The Power and the Glories of Eating Alone

King Louis XIV did it. M. F. K. Fisher did it. The faceless man in Edward Hopper’s painting, “Nighthawks,” did it. Mr. Bean did it, too. And so did I. Daring to eat a proper meal alone in public probably ranks as one of the few acts that cause normally confident people to quiver a…

What it Means to See Art: The Intricacies of Duende

James Elkins’s essay, “Just Looking” (in The Object Stares Back,1996)  appears to be ambiguous, because the emotions associated with seeing are so complicated, as he says (p. 29). He seems also to have been influenced by Roland Barthes (Camera Lucida, 1981), Jacques Lacan, and Jacques Derrida (among others), all highly imitated French philosophers, popular among academics…

Using Cookbooks in Historical Archaeological Research: New Mexico as a Case Study

Using cookbooks as a tool in historical archaeological research might sound a tad bit absurd, but by examining certain characteristics of these books, it becomes possible to see dirt-covered artifacts in a slightly different light. As a tribute to my childhood friend, Meli-Duran Kirkpatrick, and at the request of her husband, archaeologist Dr. David Kirkpatrick,…

The Curse of Corn: Poverty and Politics and Pellagra

Dr. Joseph Goldberger stands watching the children eating. He’s about to prove his hunch that pellagra occurred in the face of nutritional deprivation. He devoted years to discovering what caused the curse of corn, pellagra. Although the fat cats in the South of the time, and we’re talking early 20th-century here, didn’t want to spend…

Pilgrymes, Passing to and Fro: Chaucer Got it Right

Springtime stirs up feelings of wanderlust in me, banishing the tiresome plague of cabin fever. I want to throw a fresh toothbrush and a fat book into my backpack and take off. I want to go on pilgrimage. To begin again: that’s the meaning of pilgrimage, which – let’s face it – is what travel…

Peregrinations and Pilgrimages: Legendary Scallops

A long time ago, I read a novel about a young woman who made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The story captivated me, true.  But more than that, the legend of the scallops stayed with me, with its magical aura of place, embodying the enduring desire of people to journey on pilgrimage, eternally seeking….

Spanish Cooks and The Essence of Their Art

“Just like in the movies, when the hero finally gets up to the ticket window and the clerk slams it shut.” That’s the thought that ballooned in my mind when I walked up to the doors of the Museo del Prado in Madrid on a Monday morning. CLOSED. No Velazquez. Of course, Monday. Here’s something…

Nuns’ Farts, or, How Sweet It Is

Why would someone ever call dainty sweets “nuns’ farts?” How unappetizing and disrespectful … But call them that someone did, possibly a few disgruntled novices in a Catalan convent during the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century or Golden Age). Just imagine the young women giggling as they fried the dough, the popping sound of air…