There’s not an official degree for culinary historians, at least not yet. The study of culinary history as a part of the social sciences is relatively new. For folks like me, it is our choice to define ourselves this way. I, like most of my fellow culinary and food historians, have spent years, upon years doing more than just learning to cook and cooking. I’ve also spent years studying history, cultures, geography, visiting museums, asking questions, and seeking answers. I’ve spent hours in a variety of ethnic grocery stores, hassled chefs, good cooks, and great cooks around the world for recipes, and then taken those precious words, and studied them, tasting them, smelling them, and comparing them to dishes found in various parts of the world. I’ve taken formal classes in culinary studies, everything from classes on the history of cookbooks, to too many to count practical cooking classes. I’ve done restaurant and food reviews, and had the pleasure of working with well known food critics, picking dishes apart far more than most consumers ever would. I spent years studying wine and distilled spirits and have trawled through many racks of casks, smelling the angel’s share, gardens and farms, tasting the dirt and enjoying the gifts of the Divine. My scope of study isn’t just a few close centuries but reaches back as far as the study of history, archaeology, and anthropology will allow.
My path on this journey started early when I was young. My mother always said she had three daughters, one to cook, one to clean, and one to sew. I am the cook. It wasn’t an occasional thing, but a part of my daily existence. I am also an avid reader, very much the geek who lived in the library, reading novels and stories, then the books that took me to the places those stories were set, and other book about the cultures, then the cookbooks. Since then I’ve read even more books, cooked more, studied more, and at some point began sharing all I learned.
Working with live fire also started early, my family’s fireplace held sweet potatoes roasting, one of my mother’s favorite things. Girl Scouts pushed things a little further, and well…it just never stopped. My focus on the Mid-Atlantic area, 17th-19th centuries, the hearth years in the area originally known as New Netherland, began in my mid-20’s with my move to Brooklyn. Living blocks away from the Brooklyn Museum, the main library at Grand Army Plaza, and Prospect Park where Lefferts House is located added a lot of fuel to my curiosity fire. I became fascinated with this wedge of land called New Netherland claimed by Henry Hudson. It is neither North or South. Originally owned and settled by the Dutch, it is rich in under explored history. The lives and cultures of the Dutch mixed with those of the English, enslaved Africans, French, Germans, Jews, and others to create a vibrant foundation found nowhere else in colonial America.
I’ve been studying, working, cooking, and teaching in the mid-Atlantic for nearly 20 years, and still I have barely scratched the surface. Culinary history brings me more than just joy, it lights a fire within my soul that I just can’t explain. The exploration of all that I enjoy, love, dislike, and am just curious about related to my work and passions-history, food, culture, art, enslavement, and more can be found here, and I’m not far away. So please, look around, reach out, comment, share. I love company, and I’ve always game for a great chat. Feel free to shot me an email I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for joining me.