Project Vintage Eats: An Introduction

I have a pickle problem. My preferred frying medium is animal fat. I don’t do low-fat anything, on principle. I drink homebrew. And full-fat milk. Often, while daydreaming, I’ll fantasize about going back to the land. I used to think that this was all because of my roots as a Midwesterner, but the more I thought about it, the less it became about a specific geographic region and the more it becomes about a different time. I began to realize that my love of food was intrinsically intertwined with a lifelong fascination with history and culture.

The past holds a different perspective on what and how we eat. People knew what it took to produce the meal they were eating and understood, more than likely from back-breaking experience, where the ingredients were coming from. Big feasts and holiday celebrations happened like clockwork, steeped in tradition passed down from generation to the next. Lamentably, we are losing some of that today. We live in a country where food is abundant and cheap, and our lives go by fast.

It seems to me that what we are gaining in so-called “efficiency”, we are losing in history, in aesthetics, in etiquette and in health. Without food as a connector and the traditions that surround it, we are lacking in the simplest thing that pulls us together and unites us with family, friends, and neighbors. Food is the most basic way of showing love and kindness, and oftentimes it’s consumed without a second thought or thanks.

It took me quite awhile to understand what to do with the realization that I had. I didn’t quite know where my experience and particular skill set fit in to solving this problem, until one day (for the umpteenth time), I found myself paging through one of my antique cookbooks.

“What good are these books,” I thought, “unless the recipes and wisdom in them is somehow sifted through, updated and made relevant for people today?”

My plan became to aggregate this information and distill it into something that makes sense to incorporate back into our daily lives (or maybe special occasions). It’s not too difficult to draw parallels between our modern world and the America that existed in, say, the late 1920s. People wanted to stretch their dollar. Food was scarce and not wasted. Food is abundant in our world now, but so much is thrown away without a second thought. We’re always looking for ways to stretch our food budget.

Project Vintage Eats is dedicated to real, made-from-scratch, discernible-by-your-grandmother-and-generations-before-her kind of food. The project is also dedicated to traditions and etiquette surrounding food. Vintage Eats are produced slowly, by hand, using recipes written long before we came along. We’ll resurrect those recipes and give them new life, so that cooks today can reconnect with the traditions and ingredients that came before them.

Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post, when we explain the project rules! In the mean time, tell me in the comments below, if you please – what antique recipe would you most like to see rejuvenated by the Vintage Eats Project?

Copyright Vintage Eats 2011

I’d like to acknowledge some of the first people to encourage me along on this project, including Chef JJ Gonson, my mentor in local food and production cooking (who just came by with a bag full of old recipes from a Cambridge estate); my soul brother and food historian extraordinaire, Professor Ken Albala; the amazingly knowledgeable and master of all things pork, Bob Perry of the University of Kentucky; Cole Peterson for these beautiful photographs and the Vintage Eats logo; and my parents. So many others have expressed their excitement over the rediscovery of foods past. Thank you, and please, start asking around and digging for recipes of your own! We’re going to need them ;)

*All commentary in this blog reflects my own personal opinions.

Published in: on 1 May, 2011 at 18:00  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congratulations on the launch. Looking forward to much more.

  2. The way you’re describing food sounds just like me talking!!!! Are we related? :))
    Good work on this! I look forward to the evolution of this project of yours, sounds like we have a lot in common!

  3. FABULOUS SIS! I am so looking forward to what unfolds here. XXOO Ken

  4. you’ve got my interest.

  5. @David – thanks for the support and re-tweets! Much obliged.

    @Kitty – maybe we are! Looking forward to talking food with you a lot more often.

    @Ken-Ken – HUZZAH!

    @Susan – I hope we also get your recipes? :-)

  6. […] At the website¬† Vintage Eats Project, those food traditions and days gone by are what preoccupy food activist, cook, talented recipe writer, and longtime Fair Food Fight contributor Jen Ede. From her introductory blog post at The Vintage Eats Project: […]

  7. […] Mistress of herself, though china fall Ladies and gentlemen, the whirlwind launch of The Vintage Eats Project has given us the vapors.. But luckily the roommates were fast with the smelling salts and vinegar presses! Did you happen to catch this interview that we did with Barth Anderson at Fair Food Fight? How about our trip to the Pabst Mansion? Are you thoroughly familiar with the rules? What about our motivations for starting this whole thing? […]

  8. […] stop was a floor lined with antiques, vintage and retro items, ranging from household goods (got my spice rack there) to spats to Mary Poppins bags. Do you all remember when Mary Poppins first comes on to the […]

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