Cooking Art History: Sicilian Gourmet

Cooking Art History: Sicilian Gourmet

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on April 1, 2014.

Thanks to a recent exhibit at The Getty (Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome) and a current one at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (Lost & Found: The Secrets of Archimedes), I find myself fascinated by Sicilian culture.

The Huntington’s exhibit focuses on mathematician, inventor and astronomer Archimedes (also highlighted at The Getty), who I imagine enjoying the bread and cheese written about by another Sicilian, Archestratus, while developing his heady theories. Archestratus lived about a century before Archimedes and wrote one of the most significant works on food of the ancient world. The Life of Luxury is a poem written between 360 and 348 BCE. READ MORE »

Cooking Art History: Cooking Canterbury

Cooking Art History: Cooking Canterbury

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on March 5, 2014.

A few months ago I was asked to develop a class around a group of stained glass windows at the J. Paul Getty Museum from the Canterbury Cathedral. (They’re now at The Cloisters in NYC and totally worth seeing before they head home). I was stumped. The windows were stunning, but fine dining doesn’t exactly come to mind when thinking of medieval England.

With the end of the Roman Empire, the culture responsible for the first western cookbook with the 5th century’s De re coquinaria (On the Art of Cooking) attributed to Apicius, the widespread understanding of high cuisine and fine dining was destroyed. READ MORE »

Cooking Art History: The Victorian Appetite

Cooking Art History: The Victorian Appetite

This blog was featured in The Huffington Post on February 26, 2014.

As I get ready to teach a series of English-themed classes inspired by the Queen Victoria and Photography exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum and Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits at LACMA, tea, scones and spices are on my mind.

Tea, the most quintessential of English drinks, is a relative latecomer to British shores. Although the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China, it was not until the mid-17th century that the beverage first appeared in England. The use of tea spread slowly from its Asian homeland, reaching Europe by way of Venice around 1560, although Portuguese trading ships may have made contact with the Chinese as early as 1515. READ MORE »

The Ancient Wisdom of Aphrodisiacs

Statuette of Venus, 100-1 B.C., made in Egypt. The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Ancient Wisdom of Aphrodisiacs

Statuette of Venus, 100-1 B.C., made in Egypt. The J. Paul Getty Museum

This blog was featured in the Getty Iris and The Huffington Post on February 14, 2014.

Food and sex are the most basic human drives. It’s no wonder that aphrodisiacs—food and drink with a reputation for making sex more attainable or pleasurable—are named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. (She was known as Venus to the Romans—Latin for love or sexual desire.) The femme fatale of Mount Olympus and one of the most powerful ancient gods, Aphrodite’s roles as mother, seductress, instigator of sexual desire, and patroness of brides were popular subjects in ancient art.

Aphrodite’s origins are dramatic, to say the least. The Titan Uranus was castrated by his own son, Kronos, and when the severed genitals were cast into the sea, Aphrodite emerged from the foam. The Greek name aphrodite has been interpreted as meaning “foam-born.” This explains why seafood has long been linked to love and sex, and why Aphrodite is often seen emerging from a seashell. READ MORE »