Forgotten History: Celery


Celery is often a maligned vegetable. Many call it useless, pushing it to mirepoix duty or weak crudités plates. But I’ve always felt that celery should be celebrated for its natural salinity and crisp, refreshing taste. In the Victorian era, celery was seen as much more than an unwanted vegetable.

It was a status symbol and valuable foodstuff that people wanted to show off. Before refrigerated box cars and industrial agriculture, you could only grow celery in very specific places, so only a few people could get their hands on it.

A craze for celery reached fervor. Special vases were even made for hosts to show off their celery in the middle of the dinner table like a bouquet of flowers. Celery was also cooked, especially after it began to wilt. The cooked celery was given its own plate like the one seen above.

I first learned about this celery fad from my friend, Dan Macey, President of the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley. When he told me about the history of it, I knew I had to include it at Elwood. My dish in this picture is stewed in pork stock and finished with cheese.