Research Archives

"Swallowing Clouds," by A. Zee

A playful journey through Chinese culture, language, and cuisine ... In "Swallowing Clouds", A. Zee

invites us to a veritable Chinese banquet full of charming explorations of food, language, and culture. Beginning with simple dishes from a typical restaurant menu, Zee launches into an engrossing voyage of discoveries about Chinese language and cuisine. With folklore and anecdotes, he uncovers the roots of Chinese characters in ancient pictographs, giving an absorbing and effortless introduction to written Chinese.

... why eating "won-tons" is like swallowing clouds ... he traces the origin and legend of the dish "Ma Po To Fu" pages 174-179 ... you will be able to recognize the Chinese characters on menus ... did you know that red hot peppers were imported by the Portuguese from Central America to Sichuan, China! Ay caramba ...

Also see "eating in chinese" for a good overview of Chinese characters on menus and restaurants

Posted June 17, 2007 04:07 PM  ·  Permalink   ·  Book and Web Site Reviews , Chinese , Research , Restaurants   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (0)


After retiring from truck driving in 1987, Teri Horton devoted much of her time to bargain hunting around the Los Angeles area. Sometimes the bargains were discovered on Salvation Army shelves and sometimes, she willingly admits, at the bottom of Dumpsters.

Even the most stubborn deal scrounger probably would have been satisfied with the rate of return recently offered to her for a curiosity she snagged for $5 in a San Bernardino thrift shop in the early 1990s. A buyer, said to be from Saudi Arabia, was willing to pay $9 million for it, just under an 180 million percent increase on her original investment. Ms. Horton, a sandpaper-voiced woman with a hard-shell perm who lives in a mobile home in Costa Mesa and depends on her Social Security checks, turned him down without a second thought.

Ms. Horton’s find is not exactly the kind that gets pulled from a steamer trunk on the “Antiques Roadshow.” It is a dinner-table-size painting, crosshatched in the unmistakable drippy, streaky, swirly style that made Jackson Pollock one of the most famous artists of the last century. Ms. Horton had never heard of Pollock before buying the painting, but when an art teacher saw it and told her that it might be his work (and that it could fetch untold millions if it were), she launched herself on a single-minded post-retirement career — enlisting, along the way, a forensic expert and a once-powerful art dealer — to have her painting acknowledged as authentic by scholars and the art market.

"Could Be a Pollock; Must Be a Yarn," by Randy Kennedy, The New York Times, November 9, 2006

Where is the provenance???

"Provenance" is a list of the previous owners of a work of art, tracing it from its present location and owner back to the hand of the artist. Provenance has many uses: It can help to determine the authenticity of a work, to establish the historical importance of a work by suggesting other artists who might have seen and been influenced by it, and to determine the legitimacy of current ownership.

Provenance Research, Harvard University Art Museums


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Posted November 12, 2006 09:57 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Appraisals , Art , Auctions and Appraisals , Libraries and Research , Museums , Museums and Art , Research   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)

"When lobster was fertiliser" - What we can learn from old restaurant menus

Glenn Jones, of Texas A&M University, is a palaeo-oceanographer—an archaeologist of the oceans. He investigates both the mysteries of the deep and the secrets of the past. He and a colleague once estimated the temperature of the sea floor a century ago by studying the “isotopic composition” of mollusc shells. His latest method of inquiry, on show this week at the "Oceans Past" conference in Kolding, Denmark, is a little easier to understand. He reads old seafood menus. Lots of them. Mr Jones reckons he and his team have trawled through 40,000 or so, dating back as far as the 1850s.

Why? His menus, mostly from American cities on either coast, have allowed him to track the price of seafood back 150 years, much further than anyone has gone before. The menus show that the bountiful seas of centuries past have become more miserly in recent decades. From the early 1920s to the late 1930s, for example, a San Francisco restaurant would charge only $6-7, in today's money, for a serving of abalone, a type of mollusc. By the 1980s, however, abalone was selling for $30-40 a meal. The collapse of abalone stocks prompted a 1997 ban on commercial harvesting off California's coast.

"When lobster was fertiliser," The Economist, October 27, 2005

Hobnob Blog has more: "'When lobster was fertiliser' - What we can learn from old restaurant menus," November 2, 2005

Posted November 2, 2005 09:03 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Research , Seafood   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)

The Food Timeline - web site

The Food Timeline home page is just what it says - a timeline of food ... created by Lynne Olver, a reference librarian ... the Food Timeline is rich with links to more information ... including recipes, definitions, and photos ... Ms. Olver encourages visitors to ask questions ... she has answered almost 10,000 since starting the site in 1999 ... and we did not find one dead link on the site ...

Ever wonder what foods the Vikings ate when they set off to explore the new world? How Thomas Jefferson made his ice cream? What the pioneers cooked along the Oregon Trail? Who invented the potato chip...and why? Welcome to the Food Timeline.

Each item on the timeline is linked to an explanatory article for more information, such as:

The Food Timeline is another demonstration of why we love librarians. Thank you Lynne Olver for such an interesting site.

AGINY Highly Recommended and Top 10

Posted August 3, 2005 12:08 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Book and Web Site Reviews , Cooking & Food Prep , Research , The Best , Top 10   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)

forgotten NY - web site - highly recommended

forgotten NY

If you love New York, then you must visit, and bookmark, forgotten NY. Run by Kevin Walsh, forgotten NY includes text and photographs of all parts of the City, new and old ... he also conducts walking tours ... upcoming tours are announced on the home page ...

Some of our favorite pages include

An incredibly rich site, forgotten NY will keep you occupied for hours ... I bet most of you don't make it to this sentence ...

For more about Kevin Walsh, see the gothamist interview. Thank you, Kevin Walsh, for a wonderful web site.

AGINY Highly Recommended and Top 10

Posted August 1, 2005 07:01 AM  ·  Permalink   ·  Book and Web Site Reviews , Boroughs/Cities/States , Bronx , Brooklyn , Buildings & Architecture , Bus , Central Park , Getting Around NY , LIRR , NYC blogs , Queens , Research , Sights & Sounds , Subway , The Best , Top 10   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBacks (0)