SLT in the News

Twain's Feast: A Potluck and Author Book Signing

Author: Ruth Begell, Convivium Leader, Slow Food Solano
Date: Dec 30, 2010

(Vacaville, CA) Slow Food Solano and Solano Land Trust are co-sponsoring a potluck on Sunday, January 30 from 12 noon - 3 PM at Rush Ranch in Suisun that will feature author Andrew Beahrs discussing and signing his highly acclaimed book Twain’s Feast. Also on the program will be a brief recap of Terra Madre 2010 by Ruth Begell, Convivium Leader for Slow Food Solano and delegate to Terra Madre. The event is a fundraiser in support of Slow Food Solano’s school gardens project and Solano Land Trust’s work in preserving agricultural lands and open space.

To join in the feast, bring a dish from Mark Twain’s list of American foods he included on his 1879 fantasy menu that he dreamt about after spending more than a year in Europe eating food he detested. (The complete list is included at the end of this release and on Slow Food Solano‘s website http://www.slowfoodsolano.org/.) Attendees will also need to bring their own table service (plates, flatware, glasses and placemats) and their preferred beverage. A $15 donation at the door is suggested. Because the space is limited, you can secure your place at the table by emailing begells@aol.com and list the dish you will bring.

In writing Twain’s Feast Beahrs chose eight of the forgotten regional specialties from Twain’s fantasy menu and set out to discover whether the author’s favorite foods could still be found on American tables. During his research, Beahrs found that Twain’s menu was also a memoir and a map. “The dishes that Twain yearned for were all intimately connected to cherished moments in his life - from the New Orleans croakers he loved as a young man on the Mississippi to the maple syrup he savored in Connecticut with his family, and during his final lonely years.”

“Tracking Twain’s food leads Beahrs from the dwindling prairie of rural Illinois to a six-hundred-pound coon supper in Arkansas to the biggest native oyster reef in San Francisco Bay. He finds pockets of the country where Twain’s favorite foods still exist, or where intrepid farmers, fishermen, and conservationists are trying to bring them back. In Twain’s Feast, he reminds us of what we’ve lost as these wild foods have disappeared from our tables, and of what we stand to gain from their return.”

In addition to advance praise the book received from food world luminaries like Marion Nestle (“What a gift this is!”), Novella Carpenter (“Beahr’s attention to detail had my mouth watering for a Tahoe trout cooked over a campfire…”), and Molly Wizenberg (“..a brilliant book: elegant, insightful, and funny, part history and part hungry-making.”) the New York Times included Twain‘s Feast in its list of best food books of 2010.

Andrew Beahrs is the author of two novels and his work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and periodicals including: New York Times, Gastronomica, and Food History News. He lives in Northern California with his family.

Included below are the eighty American foods, as listed by Twain, which he said “he wanted served at a ‘modest, private affair,’ all to himself, the moment he stepped off his steamer:”

Radishes. Baked apples, with cream

Fried oysters; stewed oysters. Frogs.

American coffee, with real cream.

American butter.

Fried chicken, Southern style.

Porter-house steak.

Saratoga potatoes.

Broiled chicken, American style.

Hot biscuits, Southern style.

Hot wheat-bread, Southern style.

Hot buckwheat cakes.

American toast. Clear maple syrup.

Virginia bacon, broiled.

Blue points, on the half shell.

Cherry-stone clams.

San Francisco mussels, steamed.

Oyster soup. Clam soup.

Philadelphia Terrapin soup.

Bacon and greens, Southern style.

Hominy. Boiled onions. Turnips.

Pumpkin. Squash. Asparagus.

Butter beans. Sweet potatoes.

Lettuce. Succotash. String beans.

Mashed potatoes. Catsup.

Boiled potatoes, in their skins.

New potatoes, minus the skins.

Early rose potatoes, roasted in the ashes, Southern style, served hot.

Sliced tomatoes, with sugar or vinegar. Stewed tomatoes.

Green corn, cut from the ear and served with butter and pepper.

Oysters roasted in shell - Northern style.

Soft-shell crabs. Connecticut shad.

Baltimore perch.

Brook trout, from Sierra Nevada.

Lake trout, from Tahoe.

Sheep-head and croakers, from New Orleans.

Black bass from the Mississippi.

American roast beef.

Roast turkey, Thanksgiving style.

Cranberry sauce. Celery.

Roast wild turkey. Woodcock.

Canvas-back-duck, from Baltimore.

Prairie-hens, from Illinois.

Missouri partridges, broiled.

‘Possum. Coon.

Boston bacon and beans.

Green corn, on the ear.

Hot corn-pone, with chitlings, Southern style.

Hot hoe-cake, Southern style.

Hot egg-bread, Southern style.

Hot light-bread, Southern style.

Buttermilk. Iced sweet milk

Apple dumplings, with real cream.

Apple pie. Apple fritters.

Apple puffs, Southern style.

Peach cobbler, Southern style.

Peach pie. American mince pie.

Pumpkin pie. Squash pie.

All sorts of American pastry.

For more information about Slow Food Solano go to http://www.slowfoodsolano.org/. For more information about the Solano Land Trust go to www.solanolandtrust.org.