Eat This Word: Mostarda

The James Beard Foundation on mostarda
WHAT? Pungent preserves. No, mostarda is not the Italian word for mustard. Though the words sound similar, this sweet-and-spicy condiment is only distantly related to the hot dog's favorite sidekick. To make mostarda, fruit is preserved in sugary syrup and given a slight kick with the addition of mustard seeds or powder. According to food writer Elizabeth David, this jam-like spread is a descendant of "the honey, mustard, oil, and vinegar condiments of the Romans, who also preserved roots such as turnips in this mixture." Cherries, figs, pears, and apricots are the most common ingredients in mostarda, but different variations include candied melon, pumpkin, or oranges. The piquant fruit accompaniment is enjoyed with boiled white meats or cheeses throughout Northern Italy. The most famous and popular variation is from Cremona, a small town in Lombardy, and includes pears, quince, peaches, cherries, and mandarins.

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Eat this Word: Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs

WHAT? Proustian picnic food. An American adaptation of a dish that has been eaten throughout Europe since Roman times, deviled eggs are beloved throughout the South and Midwest. Named for the fiery seasonings that give the dish its signature kick, the savory snack is the topic of rapturous remembrance on the Southern Foodways website. "Deviled eggs go down with surreptitious ease," waxed Richard A. Brooks on the site, "smooth and creamy, deceptively innocuous with all that hard-boiled whiteness topped by a relatively small dollop of yellow yolk and mysterious, secret flavorings." Though the preparation of the dish is simple—hard-boil eggs, mix the yolks with a creamy dip, season generously, and pipe into the halved egg whites—the relative merits of each family's deviled egg recipe can be endlessly debated. Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip? Dry mustard or French's? Cayenne or paprika? In their 2007 JBF

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Eat This Word: Succotash

The James Beard Foundation on succotash
WHAT? Daffy's favorite side dish. ("Suffering succotash!") Indians introduced colonists to this mix of beans and corn (the Indian version sometimes included bear meat) and gave the dish its name, which derives from msickquatash, Narraganset for boiled kernels of corn. In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain listed succotash (along with possom, coon, and cobblers) among the food from home that he most craved while he was traveling. Ronald Reagan once used the word as a substitute for "Podunk" to mean a backwater place; in so doing, he incensed the 600 residents of Succotash Point, Rhode Island. Sadly, so many Americans were raised on loathsome frozen succotash vegetable mix, they've written off what food writer John Thorne has described as "a quintessential summer dish...with a wonderfully delicate flavor."

WHERE? Will Gilson's Beard House dinner

WHEN? August 4, 2009

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