New Food History Video Series! (Trailer)

Need something to watch while quarantined? I’ve posted on this blog before about my ancient food history web show, From Eggs to Apples, which I’ve been working on with dietician Fiorella DiCarlo. I’m excited to share the trailer for the series and announce that it’s finally going to be released soon.

Five episodes, five ancient civilizations, a whole lot of weird and fascinating recipes. GET READY. More information below!


Registered Dietitian Fiorella DiCarlo and educator, history and ancient food buff Andrew Coletti revisit ancient cuisines to find food cures for the modern world in their new video series “From Eggs to Apples: Ancient Recipes, Modern Kitchen.” Fiorella and Andrew recreate the signature dishes of ancient civilizations and explore the food and nutrition “from eggs to apples,” or as the Romans would say, “from the beginning to the end.”

Each episode features an ancient civilization, including Ancient Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Aztec Empire. Andrew uses his history and food background to delve deep into the ancient recipes and customs of the past, while Fiorella explores the ancient food remedies that apply to the past and present. Featured recipes include Babylonian and Assyrian-style Beef Stew, Peach Patina and Dulciarae, or honeyed dates, from Ancient Rome.


Special thanks to Kevin Schreck for editing and shooting, Huỳnh Nguyễn Tường Băng for the awesome logo/title screen design, and Ismail Butera for original music [featured in the episodes but not this trailer], and funding provided by the estate of Bill Mullen via The Mullen Fund.

The Gourd Files, Vol. 2: Chayote

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From the bottom, chayote fruit reminds me of a grumpy sock-puppet. I wish I had added googly eyes.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sechium edule

COMMON NAMES: A plethora, many of which don’t resemble the word chayote at all, such as mirliton (Louisiana), choko (Australia), christophine (Caribbean), chuchu (Brazil), and vegetable pear. The golden prickles on some varieties of chayote give rise to the Chinese name of lóng xü cài (龙须菜), “dragon-whisker vegetable.”

ORIGIN: “Chayote” comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name chayohtli, and the Aztecs were the first people to cultivate the plant. Like tomato and many other indigenous Mexican crops, chayote was spread far and wide by Europeans after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century. It is now cultivated and eaten throughout the world’s warm regions, especially in the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of Asia.

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Sliced chayote with the soft, edible seed left in.

FUN FACTS:

  • An enduring Australian food legend claims that McDonald’s apple pies are filled with choko (chayote) disguised as real apple. While this is false, it is true that Australians once added chayote to pies during food shortages to stretch canned apples and pears, making this perhaps the most innocuous food secret McDonald’s has been accused of keeping.
  • The small Colombian mountain town of San Bernardo is known for the unusually well-preserved remains of its dead. No one knows exactly why people mummify after death in San Bernardo, but some attribute it to a local diet rich in chayote and another fruit, a tree-bean called balú. As the miraculous mummification preserves clothing and objects as well as bodies, it can’t all be chalked up to diet, although chayote is said to promote cellular regeneration.
  • Like some other gourds, all parts of the chayote plant are edible, including the large seed inside the fruit. The roots are similar to potatoes, while the shoots and leaves are prized for soups, salads and stir-fries. The fruit may be eaten raw or cooked.

IMG_8089.JPGFLAVOR: Raw chayote has a pleasant, crisp texture similar to apple and a faint sweetness.  Because the flavor is so mild, think of chayote as one of those “blank canvas” type of ingredients that readily accepts a range of seasonings. I tried two completely different recipes with mine and they both turned out delicious (half went into a Thai salad with fish sauce, sugar, tomato, apple and cashews, and half was sauteed with butter, garlic and parsley, a combination of ingredients which reminded me inescapably of escargot).