The History of Roquefort French Dressing

Published by Friday, September 14, 2018 Permalink 1

by Gary Allen

Roquefort cheese has been made in the caves of Combalou, Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, at least since Gaul was occupied by the Romans — Pliny the Elder spoke highly of it, and he was not the sort who normally gushed gourmet superlatives. By 1411, Les Causses had been granted the exclusive right to the name “Roquefort,” and all other blue-veined cheeses had to make their own reputations. Salads, of course, go back much further — they were known to the ancient Greeks — but didn’t have an entire book devoted to them until 1699, when Robert Evelyn published his Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets.

When salad and Roquefort cheese first got together is somewhat more mysterious. Usually, recipes just “happen,” they evolve — often in several places at the same time — in response to new tastes, the availability of new ingredients, etc. Recipes, or “receipts,” have only found their way into print after a sufficient number of people found them useful. Only rarely can we provide, with any certainty, the “who, what, where, when and how” of a recipe’s creation.

Handwritten recipe for blue cheese/Roquefort dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can look for clues to “who, what, where, when and how” it might have been invented though. We know that Roquefort Dressing did not first appear in France — the French preferred simple vinaigrettes on their salads and thought too highly of the great cheese to reduce it to the status of a mere ingredient in something else.

We also know that Roquefort cheese was fairly well-known in the U.S, at least as early as the 1850s. Thomas Jefferson would surely have known about it over fifty years earlier, and he was very fond of salads, but they tended to be dressed with egg-yolk-thickened dressings.

Homans Isaac Smith wrote, in 1859: “In France, the Roquefort cheese is the most esteemed, and next, that of Neufchatel. The former somewhat resembles Stilton, but is much inferior; and the latter is a cream cheese, seldom exceeding a quarter of a pound.”

Elliot G. Storke, also writing in 1859, agreed with Smith: “In France, the Roquefort cheese is compared to our Stilton, but is much inferior, although a good cheese. The little cheeses made from cream and folded in paper, called Neufchatel cheeses, are imported from France as a delicacy.”

Apparently, Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Storke’s tastes were still primarily British, long after America had gained independence. One traveler, writing in Appletons’ Journal: A Magazine of General Literature, in 1875, had a somewhat different opinion of the cheese: “If America ever produced cheese equal to that delicious green-streaked cream, which is known as the Roquefort, its manufacture may surely be ranked among the forgotten arts.”

 

recipe card roquefort dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wirt Sikes, traveling to Brussels, complained about his accommodations in a hotel there:

There was no gas, and the dim light of the solitary candles did not produce a cheerful effect. There was no fireplace in either room, and we could not get warm. Weary and worn, chilled and hungry, we dejectedly ordered a cold chicken and a bit of Roquefort cheese to be served in my room, for the dining-room was closed and the kitchen-fires were out, although it was not yet midnight. The chicken came, but no Roquefort; they had only Stilton and Cheshire, the waiter said, in English. In fact, we had chanced upon the particular hotel in Brussels where they give you the English language in lieu of comfort, and English dishes in lieu of good living.

By the 1870s American palates had clearly become more sophisticated!

Salads with “French dressings” (vinaigrettes with various additions) became fashionable in America in the 1880s, but in the cookbook assembled by the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition, no mention of Roquefort Dressing appeared.

fannie farmer original 1896 boston cooking-school cook book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fannie Farmer’s original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book used “French dressing” in the vinaigrette sense, and included some 13 recipes for salad dressings, but none of them resembles Roquefort Dressing. Several had creamy textures, but they were cooked and contained cream and/or egg yolks. This is hardly surprising, as she doesn’t even list Roquefort among the cheeses she included in her book. Curiously, she does mention three mold-veined cheeses: Cheshire, Gorgonzola, and Stilton.

In 1915, Hellmann’s mayonnaise first appeared in jars, and salad dressings began to multiply — Ranch, Green Goddess and a new sweet-sour orange concoction called “French Dressing” (that had nothing whatsoever in common with the traditional vinaigrettes) — soon appeared on grocers’ shelves.

hellmann's mayonnaise history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the 1920s, green salads became popular — first in California, and then across the country (especially in the new tearooms that catered to a female clientele). According to Jan Whitaker, “Salads, called ‘the thinking woman’s luncheon, and the university girl’s dessert,’ were also popular attractions in tearooms.”

Finally, in the salad dressing recipes in 1928’s Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book, we find:

…classified under the headings of French Dressings, Mayonnaises, Boiled Dressings, Sour Cream Dressings, Vinegars, and Miscellaneous Dressings . . . the final section [was] devoted to . . . the four universally used dressings, French, Mayonnaise, Roquefort, and Thousand Island.

So, somewhere before 1928, Roquefort Salad Dressing “just happened” and became popular enough that it became standard almost immediately. What were its immediate precursors; what sorts of things were people eating that might have planted the idea of the dressing in the public mind? One recipe, by Rufus Estes, chef for two presidents (Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison), and and one of the first African-Americans to write and publish a cookbook, in 1911, is suggestive:

Trianon Salad — Cut one grapefruit and two oranges in sections and free from seeds and membrane. Skin and seed one cup white grapes and one-third cup pecan nut meats in small pieces. Mix ingredients, arrange on a bed of romaine and pour over the following dressing: Mix four tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon grape juice, one tablespoon grape vinegar, one-fourth teaspoon paprika, one-eighth teaspoon pepper and one tablespoon finely chopped Roquefort cheese. This dressing should stand in the ice-box four or five hours to become seasoned.

Fannie Farmer, in 1918, wrote a recipe that was a little more like what we think of when we hear the term “Roquefort Dressing”:

Tomato and Cheese Salad

Peel six medium-sized tomatoes, chill, and scoop out a small quantity of pulp from the centre of each. Fill cavities, using equal parts of Roquefort and Neufchâtel cheese worked together and moistened with French Dressing. Arrange on lettuce leaves and serve with French Dressing.”

By 1947, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book had two versions of a dressing we would immediately recognize. Both were based on “French Dressing” (that basic vinaigrette) with crumbled Roquefort added; one also contained mayonnaise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roquefort French Dressing

Add 1 to 4 Tablespoons dry Roquefort cheese crumbs and a few drops of onion juice.

and:

Roquefort Cheese Dressing

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
French Dressing
2 Tablespoons Roquefort Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix mayonnaise and cheese and add French dressing very slowly; then add Worcestershire sauce. Cream cheese or Roquefort-flavored cream cheese may be used in place of Roquefort.

The first Fannie Farmer recipe is almost identical to the one in Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking (first published 1931), which means the dressing had become a standard by that time.

Joy of Cooking, Erma S. Rombauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roquefort or Blue Cheese French Dressing

Prepare: 1/2 Cup French Dressing

Beat into it 2 Tablespoons or more crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese.

We do know the particulars on some Roquefort recipes, however. Cobb salad (which contained Roquefort, but crumbled on top of the vinaigrette, not blended in, rather like Este’s Trianon Salad) was invented at the Original Hollywood Brown Derby, in 1937 by owner Bob Cobb. The best-known dish making use of Roquefort Dressing is Buffalo Chicken Wings, a dish invented by Frank and Teressa Bellissimo, at the Anchor Bar, 1047 Main Street, Buffalo, New York. The hot-sauce-drenched wings, accompanied by celery sticks and Roquefort Dressing, were first served in 1964.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, even the details of the history of recent inventions such as Buffalo Chicken Wings, are hotly argued (there wouldn’t be a need for food historians if all the answers were easy), but you can sort through the accounts for yourself at On the Wings of a Buffalo or ‘Mother Teressa’s Wings.’

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Relaunching of The Rambling Epicure Website

Published by Tuesday, August 28, 2018 Permalink 0

I launched The Rambling Epicure e-zine, this website, nearly ten years ago as a literary culinary electronic magazine with a host of well-known food writers and photographers, all of whom are still active members of the related Facebook groups Culinary Travel and Mastering the Art of Food Writing. Editing and publishing this on my own required an incredible amount of gratifying work and because I was busy with my personal projects, I have left it semi-dormant for the last year or two. Today, I would like to relaunch it in a different form as part of an effort to encourage conversation about food, cooking, and writing.

My primary goal is for The Rambling Epicure to become a wellspring of enlightening epicurean essays and culinary fiction. We all have captivating personal and family tales about what we cooked and what we ate through many generations, during good times and bad. These memories are part of our food culture—and our food heritage—and should be an effective way to transmit our experiences and values beyond our front doors.

But my ambitions are greater than just memoir: I’m also interested in publishing articles and essays related to historical research in the field of gastronomy and in reviews of food books.

I would like to make this a cooperative effort that opens the door for us to share our potential as cooks, diners, and writers. Together, we will create a literary culinary site unlike any other, with information and stories that can be passed down to future generations.

To begin, there are two tasks:

  1. We need to create a team of vetters and active partners who are familiar with the TRE philosophy and approach. If you have experience in editing, food, or writing and have a few hours a month to help us read submissions on a volunteer basis (we have no budget, only enthusiasm and goodwill) and would like to be part of our team, please PM me.
  2. We are calling for submissions of expository essays and fiction and other food-related topics. If you’re interested, please PM me for guidelines.

I am looking forward to this new project and hope we can work together to harness our community’s knowledge and talents as well as to contribute to an intelligent conversation about a central part of our lives.

Issue No. 1, Women Who Cook, September-November 2018

Issue No. 2, Women Who Cooked, November 2018-January 2019

Issue No. 3, Food in Wartime, especially France and Italy’s Relationship through Time, Wine & Food

To take part in the relaunching of this e-zine, click here.

To see other events organized by The Rambling Epicure, click here.

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Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

Published by Tuesday, June 26, 2018 Permalink 1

Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

France and Italy’s relationship through time, wine & food

PROGRAM FOR 4-DAY MASTERCLASS TASTING WEEKEND IN CHARTRES

with Jonell Galloway and James Flewellen

4th to 7th October 2018
——-
Course Overview

FRANCE AND ITALY ARE TITANS OF EUROPEAN culinary culture. The nations of today are inheritors of rich culinary traditions that are the result of millennia of interweaving relationships between the peoples who inhabit these lands. This is a process that predates even the Romans and continues very much into the 21st century.

Over this four-day weekend, we explore the culinary and vinous relationships between France and Italy from Roman times through to today. We will look at what each nation has gifted the other through various lenses, including food, drink and culinary culture.

The masterclass involves sumptuous feasting, tutored wine tastings, and intellectual discussion. Bring your taste buds, something to say and a willingness to learn!

 

——

DR JAMES FLEWELLEN is a biophysicist, wine writer and educator based in London. He learned his trade in taste during his doctoral studies at Oxford University, leading the university’s blind tasting team to victories in numerous international competitions. Since then he has completed his WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine and Spirits and written a Gourmand award-winning guide to blind tasting. He is a judge for the International Wine Challenge and gives regular wine education tastings in London, bringing his scientific expertise to bear on questions of high taste.

JONELL GALLOWAY grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris as well as the Academie du Vin. She ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with her two sisters in the U.S. Jonell is a freelance writer who has worked for the GaultMillau guides The Best of France and The Best of Paris and CityGuides, amongst others. She has collaborated on many projects including Le tour du monde en 80 pains with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France, At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain, and André Raboud: Sculptures 2002-2008.


Contact Details

The course takes place in the Rue Saint-Pierre, Chartres, France, in a beautiful converted 11th-century chapel.

This map shows the masterclass venue in relation to central Chartres. Note the cathedral in the top of the map. The train station is just off the map, to the top left. The venue is located at a curve in the road, has a small courtyard in the front and a turret.

Chartres is easily accessible from Paris by train. There is also plenty of car parking in the city center. For further details on how to travel, please get in touch.

Our email address is: info@tasteunlocked.com.
Feel free to contact us for any reason.

——

Course Schedule

DAY 1 – Thursday
ARRIVAL afternoon / evening

Arrival into Chartres
Please let us know if you would like to be met at the station and shown to your accommodation.

6:30 PM COCKTAIL
We meet at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre over a local Loire sparkling wine for an informal introduction to the weekend ahead.

7:30 PM DINNER
A home-cooked meal prepared using local ingredients and heritage Beauce recipes. Each course is paired with wine sourced from the Loire Valley. After dinner, the evening is free for a walk to see the medieval city center and the light displays of the cathedral.

________________________________________

DAY 2 – Friday

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM CULINARY INSIGHTS 1: La Cucina Povera
Meet at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre for our first culinary insights discussion of the weekend. In this session, Jonell will lead an exploration into the culinary links between France and Italy, focusing in particular on how frugality has inspired innovation in food production and cooking. All guests are invited to contribute to the discussion if they wish.

12:30 PM INTRODUCTION TO WINE TASTING
James presents an informal introduction to wine tasting, paving the way for the skills we’ll need to taste and discuss wines over lunch. We’ll discuss aromas, flavors and structural elements such as acidity, alcohol, sugar, and tannin as well as covering what makes a “good” wine and how wines interact with food.

1:15 PM LUNCH
We continue our discussions over a meal paired with wines from around France.

2:30 PM FREE TIME

7:45 PM DINNER AT 1 RUE SAINT-PIERRE
Meet at 7.45 pm for dinner at 8:00 pm. Jonell will prepare a home-cooked meal bringing to mouth-watering fullness our theoretical discussions from throughout the day. James will select wines to match with each course, further illustrating the interplay between wine and food.

________________________________________

DAY 3 – Saturday
Morning FREE TIME / GUIDED MARKET VISIT
The morning is free for you to enjoy Chartres. You are very welcome to join Jonell for a guided tour of the market as she sources ingredients for the weekend’s meals.

12:00 PM GUIDED TOUR OF CHARTRES CATHEDRAL
We meet at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres – one of the medieval wonders of the world – for a guided tour conducted by Malcolm Miller. Malcolm has been leading tours at Chartres Cathedral since 1958; there really can be no better guide to this astonishing building.

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM LUNCH
We return to 1 Rue Saint-Pierre for a light lunch

2:30 PM FREE TIME

5:45 – 7:45 PM WINE TASTING & CULINARY INSIGHTS 2: Franco-Italian links via wine

Convene at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre by 5.30 pm. James leads a discussion on the relationships between France and Italy through wine. We’ll look at historical influences of different French and Italian peoples on winemaking technology and traditions as well as how France and Italy influence each other in the 21st century. All accompanied by a tutored wine tasting!

8:00 PM DINNER AT RESTAURANT SAINT-HILAIRE
At 7.45 pm we walk down to noted local foodie establishment Restaurant Saint-Hilaire. There we will be treated to a three-course set menu of classic, innovative French cuisine using only local products, with each course paired with Loire Valley wines – the perfect setting to continue our wine tasting discussions.

________________________________________

DAY 4 – Sunday
Morning FREE TIME

12:00 PM LUNCH AT 1 RUE SAINT-PIERRE

1:30 – 2:30 PM CULINARY INSIGHTS 3: La Cucina Moderna
Following lunch, Jonell leads our final session of the masterclass, focusing on how the cuisines of both France and Italy have evolved and influenced each other in the 20th and 21st centuries – particularly as technology and the politics of a post-WW2 Europe have led to greater affluence and global influence of these two great nations.

The afternoon is available fortravelingg onwards, or for exploring Chartres in more detail.

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Relaunching of The Rambling Epicure E-zine

Published by Wednesday, April 25, 2018 Permalink 0

I launched The Rambling Epicure e-zine, this website, nearly ten years ago as a literary culinary electronic magazine with a host of well-known food writers and photographers, all of whom are still active members of the related Facebook groups Culinary Travel and Mastering the Art of Food Writing. Editing and publishing this on my own required an incredible amount of gratifying work and because I was busy with my personal projects, I have left it semi-dormant for the last year or two. Today, I would like to relaunch it in a different form as part of an effort to encourage conversation about food, cooking, and writing.

My primary goal is for The Rambling Epicure to become a wellspring of enlightening epicurean essays and culinary fiction. We all have captivating personal and family tales about what we cooked and what we ate through many generations, during good times and bad. These memories are part of our food culture—and our food heritage—and should be an effective way to transmit our experiences and values beyond our front doors.

But my ambitions are greater than just memoir: I’m also interested in publishing articles and essays related to historical research in the field of gastronomy and in reviews of food books.

I would like to make this a cooperative effort that opens the door for us to share our potential as cooks, diners, and writers. Together, we will create a literary culinary site unlike any other, with information and stories that can be passed down to future generations.

To begin, there are two tasks:

1) We need to create a team of vetters and active partners who are familiar with the TRE philosophy and approach. If you have experience in editing, food, or writing and have a few hours a month to help us read submissions on a volunteer basis (we have no budget, only enthusiasm and goodwill) and would like to be part of our team, please PM me.

2) We are calling for submissions of expository essays and fiction and other food-related topics. If you’re interested, please PM me for guidelines.

I am looking forward to this new project and hope we can work together to harness our community’s knowledge and talents as well as to contribute to an intelligent conversation about a central part of our lives.

The first three “editions” or series will be:

Issue No. 1, Food and Wine in Wartime, August-September 2018

Issue No. 2, Women Who Cook, October-November 2018

Issue No. 3, Women Who Cooked, December 2018-January 2019

To take part in the relaunching of this e-zine, click here.

To see other events organized by The Rambling Epicure, click here.

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Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Published by Friday, April 20, 2018 Permalink 0

TRE Book-a-Month: Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

NOTA: For technical reasons (I am not sure to have WiFi for the next week or so), I have moved the dates to May 10 through May 31. Do you have any particular topics you would like to bring up in the discussions?

Join us in our Facebook group The Rambling Epicure, Mastering the Art of Food Writing, from May 3 to May 17 for the TRE Book-a-Month reading, discussion and, if you like, cookalong, of a biographical cookbook about legendary food authority Paula Wolfert, which includes 50+ recipes, by Emily Keiser Thelin.

“All recipes are, in some way, an exploration of the link between food and memory. We cook the food we remember loving and, in so doing, make new connections and bonds. The amount of love, through food, Paula has given so many over the years makes this biography-cum-cookbook a truly wonderful project. — Yotam Ottolenghi

“Every serious food person knows that Paula Wolfert changed our world, but in this book we learn what a fascinating time she had while she was doing it. Part biography, part cookbook, part history, Unforgettable introduces our greatest cookbook writer to the wider audience she deserves. There has never been a book quite like this one. — Ruth Reichl

“Unforgettable is a brilliant summation of the resilience, exuberance, and expertise that we know and love of Paula Wolfert. — Mario Batali

“We’re all truly indebted to Emily Kaiser Thelin, Eric Wolfinger, Andrea Nguyen, and Toni Tajima for capturing these beautiful, inspiring, and very important memories of Paula’s life and travels. — April Bloomfield

 

“Unforgettable is the story of the exacting, passionate, genuine, driven and indefatigable Paula Wolfert, the ultimate expert on the cooking of the Mediterranean. Emily Kaiser Thelin’s well-written and poignant narrative recounts the tale of this true pioneer of American culinary history. — Jacques Pépin”
 
Excerpts from Goodreads
 

 

 
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Cookalong: Istanbul and Beyond, by Robyn Eckhardt

Published by Saturday, March 17, 2018 Permalink 0

Join us from February 15 through April 15, 2018, in our Culinary Travel Facebook group as we explore the cuisine of one of the oldest regions of the world — the very name evokes visions of the Silk Road, never-ending caravans wending their way along deserts, stopping at oases to feast on large communal platters and the colorful, bright bazaars selling everything from precious gems to vegetables and sweetmeats; a vision of swirling dervishes and kohl-lined eyes watching you from behind ornate latticed screens.

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A Brief History of Coffee

Published by Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Permalink 0

by Brian Yarvin

“Collectively, Europe’s coffeehouses functioned as the Internet of the Age of Reason.”–Tom Standage

I once asked a friend how much coffee he drank and he boasted “500 billion cups a year.” I knew instantly that this was wrong because the entire world drinks only about 400 billion. No matter where we are — in the car-crazed west, the subway riding city of New York, a town square cafe in Kansas, or a science lab in Antarctica — coffee is our fuel.

Coffee is so powerful that it has its own creation myth. We are told that it was discovered by a guy named “Kaldi.” He was an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that when his animals ate certain red berries, they got so excited, they began to dance. So he chewed on a few berries and felt that now universal coffee buzz. Afterward, he picked some more, and then told an Islamic holy man about his discovery. The holy man declared them evil and threw them on the fire. When they smelled the roasting beans, they gathered them up, threw water on them, and enjoyed the world’s first cup of coffee.

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Happy New Year 2018

Published by Tuesday, January 2, 2018 Permalink 0

May the angels be with you all the year long.

 
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A Taste of Paris, by David Downie

Published by Wednesday, December 27, 2017 Permalink 0

A History of the Parisian Palate

by Jonell Galloway

 A Taste of Paris is a delicious promenade through the Paris of times past and present with David Downie, guide par excellence. History and the senses are intertwined as Downie leads us through the City of Lights he knows so intimately, with many an unexpected turn, making it a suspenseful story that unravels the preconceived ideas we’ve woven about the history of French cuisine. Downie is not a tourist who spends a few weeks in Paris a year. He has dedicated his career to French gastronomy and Parisian history and is one of today’s foremost authoritative voices on these subjects. While this is a most entertaining French food history, it is much more. You come away understanding how and why this grande cuisine rose to such heights. Like the ancient Romans, the French, with all their pomposity and refinement, have a very sensual, down-to-earth relationship to life and land, and hence to food. This is a 12-course feast of words, and I wouldn’t skip a single dish.

***

Our Rambling Epicure Book-a-Month Club discussed the book at length in November.

 

 

 

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Pumpkin and Anchovy Pudding

Published by Wednesday, December 27, 2017 Permalink 0

I baked my “yellow pumpkin,” my zucca gialla, which the greengrocer recommended as being the sweetest for my baked pumpkin pudding. While pulling out the seeds and flesh with my fingers, I noted some little hard, dark bits, so I pulled them out as best I could, all the time thinking it strange that they were there. When I went to my cutting board to get the chopped anchovies to add to my liver pâté, they were gone. I had kneaded them into my pumpkin. This may be the beginning of a new and improved (?) pudding. Some people like sweet and savory together, right?

 
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