High on the Hog: Black Cooks and the Making of American Cuisine | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 519
July 9, 2021

High on the Hog: Black Cooks and the Making of American Cuisine

High on the Hog: Black Cooks and the Making of American Cuisine

We chat with Dr. Jessica B. Harris about her seminal book "High on the Hog,'' which offers a diverse and complex history of African American cuisine—from the escape of George Washington’s enslaved master chef to the birth of the catering industry. Plus, we investigate Korean television’s obsession with Subway sandwiches, learn about the origins of egg-based idioms from Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, and share the secret to making Turkish kebabs on your backyard grill.


"I grew up on Long Island and the diners often had very dense, moist and darkly colored corn muffins. They were also very grainy and not sweet. Any idea how I can recreate them?"

"I was listening to a past episode of Milk Street Radio and you mentioned using "real cinnamon." Somehow I never knew there was better stuff out there. What are some brands or varieties I can look for? I want to up my cinnamon game!"

"I have a great recipe for chicken tacos that uses two chipotle peppers in adobo. Do you have any suggestions for how to use up the rest of the can?"

"I don't eat beef or pork, so I now make turkey meatballs. I can’t get them to be soft and moist. Do you have any recommendations or recipes for making a better turkey meatball?"

"I adore the flavor of Stella Parks’s Rice Krispie treats from BraveTart, but they go stale almost immediately. When I make them with store-bought marshmallows, they last for a week (if we don’t eat them first). Can you help me?"

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Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. In 2011, Dr. Jessica Harris published a book called High on the Hog, which tells the story of how African Americans played a key role in the growth of American cuisine. From cooking for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to working as trail cooks as the cowboy culture moved west. She joins us today to talk about her book, which has also been turned into a four-part Netflix series.

Jessica Harris: I think people are watching with open minds. And that is extraordinarily gratifying, because it means that people are willing to hear that Hemmings is the person who probably brought macaroni and cheese to this country, and French fries and ice cream. Jefferson was the person who who might have enjoyed eating them, but he wasn't preparing them.

CK: Also coming up, we learned how to make Istanbul’s famous mincemeat kebabs and Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette tell us what it really means to egg someone on. The first is my conversation with journalist Seth Berkman about why Subway sandwiches have risen to fame on Korean television. Seth, welcome to Milk Street.

Seth Berkman: Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me.

CK: What is a K drama?

SB: So, K drama is short for Korean drama, which basically encapsulates any sort of hour long program on Korean television. There were ones about athletes, ones about musicians, they're businessmen, there are young teenagers in high school, a lot of shows are based around revenge, you know, the drama is really cranked up to 10. There are a lot of intense car chases, for example, and a lot of cliffhangers and unexpected turns that you might not see. So, they do run the gamut of in terms of plot points, but also in terms of just, you know, what the stories are about.

CK: And we're talking about these today, in part because they become very popular here. I think you noted that there were 40 K dramas now on Netflix, right?

SB: Right. Particularly over the past year, as a lot of people were streaming, it seems that k dramas really took off in popularity, stateside, they're much more accessible for people here in the US.

CK: So, let's get to the topic at hand, which is product placements. And a lot of them, of course have to do with food. Could you just explain why k dramas do lots of product placements?

SB: So about 10 years ago, product placements became essentially legal in South Korea. There had always been a sort of informal marketplace. So, it could be watching a Korean drama and notice, you know, a Korean soda company and the labels facing the camera, but it wasn't excessively blatant, I would say. But 10 years ago, the broadcast regulations, the change to allow product placements in Korean dramas and one of the reasons they did that was the Primetime slots on terrestrial stations. They're not allowed to show commercial breaks during the show. And so, for companies trying to get their wares in front of what are the most watched shows on Korean television, it was really hard and so product placement changed that,

CK: As you write a Subway sandwich saved the life of a suicidal man, or a robot vacuum cleaner tampered the crime scene, and a Breitling watch stopped time to save the protagonists from evil villains. We're talking about full integration of products right into the plot, right?

SB: Right. And in terms of just what a product placement looks like, you know, if if a couple is going on a date to a fried chicken spot, the scene starts with a zoom in of the store of the logo of the company branding. As they're taking bites of their meal, the camera zooms in on the sauce glistening off a drumstick and as they bite it, the crunchy sound of them licking their lips. And so like it's a full scene devoted to this product that whatever company has invested their money into showcasing on the drama. And so seeing this for the first time, I was just coming from this observation of oh, this is really ridiculous, funny and interesting. And that's how I got into the idea of reporting on how Subway has just really embraced being harbinger's of this product placement and took it to another level.

CK: The one I was one of the ones I watched the main characters a ghost. And the whole scene revolves around the fact ghost can't eat unless someone directly offers the food to them. So, the older gentleman offers the Subway sandwich to this unseen ghost. And that's just you the sandwich itself from Subway was the absolute core driving, you know, dramatic point of that scene.

SB: Right. And on the show Goblin I thought it was funny that you would have the Grim Reaper just sitting down after a hard day's work of, I guess, taking people to death. And he's unwinding by having a Subway sandwich or another show Crash Landing on You, which is very heavily centered on North Korea. And at one point, soldiers from North Korea sneak over the border to South Korea. And so they're always seen hanging out in Subway and they become infatuated with eating Subway sandwiches. You know, that's one of the things that they enjoy, as they're able to cross the border into democracy is going to Subway.

CK: And there was there's another one called Some Way. And the entire plot is about a young woman who develops a crush on someone who works at Subway, right?

SB: Right. So, Subway has really dove right in. Last year, they created their own mini k drama and put it on YouTube. taking place in the Subway restaurant, a young woman goes one day and sees this young man working there and just develops this huge crush on him. And the way each show starts it's very deliberate. It starts with almost a slow motion zoom of someone making a Subway sandwich and describing the ingredients. And once again, a closeup of it someone you know taking a bite and you hear the crunch of the fresh lettuce in their mouth and the bread.

CK: I mean, they make it look as good as possible, right?

SB: Yeah, so the shops are brand new glass windows and fluorescent lighting. So the green and yellow of Subway is just eye catching. It just seemed like on Saved by the Bell or Beverly Hills 902101. All the cool teens would hang out at like the local diner. Subway is very much centered and pictured on the shows as the center of social life.

CK: Is this the leading edge of what we might expect to see here? Enjoying a Subway sandwich is integral to the drama. That's a million times more useful than a 32nd advertisement.

SB: That's a good question. Earlier this year, the Korean government actually approved the law saying that commercial breaks could be run on terrestrial stations in South Korea, in speaking to one of the reps at Subway, you know that law doesn't do much for them. The money that they would have to pay to buy an ad just doesn't add up to kind of what they're able to get through product placement. from people that I’ve spoken to in Korea who watched a lot of Korean dramas, I think they're very aware of what's going on, but it's more so just kind of, they laugh at off in a way. And so, I think audiences in the West are much more attuned of when something is being shoved down their throat, for example, just talking to Korean Americans who are very avid K drama watchers. They're not a fan of product placement at all. It's very obvious to them, and so in low run to the message boards and complain about oh, did you see how ridiculous it was that this person was doing this with a Subway sandwich or this vacuum cleaner or this coffee product?

CK: So, I assume that all these product placements, which costs you know, millions of dollars, the sales are there and now Subways expanding like crazy, right?

SB: Yeah, Subway now has over 430 restaurants in South Korea. A few years ago, it was in the two hundreds and so there are more and more Subway showing up. And in terms of the actual food. There aren't that many sandwich shops for example, there aren't delis around the corner where you can just go order a turkey and cheese sandwich. And so, in terms of just availability if you would like a sandwich, Subway is one of the main options and of course it doesn't hurt if you're watching your favorite k drama and it's featured on their 18 times within an episode.

CK: Seth it's been a pleasure. I think I'm actually hungry for Subway. Thank you.

SB: Thank you for your time, Chris.

CK: That was Seth Bergman. His article for their times is Korean TVs unlikely star Subway sandwiches. Right now, my co-host Sara Moulton and I will be answering your cooking question. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking 101and she also stars in Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. I know a lot of books have been done about Julia Child and movies and things. But I was just wondering, we're thinking about her recently, for whatever reason we miss her of course, I was thinking about her legacy, right? Because French cooking now is not what it was back in the 60s and 70s. What do you think down the road 30-40 years from now will be her legacy in terms of American cuisine?

Sara Moulton: You know, it's interesting because it's one of the oddest things and it's counterintuitive and it was counterintuitive at the time, she wrote you know The Art of French Cooking these two tombs’ that were enormously complicated. And then she went on TV and made these enormously complicated recipes. All the while saying this is easy. Anybody can do it; you can do it. And somehow, she entertained everyone but be she actually did get people cooking or thinking about cooking. So, I think it's more that she empowered home cooks to get back into the kitchen, whether they made her 12-page lobster bisque or not. She was an inspiration for the home cook. And because she was so gawky, awkward, and made mistakes she made you feel like I can make mistakes, too. It's okay. So that's what I think, what do you think?

CK: Well, there has to be something deep in our culture, which triggers something about her because her legacy, you know, no one else has gotten many books and Hollywood movies and stuff. There's a deep connection with her. I think she represents something in the American psyche that is substantial. I think it's sort of a can do. Here's someone who didn't grow up cooking, who sort of invented herself out of whole cloth, right? I think that's what it is. She's very American in the sense. She picked up somebody got interested in it just through pure personality, and sheer force of will, became this icon. I think that's about the self-made nature of the American character, right? (Yeah) For me, I think that's what it is. And that's what I always loved about her the most.

SM: Well, I couldn't agree with you more. I will also throw in that she was one of the funniest people I ever met. So that helps.

CK: Yeah, she had a keen sense of humor and didn't mind poking fun at you.

SM: Right, or herself

CK: Or herself

SM: Yes

CK: Okay. Let's take a call.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is John.

SM: Hi, john. Where are you calling from?

Caller: I'm calling from Franconia, New Hampshire.

SM: Oh, lovely. How can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I've got one of these questions that I've had since the 1970s.

SM: Oh, dear.

Caller: It has to do with corn muffins that I experienced at the diner is on Long Island, New York. And I've never been able to replicate or figure out the recipe for it. The muffins were corn muffins, and they were very dense, heavy and moist. And they weren't overly sweet. They were so heavy that they didn't have crowns, they’re actually recessed and they were burnt around the edge. I asked one chef that we worked with for a while he said to double the recipe with eggs and butter and I tried that and that didn't work.

SM: I think it has to do with the fat and the sugar. Because that to me is what would make the muffin get dark. If you add sugar to cornbread, usually it's white sugar, but I think you might get a darker color and moister texture with something like brown sugar or molasses

Caller: These corn muffins were very grainy as well.

SM: Yeah, well, that probably had to do with the kind of cornmeal they used. Chris, do you have any thoughts?

CK: Yes, I do. I think this was a corn bread recipe baked in a muffin tin. I don't think it was a corn muffin. I think it was corn bread. And when I make corn bread, I do it in a cast iron skillet. And when you say brown around the edges was it around the very top around the edges of the sides.

Caller: It was edges and the sides and the top.

CK: Here's what they probably did like with cast iron for a typical cornbread. You preheat the pan. So, this would be the muffin tin in the oven and it's also been brushed with oil, right. And then you take the tin out very carefully pour the batter and it sizzles right in the pan. And since it's corn bread, it's going to be a coarser texture. And the browning is going to come from the pre-heated pan, you'll get a nice dark on the bottom and the sides. The top I'm not quite sure why that would be brown so much. But it just may be that they baked it at a very hot oven. Maybe they baked it on the top rack of the oven. But I think it's cornbread baked in a muffin tin.

Caller: So, is there a particular oil that you're using when you're making this?

CK: Just use an all-purpose vegetable oil.

SM: Yeah.

CK: And I agree with you. It's so much better than a corn muffin, which is much too sweet. And it's cake. It's dessert.

SM: One last thing, there's a cookbook author named and fasten your seat belt Crescent Dragon Wagon. That is indeed her name. She did a whole book on corn bread. So, you might want to check that out. There might be something in there.

Caller: All right. So, I'll do that. Thank you.

SM: Yes.

CK: Thanks for calling.

Caller: Thank you much.

CK: Take care. Welcome to Milk straight. Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Jasmine.

CK: How are you? Where are you calling from?

Caller: I'm great. Well, I'm actually calling from Guatemala although I’m from New Hampshire.

CK: So how can we help you?

Caller: Well, I am what listening to all the old podcast episodes and on one of them, you guys were talking about spices and seasonings. And your suggestion to the caller was Get yourself some good cinnamon, some high quality, nice cinnamon as opposed to you know, the swill that you buy at the grocery store. And I know that you can get varying quality of spices, but for some reason it never occurred to me that you can get good cinnamon. So, I was just wondering, can you guys suggest some brands to look for or some qualities to look for?

CK: First of all, just for regular cinnamon that is not Ceylon cinnamon, which we'll get to in a second. Burlap & Barrel is a spice company that goes directly to small farmers, you know, most spices pass through many hands. So single source, that's the regular Cassius cinnamon, which is great. And there's a huge difference between the good stuff and did I actually use the word swill on the show about super cinnamon.

SM: No, you’d never, never say that. You're not a snob

CK: Hush my mouth. But the Ceylon cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon is just a very different animal entirely. It doesn't really taste to me like cinnamon, it's very floral. It's almost savory. So, if you're expecting in an apple pie or a cookie to get a cinnamon flavor, and you use Ceylon cinnamon, it's not that you’ll be disappointed, but it's just very different experience. So, I think you should buy both, but you should taste it before you because you'll be surprised. It's very different. Sara?

SM: Yeah, I mean, I agree with Chris there's two main kinds of cinnamon there's the Casio and the Ceylon. And a lot of people say salon is the true cinnamon kaseya there's several different kinds. There's the Indonesian, which is what you mostly get in the supermarket, the Chinese that we never see. And then from Saigon, which is really fragrant and flavorful, which is might be fun to try as well. It's sort of spicy. You know, if I was going to try to new one’s I might try the Saigon Kaseya as well as the Ceylon. I agree with Chris it's nice to go to a you know place like Burlap & Barrel that will deal directly with the farmer.

CK: And there's also a guy in New York, Lior Lev Sercarz L-i- o-r. And he has La Boite B-o-i-t-e Spice company for very short money, right? cinnamon or any other spice lasts a long time in your kitchen. It's worth an extra few bucks. It makes all the difference. Yeah, that's my speech.

SM: Okay,

CK: Jasmine, it's been a pleasure. And best of luck in Guatemala.

SM: Yeah.

Caller: Thank you so much.

SM: Thanks for calling.

Caller: Thank you for answering my question

CK: Take care. This is Milk Street Radio. If you want to expand your pantry or find a new favorite recipe, please give us a ring any time 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, my name is Alyssa. I'm calling from Sydney, New York.

SM: Hi Alyssa. How can we help you today?

Caller: My question is about chipotle peppers and adobo. I have a recipe that I use. It's in the crock pot, and it uses just two of those peppers. So, when I buy the smallest can that I can find I still have quite a few left in the can and I was wondering if you have any suggestions of how to use up some of the rest of those rather than going to waste.

SM: Oh my god, I have so many suggestions. For start, what you can do is take them out of the can I always have them in the freezer, they freeze beautifully. So, I put plastic wrap on a sheet pan and put a Chipotle lay down and then a tablespoon of sauce on top of it. You know set them up like that, put them in the freezer and freeze them just like that. And then once they're frozen, you can wrap them up and put them in a bag together. And then when I have a recipe, I just take one out and use it so ways I use it as I chop them up. You know both the chili and the adobo, and I throw into stews, soups. I love it in mayonnaise, or in ranch dressing. I add them chopped up to the dressing for my coleslaw. You know how coleslaw is usually mayonnaise, ketchup, maybe a little bit of vinegar and brown sugar. Well, I put the Chipotle and the adobo sauce in there, chop it up and put it in and it's so good. It sort of balances the sweetness and the brown sugar. It's great and barbecue sauce, it’s great as a glaze. It's wonderful and corn bread. anywhere you want smoke and heat. It just goes beautifully. Chris, I'm sure you have some ideas too.

CK: Yeah, what I do is I put the camp back in the fridge for three or four weeks and throw them out. Because I forget they're there, which is actually what most people end up doing.

SM: Oh, they can't

CK: No, no, I've now taken to the same thing. I use parchment paper on a half baking sheet and freeze them exactly the way Sara suggested and that works pretty well.

SM: And then what's your favorite thing to add them to?

CK: I make a lot of stews, especially for entertaining. I love adding one or two to a beef stew you know, for example, I just think it gives that undercurrent of flavor that you can't quite pinpoint what it is. It just adds it's a foundation. It's like anchovies and oil. Right, it gives you that deep, rich bass. That's how I use it very often.

SM: Alyssa, do you think you pursue any of those situations?

Caller: Yes, I love the idea of freezing them and just using them as I want to. It definitely takes away the guilt of buying the whole can just use one or two. But I do like the idea of using it to help develop flavor and some other dishes like stews, I could see myself doing that.

SM: Great.

CK: Yeah, you don't need a recipe. You just throw it in. Yeah, that's great.

SM: Yeah. So great.

Caller: That's wonderful. Thank you very much.

CK: Thanks for calling our pleasure.

Caller: Take care.

SM: Bye, bye.

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next. It's my conversation with Dr. Jessica Harris. That and much more after the break. This is Milk Street radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with culinary historian Dr. Jessica Harris. She's the author of 12 books documenting the foodways of the African diaspora, including High on the Hog, which was recently adapted into a Netflix documentary series. Dr. Harris, welcome to Milk Street.

Jessica Harris: Well, hi, it's usually Chris. So, if it's Chris, please, Jessica, thank you for having me.

CK: Okay. That's, that's even better. So, the title of the documentary and your book is High on the Hog. Does that just refer to the better cuts of the pig or does it have some other meaning?

JH: It has a little bit slightly different meaning I mean, and I think one of the things that's interesting about it is that it goes back to the old master and John stories that were sort of self-deprecating humor that came out of enslavement, John being the kind of trickster who always manages to get over on old master. And so, I'm going to read a brief abbreviated version of the part that is actually in the introduction to the book. And it says old master killed about 40 or 50 hogs every year, he had john to help him. When he was ready to pay him off. He said, John, here's your pig head, your pigs’ feet, your pig ears, and John said, Thank you, boss. So, John killed hogs for about five years that way, that's what he got for his pay. But then, John moved on to the back of the place and got himself three hogs. Old Master didn't even know he had a hog. Next winter at hog killing time old master went down after John, Old Master says, John, John comes to the door and says, yes, sir. Old Master says be down to the house early in the morning I want to kill hogs be there about 5:30. John asks, well, old master what you paying? I'll pay you like I always did. I'll give you the head and all the ears and all the pig's feet and all the tails. And John said, well old Master, I can't, because I'm eating higher on the hog than that now. I got three hogs of my own, and I spareribs, backbone, pork chops, middlin, ham and everything else. I eat high on the hog now.

CK: That's a great story.

JH: So, I think it speaks to everybody's desire to eat high on the hog.

CK: There's a sentence I thought really expressed the sentiment of the book, “creativity and talent and grace expressed by the enslaved under conditions that range from the unpleasant to the unspeakable” and I thought that was way of taking a very difficult topic and finding, finding something inspirational about it.

JH: That's kind of true. I mean, I think the whole idea of grace and the idea of joy are very much entwined in certainly in the book and in the the Netflix series. In those dark times people found and created moments of joy. They had to because without joy and sort of hard to survive. And so, I think joy is, is a fitting subtext.

CK: There were so many things that I did not know, that really did surprise me. And you talk about in what on the coast of West Africa, there was a Creole society that was part European influence with local African culture, even had some Catholic influence at one point. Could you just talk about that because I had no idea that existed?

JH: Yeah, well, I mean, I think this whole Atlantic Creole world, we're learning more and more about, there certainly were mixings and mixtures of people. You know, we tend to think of peoples as being balkanized. But they weren't certainly on the island of ____ and in Senegal, there were a whole class of women known as Sinjar. And these Sinjar were, were women who were the mistresses of, in many cases, the slave traders, they had a very creolized society that was add mixture of European and French.

CK: You also mentioned that some of the food the cooking was extremely sophisticated. You talk about a famous dish that's skin bones stuffed with horse meat and fish.

JH: Oh _______There's a scene certainly in the first episode where _____ has made, who is a Yoruba artist from Benin, sets a table of food that would have been eaten prior to European contact, in in Benin and what was then Dahomey. And it's amazingly sophisticated. Basically, we know we being Americans, Americans in the largest sense of the word, but also certainly including African Americans don't know very much about the history of the continent.

CK: Let me ask you, so when you were in the first episode, and by the way, you were terrific. What surprised you most from a culinary point of view?

JH: I think the meal that H____ has made served because there was one thing it's it's a little sort of a bit of vignette in that dining scene. When Carol who is the blogger selects what's like a fritter. And it's a millet one and she says, I'll have the millet one. And he says, hmm, that's for warriors and she says Amazon. And he told us that that particular fritter, millet fritter was actually the war food of the Amazons, the king of Dahomey had a woman's fighting force that were referred to by the French as Le Amazon, Dahomey, the Dahomian amazon's and that was, in fact that fritter was their war food. It's hard, crunchy, but it could be you know, it could be carried so that the women would go into battle with a pouch full of these hard fritters, and a gourd of water. And that could sustain them on long marches that could sustain them in their military campaigns. So that's the subtext. And I think that's the brilliant part of it all.

CK: You talk about very famous cooks, black cooks here in America to one particular Hercules, who cooked for George Washington. Do you want to tell that story briefly because I thought that was that was pretty interesting

JH: In very brief compass the the story is that you know, Hercules was very much celebrated. He was George Washington’s chef he was noted, and he made a fair amount of money I think he made as much as $200 a year which was extraordinary amount of money and he made it from selling the the tallow and the the sort of meaty fat leftovers because tallow was used in making candles. He was reputed to be a dandy people talk about him walking out in Philadelphia with a gold handled cane and silk waistcoat, and you know very, very much the bon vivant kind of man about town. But the sad, diabolical, and probably all to American part of the story as he certainly is enslaved by Washington. And not only this he enslaved by Washington, but Philadelphia had laws whereby people who remained in that town for more than six months could consider themselves free. And so, Washington makes a point of returning all of his enslaved people back to Mount Vernon, before the six-month time expired, so that they remained and slaved. But what happens is, Hercules is returned to Mount Vernon and escapes, escapes during the festivities for Washington's birthday, which I think is somehow incredibly fitting. And at the time of my writing of the book, people weren't sure where he had gone. It seems now that they have determined that he might very well have come to New York City and taken the name of his previous owner, which was Posey, so it became Hercules Posey and went on to live and die in New York City.

CK: You talked about after emancipation, and the Civil War was a very difficult time, for obvious reasons. But the food service industry was actually a place to make a living. And there were some very famous caterers and others in that business. Thomas Dorsey from Philadelphia, for example, you mentioned some of the menus like filet de beouf pk canvasback duck, Charlotte mousse, ladyfingers, champagne jelly. And then in New York City, Thomas Downing, who built an oyster vault, which kept the oysters fresh and seawater. So, there were in the in the food hospitality business and service business. There were a lot of many very successful blacks in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

JH: Well, right I mean, you find a Bogle. Bogle, who becomes so famous in Philadelphia circles. And what Bogle and some of the others do is basically create catering as we know it today. With the whole idea of renting butler's, people who were not able to employ their own butler's full time, could rent butler's for various occasions, and so you get something that then approximates catering as we know it.

CK: So, let's talk about the Netflix special for a second. What did you hope would come out of this that would be surprising to people who watched it? Are there things in there that you think when someone watches that are going to just be illuminating? Or tell a story that they've never heard before?

JH: Well, I think that what I'm seeing online and what I guess people are saying in general is just how surprised they are I think people are watching with open minds. And that is extraordinarily gratifying, because it means that people are willing to hear that Hemmings is the person who probably brought macaroni and cheese to this country and French fries and ice cream. He was the cook. Jefferson was the person who who might have enjoyed eating them. But he wasn't preparing them. So, I mean, I think that that the fact that people are, are listening, and are, I guess, bad analogy, but hungry for the information. I think, generally speaking, people are willing to say, oh, I never thought of that before. But that makes perfect sense. And then once that light bulb dawns, then there's so many other doors that open.

CK: Jessica, thank you so much. It's been a great pleasure as always speaking with you and I just, I love your research and your voice and your writing and you bring so much to the table. Thank you so much.

JH: Thank you so much for having me at your table, Chris.

CK: That was Dr. Jessica Harris. Her book High on the Hog Culinary Journey from Africa to America was published in 2011. The documentary series based on the book is now available on Netflix. As the well-known politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. And this is exactly why historians that Jessica Harris, do such a great service. The diversity of experience for all Americans becomes deeper and more exciting. Every time historians such as Jessica Harris unfold the pages of history. This is Milk Street radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe. Turkish mincemeat. kababs. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm great, Chris

CK: You know, many, many years ago, long before you were born, probably, I spent a couple months in Istanbul and you think you know, a place because you're in Istanbul and some of the recipes. And one of the things you think, you know, in that the Levant, that part of the world are kebabs. But it turns out a Doner kebabs, Turkish kebabs are actually quite different, right?

LC: They are different. First of all, they look different. They're bright red, and that's from the pepper that they use, capsicums
pepper is a Turkish fresh red pepper. In our version, we're going to use just a classic red bell pepper, but we're also going to add a little bit of paprika, and some Aleppo pepper and tomato paste, that's going to kind of highlight that red color. Also add a lot of flavor and really bind those kebabs together.

CK: So, is this like ground meat, I think there would, they would actually use a big knife and mince it right?

LC: They do they use a three-foot knife

CK: S_____

LC: So, we're not going to use that three-foot knife, but we are going to use a food processor. And we're using boneless short ribs. And we process the meat in the food processor with those flavorful ingredients. Before we form our kebabs, they get formed into a log on a skewer and it's really important to use a flat skewer not around skewer here because it makes it a lot easier to form them. And then you make these little ridges in the meat and those will allow when you grill them, you'll get some kind of diversity in texture. Some of it will be a little bit charred and some of it will be a little more tender.

CK: You know I love the round skewers, and everything does flips around and spins. I mean in general flat skewers are a better choice. Is this served with anything at the end or is it just come off the grill?

LC: It is so you grill it on an indirect fire which means hot on one side cool on the other. It starts out on the hot side. You want to place them perpendicular to the grade so they're easier to move, move them to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. And it's served with a cumin salt and a yogurt sauce.

CK: So, to go back to my original premise things you think you know but you don't. Doner kebabs are delicious. Their red they have a wonderful depth of flavor. I love the cumin salt at the end, and they're not the kebab you thought you knew. Right?

LC: That's right.

CK: Thank you Lynn.

LC: You're welcome Chris. You can get this recipe for a Doner kebabs at Milk Street Radio.com

CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette get cracking on the language of eggs. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now. Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Ken Gill from Rogers, Arkansas.

SM: Hi, Ken, how can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I've got a little bit of a predicament. I've got this thing called alpha gal syndrome. So, I can't eat red meat. And one of the things I really love is you know good spaghetti and meatballs. And I only use turkey now for meatballs in the meatballs always seem to be like really hard and tough. I'm just looking for ways to make them moister and softer.

SM: Turkey is a problem. It's very lean. That's the problem. We have to figure out how to get moisture in there. What are in your meatballs?

Caller: Usually just the ground turkey. And I usually use breadcrumbs and egg. mince up a bunch of onions, a little bit of garlic, a little bit of seasoning. I always put fennel in my meatballs.

SM: Well, those all seem like good ideas, but I'm going to throw out something else, which is is shredded Napa cabbage. You don't really taste it. napa cabbage is not real cabbage, you know, like the tight hard cabbages. It's sort of light and fluffy and it does provide a lot of moisture. You could also up the onions or sauté the mushrooms again, cool them before you add them to the turkey. I think that would help. Try the Napa cabbage just you know, like a cup or so I don't know how much meat you're working with. And I think you'll be impressed with what it does. Now I'm sure Chris has some suggestions.

CK: The obvious thing is to make a panade, so you take bread or breadcrumbs like Panko you soak them in milk into you get a nice paste out of it takes just a couple minutes, mash it with a fork. And then you add that mixture to the ground turkey with your flavorings and seasonings. And that's the same thing you would do with a hamburger right if you want a nice moist burger especially if you're cooking a burger for kids and you want to get it to a higher temperature. So just use a panade in for a pound of ground turkey I use two slices of white bread and enough milk to moisten it and then mash it with a fork. The Napa thing sounds have to say intriguing.

Caller: How fine would you have to grate that cabbage?

(41:20) SM: You don't have to grate it you just slice it thin sort of like ____ style

Caller: like coleslaw

SM: Yes, exactly. Because it's so tender, you'll see it will melt in there.

CK: Well, Sara, I have to say that is the most interesting suggestion. There's never a dull moment here at Milk Street. Right. So, I learn something every day.

SM: Right, this is true. Okay, well, thanks, Ken. Good.

CK: Thank you. Yeah. Thanks for calling. Yeah, give it a shot

SM: Bye. Bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are here to solve your culinary mysteries. Give us a call anytime. That number is 855-426-9843 One more time 855-426-9843. Or email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street who’s calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Jim from Chicago. How are you?

CK: Good. How are you? How can we help you?

Caller: I’m doing great thanks. I have been trying to make the homemade rice krispie treats from Stella Parks Brave Tartbook. And it is astoundingly good flavor. But every time I make it the rice krispies go stale within, you know, 10 hours. And I want to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

CK: I think that recipe has a reputation. It's like, it does go stale. They don't last that long. I think the commercial ones have more of a preservative in it, you know, high fructose corn syrup dextrose. That's the nature of that recipe I think pretty much Sara, do you have any thoughts?

SM: Yeah, I agree. 100%. And it's like if you ever buy artisanal bread, or make your own, and then you leave it on the counter for more than a few days, you'll notice it starts to get a little green around the edges. And that's because there's no preservatives in it. Same thing here.

CK: I'd love to ask though, because I love rice krispie treats actually are they so much better than the regular ones?

Caller: They are so much better. It's hard to describe how much better you know, I expect them to go stale after like a day. But this is literally like eight hours later.

SM: I just had a thought though when you say they go stale you mean they get hard and dry. And

Caller: Yeah, the rice krispies get chewy. So, they're tough to chew. Initially when I make it and form it, the rice krispies are crisp and fine. But 10 hours later, it's like they got wet.

CK: That's different, because you know, I can understand her marshmallow recipe. But the marshmallow has got so much sugar, and I wouldn't think that would be a problem. So obviously, it's attracting moisture from the air and it's sogging out whole thing, right?

SM: Could you crisp up in the oven, maybe for a second iteration and see what they're like, you know, if you put them in a hot oven for a little while.

Caller: I haven't tried that. I'd wonder if they'd start to melt though.

CK: Yeah, I think I think what's happening is the moisture from the air is being drawn into the rice krispie treat, and that moisture is changing the texture right. But I don't understand why it doesn't happen with regular marshmallows. I guess it's just because the dextrose the high fructose corn syrup is a different chemistry to it. And maybe it doesn't attract moisture, like her homemade recipe does that's the only thing I can think of. But boy, now you've got me. I got to go make this now. I'm sorry.

SM: Yeah, me too

CK: I like moon pies. And I like rice krispie treats. Yeah,

SM: Yeah No, no, this sounds wonderful. But also, I'm still trying to think about what you could do with it afterwards. So maybe I need to make it just to figure out what to do with the leftovers.

Caller: It's so good that we eat it even though it hurts our jaws by the end.

SM: Wow

CK: I wouldn't be throwing them out. I'll tell you that much.

Caller: Oh, absolutely not.

SM: I think Chris and I might need to do some homework and report back.

CK: Sella Parks or Brave Tart is one of my favorite books.

SM Yeah, she's great.

CK: I’ve got to go grab the book out of my library and get in the kitchen.

SM: Yeah, me too,

CK: Jim. Thank you. Yeah. Thank

SM: Yeah. Thank you, Jim

Caller: Thank you so much for your help

CK: take care

Caller: You too.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. Now it's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, my name is Uttar. And I'm calling from California. And here's my tip. I often have really a wonderful organic citrus fruit available, and I often only need the juice. I peel the skin off the citrus fruits before I actually juice them. I dehydrate them so they're really really crisp. And then I blend them in a coffee mill type grinder to make it into a powder which smells heavenly, and you can use it in recipes asking for lemon peel, lime peel, orange peel all year long. Enjoy

CK: If you'd like to share your own culinary hack or secret ingredient for Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash radio tips. Next up, it's a language lesson from Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette, host of A Way with Words. Grant and Martha what's going on?

Martha Barnette: Well, Chris, this week, we've been thinking a lot about eggs.

Frank Barrett: And if your egg is on, we'll tell you all about it.

CK: Oh no, it's going to be I can just tell it's going to be one of those segments, right? Egg jokes. Ok

FB: Alright, so if we say that we want you to egg us on what comes to mind?

CK: it means you want me to provoke you to do something.

FB: But do you imagine pelting us with eggs?

CK: No, I actually I no visual comes to mind. Although if I had to pick one that would be it. Yes.

MB: That you're throwing eggs at us?

CK: No, I prefer pelting but yeah. Okay throwing.

FB: Lovely

MB: How about bribing us with eggs, maybe you're whipping up an omelet or something

FB: Oh, nice.

CK: Really oh

FB: Cooking lovely eggs for breakfast, a quiche. But in case you're daring us to take a risk. It actually comes from a corruption of an Old Norse word, eggja meaning to edge it spelled e-g-g-j-a. And so the edge comes in there because it's about driving someone to the edge of no return. And that is also the origin of our English word edge. In fact, that word eggia still exists in Icelandic and fairies also descended from Old Norse. And in both of those languages, it can mean both to sharpen, or to incite, or instigate. And it also has taken on meanings that have to do with eggs. So, it's no surprise that the same thing happened in English. So all three languages are related. There's the Old Norse background there. In any case, that's why we say you egg someone on it's not about eggs. It's about pushing them to the edge.

CK: What a great name for a brand eggja. I love that

FB: What would that be? That would be like some fake egg mix at the store?

CK: Oh, yeah, it's got to be eggs in a carton.

MB: And Chris, I would love to share with you one of my favorite expressions involving eggs. I'm sure you know somebody like this. It's somebody who, well as the Oxford English Dictionary says they're known to break in fussily with an idle story. You know, you're having a conversation with people. And all of a sudden somebody pops in with something that's kind of irrelevant and sort of stops the conversation down. And the expression is to come in with five eggs. If you come in with five eggs you break in fussily with an idle story.

CK: First of all, I know lots of people like that it’s probably me included. But but how does the five-egg thing? Why does it have that meaning?

MB: Chris I'm glad you asked. Because we have an answer for you. It's actually a shortening of a longer phrase that goes five eggs, a penny and four of them adle or five eggs and a penny and four of them rotten. Meaning that somebody comes into your conversation, maybe you're in the marketplace, and they're offering five eggs, a penny and four of them are worthless. But I just love this expression because I know somebody who does this all the time and it just sort of disrupts the conversation and you want to be polite, but they're coming in with their five eggs. What are you going to do?

CK: Throw the four rotten one’s out

FB: Well, you want to break the egg in their pocket Martha right, that means to spoil spoil their plan. That's an old expression from the 1700s

MB: Oh, there you go. The last thing you want to do is egg them on of course,

FB: or in French you would say faites-vous cuire un oeuf, go cook yourself an egg which means go jump in the lake.

CK: Well, that's an interesting French expression. go cook yourself an egg.

FB: Well, it's a euphemism for a course phrase for telling someone to go do something that is anatomically impossible

CK: but but the French found a way to say something rude with a culinary overtone.

MB: Yes, they did. And if you're really full or you're really drunk in French then you're full like an egg right Grant?

FB: Yeah or round like an egg which you can also say in German, Norwegian, Swedish and probably some other European languages.

MB: But the thing about Grant is that as they would say in Spanish sabe huevo he knows a lot he knows an egg

FB: I tried to know an egg yeah,

CK: You know an egg when you see one

FB: I do yeah, I try not to look for bones in an egg as they say in Mandarin Chinese. I try not to be overly critical.

CK: Well, at least the guys don't walk into the conversation with five eggs, right?

FB: Yeah, I feel Martha though that you and I are as they say in Spanish como un huevo a otro huievo we are like one egg to another egg. We are two peas in a pod.

MB: Yes, yes indeed. We're not as they say in Spanish como un huevo a una castana which means like an egg to a chestnut.

CK: Well, thank you for the multilingual segment of how many languages did you get into this? I think we get five or six.

FB: Or ten I don’t know

CK: We love having you on the show because we just never know what to expect. Right?

MB: Like a box of chocolates, right?

CK: Yeah, like a carton of eggs. Thank you, guys, so much, Martha Grant, next time I will bring only two eggs to the conversation.

MB: Well Chris, you are a good Never mind.

CK: Grant, Martha thank you so much. Everything you want to know about eggs but were afraid to ask.

MB: Thanks, Chris. Always a pleasure.

FB: Cheers, Chris.

CK: That was Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette hosts of A Way with Words. That's it for this week's show. If you tuned into later want to binge listen every single episode, please download Milk Street radio on Apple podcast Spotify and wherever you find your podcasts. To learn more about Milk Street please visit us at 177 Milk Street com there you can find our recipes take a free online cooking course. Or you can order our latest cookbook which is Tuesday Night's Mediterranean. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street and association with GBH Executive Producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky, production assistant, Amelia McGuire, and production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX