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 »

artbites’ Sweet Dream Pie

sweet-dream-pie-pic-1

artbites’ Sweet Dream Pie

sweet-dream-pie-pic-1

This blog was featured on KCRW’s Good Food on July 19, 2011.

I recently received an email from a mom wanting an ArtBites class for her daughters based on the children’s book, “Sweet Dream Pie.”  Her 10-year-old had only one request:  to bake “the pie” from the story.  I was immediately intrigued and rushed to the library to get my hands on a copy, at which point I was horrified – this pie had gummy bears, licorice sticks and chewing gum!  What to do?  While I always welcome a challenge, this time I was stumped.  Should I take a cue from Alice Waters’ “Edible Schoolyard” or Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” and suggest a fruit filling instead, or make a 10-year-old and her 4-year-old twin sisters happy… but make sure to gracefully make my exit somewhere between the sugar high and the sugar crash?

I decided to forgo the farmer’s market and head straight to my local grocery store’s candy section.  In my shopping cart:  Milky Ways, M&M’s, Hershey’s Kisses, caramels, marshmallows and bananas (for good measure).  I wanted the kids to have fun cooking together but didn’t want to give anyone a stomachache or, even worse, a nightmare.  (In the story everyone gets nightmares after eating too much pie; but they were going to make dreamcatchers, too, so I had that covered). READ MORE »