman’s is available as well.  If you prefer, Plymouth’s smooth, elegant style is also suitable.   

Courtesy of cocktail historian David Wondrich


1 tablespoon superfine (icing) sugar
3 or 4 drops (no more) orange flower water
Juice from ½ lime
Juice from ½ lemon
1 ½  ounces/45 ml Old Tom gin*
1 egg white
1 half-glass of crushed ice
Approximately 2 tablespoons rich milk or cream
A little (about an ounce) seltzer water **

Place all ingredients in a shaker.    Per Ramos: ‘Shake and shake and shake until there is not a bubble left but the drink is smooth and snowy white and of the consistency of good, rich  milk.’ (*Plymouth Gin will also work.  **Modern bartending suggests that one strain the drink into a tall Collins glass then add the seltzer after, giving it a quick stir.)

What is truly wonderful about the Ramos Gin Fizz is that, while it is indeed alcoholic, as a traditional morning to midday tipple, it is gentle on the stomach, with a breezy charm that transports you to a time both utterly civilized and subversively seductive .  Or, as Wondrich opines, “To sip a Ramos Fizz on a hot day is to step into a sepia-toned world peopled with slim, brown-eyed beauties who smell of magnolias and freshly laundered linen, and tall, mustachioed gentlemen who never seem to work and will kill you if you ask them why.” 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Podcast: Gary Allen On the Menu

Listen to Gary Allen, author of Herbs: A Global History, talking about his book on the On the Menu radio show here:

Thursday, 14 June 2012

What's In Vodka, Anyway?

Patricia Herlihy

Poland is the largest vodka producer in the EU and the fourth largest in the world.

The Polish Lower House of Sejm recently voted to accept a strict definition of Polish vodka: 'Polish vodka is an alcoholic beverage produced from grain or potatoes harvested in Poland.' The 400 MPs voted for the measure, none were against and 38 abstained. The new law changes the definition of 'Polish vodka' and defines the technical specifications for the preparation for the spirit.

The vote came in the wake of a 2008 EU decision to allow the name 'vodka' to be applied to alcoholic beverages produced from other raw materials such as grapes. Ciroc Vodka, made in France, is distilled from grapes, whereas one of the English Chase Distillery offerings of vodka is made from apples.  In the United States, 4-Oranges Vodka uses that fruit.  Newer brands are Spike Vodka made from prickly pear cactus in Texas and VuQo Premium Vodka, the only vodka in the world distilled from coconut, made in the Philippines.

Friday, 8 June 2012

John Prescott's Taste Matters

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do, by John Prescott with a foreword by Heston Blumenthal, has been reviewed in The Observer:

"Prescott runs a consultancy 'in the area of food perceptions and preferences', and Taste Matters offers both a detailed analysis of that area and a broader examination of the psychology of eating. For example, he looks at why young children can be reluctant to try new foods, and what strategies parents might adopt in response, before expanding his inquiry to cover cravings, aversions, the external cues and psychological motivations that prompt us to eat, and why, once we've started, it can be so difficult to stop . . . [his] hybrid approach frequently makes for fascinating reading."

For more on how our food preferences are formed, you can download a podcast of a Radio New Zealand interview with John at

You can buy the book here (in the UK and Europe) and here (in North and South America).

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Library Journal reviews Gin, Rum and Vodka

Each of the approximately 30 books in The Edible Series presents an exploration of the history and cultural impact of a variety of foods and beverages, such as pizza, curry, apples, and even pancakes. The latest three volumes in the series focus on gin, rum, and vodka, supplementing one on cocktails in general and another on whiskey. They trace the history of its respective spirit, discuss contemporary trends of consumption, and conclude with recipes and guidance on brands. Each volume is strongly shaped by the voice and skill of its writer, tempered by the particulars of the respective story. Food historian and journalist Foss spins a well-researched tale of the colorful history of rum—rife with pirates, revolution, and palm trees—delightful to read and full of wry wit. Food writer Solmonson ( balances the kind of context and detail that will appeal to serious readers with accessible prose, chronicling the evolution of gin as medicine, as a threat to the health and industry of the British lower classes, as staple of the British fleet, and as star of the gin martini. Herlihy (history, emerita, Brown Univ.) presents a more traditional and scholarly history of vodka. 

 The well-read foodie who loves a good cocktail will enjoy these little histories and put to use their practical information on recipes and brands as well.—Courtney Greene, Indiana Univ. Lib., Bloomington

Thursday, 31 May 2012

How to Inhale Vodka

Patricia Herlihy, author of Vodka: A Global History

In addition to the powered version of vodka invented by a St Petersburg professor I mention in my book, a Harvard professor has invented a vodka mist or spray, called Wahh:

About $26 will buy you a Wahh canister, which contains around 25 'puffs' of vaporized alcohol. Hold the lipstick-sized tube up to your mouth, breathe in, and a burst of vodka-flavored mist delivers a dizzying sensation. The feeling fades within seconds, leaving you sober enough to pass a breathalyzer test.

The science behind the vaporizer is pretty simple. Each puff of vapor contains only .075 milliliters of alcohol – the equivalent of about 1/1000th of a shot of liquor. Edwards explains that by vaporizing a single drop of alcohol, Wahh 'increases its surface area by approximately 1,000 times'. In other words, the vapor tricks your brain into thinking that you’re inhaling a thousand droplets of alcohol, rather than one.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rum Shrub

Richard Foss, author of Rum: A Global History

It is always a delight to find seventeenth-century recipes that are easy to follow, and a rarity to find one that has been annotated by a contemporary who actually used it. One of the prized examples is from the Receipt Book of Harriott Pinckney Horry, by a plantation owner who made copious notes about her kitchen experiments in South Carolina in 1770. One of her recipes is for rum shrub, a popular hot-weather refresher. She starts by transcribing a neighbor’s recipe:

‘To every Gallon of Rum put one Quart of Juice and two pounds of the best double refined Sugar. Shake the Shrub every day for two Months, and let it settle once more, then draw it off for use. The Vessel should be kept close cork'd during the whole process, and to every hundred of Oranges put twenty-five Lemons. To make your Shrub fine all the Materials should be the best.’

In the margin of this recipe, Harriott wrote, ‘I think the following receipt better. To one Gallon old rum add 5 pints Juice and 3 1/2 pounds Sugar.’

A modern version of this recipe might use a higher proportion of lemons, since the strains of oranges available in 1770 were probably less sweet than modern oranges, but it is a tasty drink exactly as described. You can make shrub using tart berry juices like raspberry, or even strawberry juice, but need to reduce the sugar content to have the right balance between tart and sweet. Start now and those of you in the Northern Hemisphere will have something delightful to serve your guests in the summer heat.

Richard Foss is the author of Rum: A Global History, recently released by Reaktion Books and available here (in North and South America) and here (in the UK and rest of the world). His website can be viewed at

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sage Advice

Gary Allen, author of Herbs: A Global History

If you’ve had an herb garden for a while, you’ve probably found that some perennial herbs need to be cut back from time to time. That nice little sage plant you once planted is turning into a largish shrub that threatens to crowd out some of the less vigorous species in your little kitchen garden. You can obviously hang the trimmings in bundles to dry, then rub them to a more compact powder – but, frankly, how much dried sage are you ever going to use? You can give jars of it away to all your friends who cook – but eventually they’ll start treating you like one of those pariahs who surreptitiously abandon giant zucchinis on one’s doorstep in dead of night.
     Here’s a solution that is ridiculously easy to prepare, will amaze your dinner guests, and might even have your neighbors begging for your pruning waste.

Ravioli with Fried Sage

Serves four to six as a main course

1 30-oz bag frozen cheese ravioli (or five dozen home-made ravioli)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
1–2 large branches of sage
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped or broken
1 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pick a few dozen of the nicest sage leaves from the branches and set aside.
     In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ravioli. Frozen ones will take about fifteen minutes, fresh maybe five. You’ll know when they’re done when they all float and look like puffed-up pillows.
     Meanwhile, melt the oil and butter in wide skillet. Add the pecans and cook until fragrant (don’t let them burn!). Remove them to a paper towel to drain, but do not discard the cooking fat.
     Add the reserved sage leaves to the hot fat and fry until crisp. Remove the leaves to another paper towel, again saving the cooking fat. Take the skillet off the heat until the ravioli are cooked.
     Add the drained, cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with the savory fat. Season to taste, then pour onto a wide serving platter. Sprinkle the toasted pecans, sage leaves, and crumbled gorgonzola all over the top, and serve.

Note: This sounds like too much sage, but do not be tempted to reduce the amount called for. When fried, sage leaves become much more subtle in taste – and take on a crisp succulence that is totally unexpected.

For more herb-related facts and recipes, Gary Allen's Herbs has just been released worldwide and is available in all good bookshops or online here (UK) or here (USA).