Category Archives: History

Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Lemon Meringue Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

A staple of American dessert culture is the lemon meringue pie. Although lemon flavored desserts and custards have been in use since medieval times, the lemon meringue pie as we know it did not emerge until the nineteenth century. For my lemon pie, I used a recipe that originated a bit more recently. My recipe came from my great-grandmother’s cookbook, dating from the early to mid- twentieth century. Although I only have vague memories of her, and none of her lemon pie, I hear stories of her baking virtuosity. So I decided to test out her recipe and see if I inherited some of her baking genes.

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Filed under Food, History, Pics or it Didn't Happen, pie, Recipes, Zach B.

Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Chicken Pot Pie

Zach Bell, Yale University

Savory food isn’t really my thing. When it come to meals, I’m pretty much exclusively the dessert chef/procurer. Yet, in my exploration of pie it was inevitable that I would one day have to face the meat pie. Meat pies have a long history, tracing back millenia, with many theories about its various uses. Scholars believe that medieval meat pies were more like casseroles, with a much thicker pastry acting as the cooking container and preserving mechanism. From the Greeks to the Romans to the Middle Ages, the pastry was not meant to be eaten. Over time, the crust grew lighter and flakier until today when the historically “inedible” crust separates a pot pie from a meat stew.

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Filed under Food, History, Pics or it Didn't Happen, pie, Recipes, Zach B.

Summer in the City: Vareniki Versus

In Nikolai Gogol’s The Fair of Sorotchinetz, there is a curious importance placed on pierogi. Khavronia, intent on infidelity, encourages Aphanasi Ivanovitch to join her for a meal. Although Khavronia prepares galoucheliki (macaroni) and toutchenitchki (fried peas), Aphanasi hungers for something sweeter. Clutching a vareniki in one hand, Aphanasi grabs her waist. Before the eating gets underway, the licentious couple hear Khavronia’s husband Tcherevik approaching, and “the vareniki stuck fast in the throat of the popovitch [Aphanasi]—his eyes fairly started from their sockets as if he had suddenly found himself face to face with the dead come back to life.” Continue reading

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Filed under History, New York City, Restaurants, Reviews

Tour de Hamdel: Chicken of the Sea Edition, or Who Invented the Tuna Melt?

Allow me to introduce the Tour.

Last time I had the Gipper.

I was sitting on a bench by Morningside Park, eating my Hamdel Tuna Melt and enjoying the unseasonably cool weather, when a lingering question turned into an obsession. Who invented the tuna melt? Tuna salad griddled with cheese between bread seems like a simple concept, but at some far removed point in the mists of American history, some hitherto anonymous chef decided to conduct a sandwich experiment. After I finished my lunch, I set out to uncover the tuna melt’s story. Continue reading


Filed under Columbia University, History, New York City, Tour de Hamdel