Makrut Limes – aka “Kaffir” Limes

Citrus hystrix dsc07772.jpg
Photo by David Monniaux

…a bit of trivia, a discussion I go through with many cookbook editors as I try to massage our language:

“Kaffir” was, historically, a word used in South Africa to refer to dark-skinned peoples. It differentiated the SE Asian limes grown in Indonesia (where the native Austronesian tribes had dark skin and curly hair) from the juicy and smooth-skinned Persian limes familiar to Europeans.

Word origins:

It’s now considered extremely derogatory, a term that is outlawed, in fact, in several other countries. Users can be prosecuted in court for what we know here as hate speech.

I try to encourage my colleagues and students to use the name “makrut” or “magrut” lime. Obviously, we still have a ways to go, as our whole food industry in the west has absorbed the term without knowing its political background. I often put it in parenthesis, to clarify for readers, but have been working hard to weed it from our cookbooks.

And, as you can tell, continue my Quixotic, linguistic crusade….


Taste of Asia

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Taste of Asia. Kevin Blum from The City Dish, Marcia Gagliardi from, Nish Nadaraja from Yelp, and Pim Techamuanvivit from Chez Pim will share their insights on how online communities have changed the landscape of the restaurant world.

It should be an interesting conversation, as yours truly comes from traditional media (those fuddy-duddy, dead-tree newspapers, magazines, and books) and is always struck speechless by the museum’s sexualized marketing of Asia and usually prefers a nice, simple, home-cooked dinner to most restaurant meals. And yes, has her own blog.

Culinary Seminars:
Saturday, April 26, 2008
1:00 – 2:00 pm
Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, California
$25, includes admission to all exhibits. For more information, call 415-581-3788.

InsideStoryTime: Gourmets Reading in a Dive Bar

This Thursday, InsideStoryTime will kick off its 2008 series of literary readings with a food-themed evening. Yours truly will join four other local writers: Julia Flynn Siler, Ron Saxen, Cameron Heffernan and my ramen king friend, Andy Raskin.

Stop by Delirium and make your way to the back room to listen to our stories about the weird, beautiful ways food flavors our lives.

Until then, here’s a taste of what I’ll be sharing:

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Saveur Fare

Saveur Fare Nov 2007 - Sikh-2

I have a short piece in the current issue of Saveur Magazine (November 2007) about the Sikh tradition of langar, or communal kitchens, and about the annual Sikh parade in Yuba City, CA.

Several of my photos ended up appearing in a colorful montage. A couple of photos from my visit to the Stockton Gurdwara were mixed in with those from my visit to the Yuba City temple.

Actually, there are a few corrections to the edited text, too. For the record:

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Sharing recipes

As we draw smaller and smaller circles around our food community, we often forget the power of recipes to connect us to each other.

 Weblog Food Recipe 1-1
Nancy’s “Benz Cake” recipes in her baker’s shorthand.

Recipes in the personal sense. I’m not talking about the results of a keyword search or a formula in that latest best-selling cookbook, not the pasta-of-the-month at the back of a magazine or the marketing copy on the back of a box. Along with vegetables grown by farmers with real names and faces, a local food system includes dishes with memories of people we actually know.

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