The Seminoles, Eli Lilly, and the Ancient Saw Palmetto of Florida

Florida’s vegetation reminds me of a willful, obstinate child. You know, the one who seems to be everywhere all at once and defies  all the rules, crossing the line on limits, chocolate smeared across her face, filched from a secret and forbidden stash. Wild and ungovernable, in other words. And saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is one of the wildest…

From the Tudor Kitchens of England to the New World

During these cold and fraught winter days, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of the Tudors, rulers of England from 1485 to 1603. It’s a very different world from the one I’m currently living in. But it’s not without its own moments of violence, political wangling, and greed. That’s the intriguing thing about history….

Shanda, a Story of Africa and AIDS for World AIDS Day

On really bad nights, I dream I’m with Shanda. The smell always comes first. Not the sickly sweet pungency of pus, like a designer cheese gone bad. No, it’s the rotting banana aroma that warns me. I twist around in my sheets, sweating, panting in the dark as the dream unrolls. ———————————— At dusk, we…

Preserving Food Preserves Life, or, Mutton in the Pot

I harbor a dirty little secret. I quite dislike the taste of mutton. For a writer who writes about food, that’s almost as bad as saying “I hate liver.” That’s also true and makes me quite suspect, especially when I mumble about French cuisine. Anyway, fortunately for me when I was kid, mutton never crossed the…

Warts and All: Cooks as Witches, Witches as Cooks

The cauldron , symbol of cooking, food, and nourishment. And of the basest, most primal horrors imaginable, the power of the Dark Arts, magic, and blasphemy. Everyone who’s ever read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” recalls THE scene, the one with the three witches stirring the pot, chanting. FIRST WITCH: Round about the cauldron go; In the poison’d entrails throw….

No Country for Old Historians? Thinking about the Future of the Past

History is written by the victors. ~ Various I started out, you see, to revisit and reponder the works of several “old” historians – Marc Bloch, R. G. Collingwood, H. Butterfield, E. H. Carr, etc. – the “old men” of history, or better said, the “old (white) men” of the history of writing history. Or better…