On Household Management

illustration plague

On Household Management

illustration plague

This article was first featured in Life & Thyme.

Cookbooks Capture the Eccentricities of Former Eras

My fascination with historic cookbooks knows no bounds. It jumps from country to country and century to century. Most recently I’ve been intrigued by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British cookbooks, partly because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in England this year and partly because these books are about much more than just cooking. They are part of a genre of books on household management that give us an insight into the daily lives of the middle class and those striving to climb the social ladder.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, household management books—historically written by men—were popular all over Europe. By the seventeenth century, England had a higher literary rate than elsewhere in Europe and a new market emerged—books written by women for women. Femininity suddenly acquired a feminine voice. Household management books became as big business among women as lifestyle books and blogs are today (and in theory, not entirely different).
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Tamales, Tortillas and Time

cover

Tamales, Tortillas and Time

cover

This article was first featured in Life & Thyme.

My fascination with cookbooks began when my mom gave me a copy of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from Mickey and His Friends when I was six years old. Through food, I would get closer to my favorite characters. Tinker Bell’s Spaghetti Sauce? I loved spaghetti too! Cinderella’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Yes, please! Bambi’s Garden Salad, Pluto’s Hot Dogs, and Mickey’s Sugar Cookies were a few of my other favorites. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, Peter Pan’s Pasta and Caterpillar’s Corn on the Cob are quite possibly where I learned my love of alliteration.)

Although I graduated from Mickey long ago, it was at that young age when my voracious appetite for cookbooks—and for reading in general—began. But it wasn’t until many years later that I started to make the connection between food and history. Most recently, I’ve spent countless hours perusing the Huntington Library’s collection of rare cookbooks to gain a deeper understanding of history. Through the language of food, cookbooks give us insight into a culture and a time period that bring us way beyond a recipe, ingredient or trend; they add personal insight—“personal” because we each have our own relationship with food.

One such cookbook, and the subject of my most recent obsession, is Mexico’s first, El Cocinero Mexicano (The Mexican Cook), published in 1831. Yes, the first Mexican cookbook doesn’t appear until the nineteenth century. Crazy to think, given the fact that the roots of Mexican food go back way beyond modernity. The reason for this involves colonialism, politics and identity.

cookbook
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Cultivating California: The History of Wines in Los Angeles

sgabriel_winery

Cultivating California: The History of Wines in Los Angeles

sgabriel_winery

This blog was featured in the summer 2017 edition of Edible LA.

Thinking of California wines, my mind goes straight to the lush, sun-drenched vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, and sometimes to the Guadalupe Valley in Baja. It never stays in Los Angeles, much less in Boyle Heights or the concrete channel that is the LA River. It’s hard to imagine those areas as the once beautiful acres of vineyards of the early 19th century. What happened?
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Cooking Art History: Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque

mayahuel

Cooking Art History: Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque

mayahuel

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on October 13, 2016.

Growing up on the Texas/Mexico border my friends and would regularly go “across” during our high school lunch break for a leisurely lunch of Doritos con chile and a frozen margarita. Not exactly healthy – not to mention age appropriate – and little did I know that I was about to embark on a life long fascination with tequila and on a trip to Oaxaca in the early 2000s, would discover mezcal.
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