Cynthia D. Bertelsen's Musings on Nature and Culture, Since 2008
Cynthia D. Bertelsen is an author and photographer with expertise in international culinary history and foodways.
Life and Education
Cynthia Bertelsen was born in Sacramento, California into a family of academics. She spent her early years in Pullman, Washington, later moving to Gainesville, Florida when her father took a position at the university there.
After graduating from Eckerd College with a B.A. in Latin American Studies, she joined the Peace Corps. She trained for her home-economics posting \in Ponce, Puerto Rico, before arriving in Fram, Paraguay, a village comprised of native Paraguayans, as well as Japanese and Ukrainian immigrants.
When she returned to the United States, she earned a Master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition & Foods from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. In 1994, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.
She also attended several short courses at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.
Bertelsen worked as a nutritionist while living in Honduras, Haiti, Morocco, and Burkina Faso, where she also studied and cooked the cuisines of those countries and regions. In between Morocco and Burkina Faso, she lived in Cedar Key, Florida, where she wrote 81 weekly food columns devoted to food history, “Thoughts of Food and Such,” for the local newspaper, The Cedar Key Beacon. While in Morocco, she wrote and produced a fund-raising international cookbook for the International school – T he Communal Bowl: A Celebration of the World’s Food – and worked as a Peace Corps trainer on maternal and infant nutrition.
She managed the U.S. Embassy Commissary in Burkina Faso and trained local staff in a project to update and revitalize the American Club restaurant there.
For seven years after finishing library school, Bertelsen worked as a freelance indexer, specializing in food- and medical-related materials, indexing The Journal of the Dietetic Association as well as books such as Food: A Culinary History, edited by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari. Altogether, she indexed over 350 books and journals.
She began writing her blog, “Gherkins & Tomatoes,” in 2008, covering all manner of topics. Following the blog, she began contributing articles to food-related encyclopedias and reviewing books for Library Journal, DOMES (Digest of Middle Eastern Studies), Gastronomica, The New York Journal of Books, Food Culture & Society, and The Roanoke Times. For the latter,she reviewed 49 books. Bertelsen now writes occasional pieces for Modern Salt, a U.K. online magazine. Her book, Mushroom: A Global History, appeared in 2013, published by Reaktion Books in the U.K.
Bertelsen was awarded the Julia Child Independent Scholar grant in 2011 and spent a month in Paris and Aix-en-Provence, researching at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and ArchivesNationales d’Outre-Mer. She won a Scholar’s Grant from the Culinary Historians of New York, also in 2011. She attended the renowned Reading Historic Cookbooks seminar, by invitation with Barbara Ketchum Wheaton, Schlesinger Library, Harvard, May 2011. In 2020, “A Hastiness of Cooks”: A Practical Handbook for Use in deciphering the Mysteries of Historic Recipes and Cookbooks won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for both the Best in the U.S. and the World in the Culinary History Category.