Sweet Talkin' Blog

An Evening With Virginia Willis

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Recently, I attended an event in DC featuring the food of Virginia Willis, a Southern chef and food writer whose newest book “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) was just released. Note the words in the subtitle: “Global South.” Among her interesting (and often hilarious) insights throughout the evening, Willis point out that “Southern” food is relative depending on where in the South it originated and the cultural heritage that influenced it.  We were treated to sweet potatoes and collards from Africa (the collards had a vegetarian twist: Italy-based…

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Water Donations

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Thanks to these and other water bottlers for making  our Water Tasting a splash! Purely Sedona Tourmaline Spring Crazy Water

True Treats Water Tasting!

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True Treats Candy Hosts Free Historic Water Tasting  From Sparkling to Spring the Waters are Unique Includes Candy and Soda Samples – Event Followed by an Old Time Movie     On April 21st a surprising culinary treat was available to all at True Treats Historic Candy’s theater: an historic water tasting. Yes – water. In this free taste-bud opening experience, the public sampled over 20 kinds of water from numerous time periods and categories from the first in the nation through today’s municipal, spring-fed, and sparkling water, with descriptions of them all.   According to True Treats Candy founder,…

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What’s in your water?

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  As the warm weather draws near, Americans are putting on their hiking boots, cleaning off their bicycles, and readying their water bottles for their seasonal spike in thirst. But which water to drink? Yes, all drinking water starts as precipitation, much of it having fallen hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Yet the differences between waters is remarkable depending on where it fell and how it was absorbed into waterways. More recently, bottled water marketers have entered the scene, touting the wonders of their products and, behind the scenes, planting fear about their main competitor – the tap….

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Bottled or Tap? What’s the choice?

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Today, most Americans are concerned about the quality of the water they drink. This concern is relatively new to North America: for thousands of years, Native Americans lived by reliable fresh water sources. Not so for the settlers. They considered fresh water dangerous, a perspective rooted in paranoia and the realities of poor water-drinking decisions. Said Jamestown resident George Percy, “cold water [was] taken out of the River, which was at a floud verie salt, at a low tide full of slime and filth, which was the destruction of many of our men.”   Instead, they favored fermented libations, primarily…

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Valentine’s Day – Sweet and Ancient

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Valentine’s Day sweets are older and more remarkable than taste reveals, some originating thousands of years ago, and were associated with the less romantic notions of fertility and sex. One example is the quintessential heart-shaped candy box. The heart, which obviously looks nothing like an actual heart, likely evolved from the now extinct silphium plant used by fifth century Romans as a seasoning, medicine and birth control measure. Its pod was heart-shaped, lending itself to the symbolic heart of today. After appearing in everything from 14th and 15th century artwork to16th century playing cards, it found a place in Valentine’s…

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Valentine’s Day – Sweet and Sexy

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Valentine’s Day sweets are older and more remarkable than taste reveals, some originating thousands of years ago to celebrations of fertility and sex. One example is the quintessential heart-shaped candy box. The heart shape, which obviously looks nothing like an actual heart, likely evolved from the now extinct silphium plant used by fifth century Romans as a seasoning, medicine and birth control measure. Its pod was heart-shaped, lending itself to the symbolic heart of today. After appearing in everything from 14th and 15th century artwork to16th century playing cards, it found a place in Valentine’s Day sweets in 1861.  That’s…

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Sichuan Province and the Global Wonton

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When it comes to food research, I generally focus on sugars and sweets. But a recent lunch with a friend, Judy, convinced me to venture away. She and I met in Rockville, Maryland at the Sichuan Jin River restaurant, situated in an old style (think 1950s) shopping mall-ish place, between a vast parking lot and a busy street. The restaurant lacked dazzle and the menu was full of common, crowd-pleasing items such as wonton soup. Fortunately, Judy, who has mastered the art of eating, selected satisfyingly Sichuan-style dishes for both of us: roasted peanuts with tiny anchovies, emboldened by chili…

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The Taming of the Peppermint Plant

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I recently got a call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, asking about the background of peppermint in the U.S.: Was it a breath freshener? A medicine? A treat? I don’t think I’m scooping WSJ by answering the question here, which is “yes.” Peppermint was all this and more. A hybrid of water mint and spearmint, the peppermint first made an appearance in England in the 1600s and in North America via the early colonists. They used the plant as a medicine as well as a treat in early versions of candy. It was tasty, effective, and grew…

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