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 Archives Nationales 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.
PEN America Professional Member
Books and Chapters in Books
Mushroom: A Global History, Reaktion Books (U.K.), September 2013.
“Market Day, Haiti.” In: So Spoke the Earth: The Haiti I Knew, The Haiti I know, The Haiti I Want to Know. Edited and published by Women Writers of Haitian Descent, Inc. October 2012.
“International Affairs: Indexing Ethnic Cookbooks.” In: Indexing Specialties: Cookbooks, edited by Alexandra Nickerson, Fred Liese, and Terri Hudoba. Information Today, 2009.
Handbook of Indexing Techniques: A Guide for Beginning Indexers, with Linda Fetters and Do Mi Stauber. 3rd Edition. FimCo Books, 2001.
“Indexing Food and Nutrition Materials.” In: Medical Indexing: Indexing Specialties Series, edited by L. Pilar Wyman. Information Today & American Society of Indexers, 1999.
The Communal Bowl: A Celebration of the World’s Food, Rabat American School, Rabat, Morocco, 1990. (Fundraising cookbook for school.)
Articles Published in Print and Online
“Colors of Survival.” The Tishman Review, forthcoming 2018.
“The Fish Shack.” Saw Palm, Volume 12, Spring 2018.
“Revisiting the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer,” Creative Nonfiction, Issue #65, Fall 2017.
“Eating Flowers, Eating Beauty.” Modern Salt, October 1, 2017.
“10 Painful Truth about Writing.” Writers Alliance of Gainesville Blog, September 6, 2017.
“Stone Crabs.” Modern Salt, May 15, 2017.
“Wonder Bread and Velveeta – My Summer Cooking at the American Pompeii.” Modern Salt, October 8, 2016.
“Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Vegetarian India: A Journey through the Best of Indian Home Cooking.“ Modern Salt, August 13, 1026.
“Edna Lewis and the Mythology Behind Modern Southern Food.” Modern Salt, June 19, 2016.
“Describing Seething Meat in the New World.” The Recipes Project, June 16, 2016.
“Picturing Seething Meat in the New World.” The Recipes Project, June 14, 2016.
“Mail Call – The 100-Mile Cookbook.” Modern Salt, April 2, 2016.
“For English Girls in the Eastern Empire … .” The Recipes Project, February 9, 2016.
“Moonshine! The Drink of Legends and Outlaws.” Modern Salt, January 4 2016.
“Jumbles: Cookies that Travelled Across an Ocean and Through Time.” Modern Salt, January 16, 2016.
“My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My life.” (Review) Modern Salt, November 29, 2015.
“Xerophthalmia,” in Food Issues: An Encyclopedia, Sage Publications, July 2015.
“Minerals,” in Food Issues: An Encyclopedia, Sage Publications, July 2015.
“Seventh-Day Adventist Foodways,” in Food Issues: An Encyclopedia, Sage Publications, July 2015.
“Cassava: The Sleeping Beauty of the African Kitchen.” Zester Daily, March 6, 2015.
“Peanuts Add West African Flare to Dinner.” Zester Daily, February 5, 2015.
“Vin d’Orange: Sweet Sunshine in a Wine Glass.” Zester Daily, December 16, 2014.
“High Living: Recipes from Southern Climes,” In: Plate by Plate: California Recipes from the Gold Rush through “California Cuisine.” Edited by Randall Tarpey-Schwed. Book Club of California, 2014.
“Around the World in 27 Cookbooks: Time-Life’s Foods of the World Series,” Repast, Fall 2014, pp. 2, 14-17.
“Southern-Style Holidays: Butter It. Fry It. Pickle It.” Zester Daily, October 18, 2014.
“The Pies Have It: An Ode to the Pumpkin.” Zester Daily, October 22, 2014.
“Find Southern Comfort in Crookneck Squash Gratin,” Zester Daily, September 26, 2014.
Jean-Georges Vonerichten, in Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, 2nd edition, 2012.
“Daily Life Through Cooking and Cookbooks: A Brief Guide to Using Cookbooks as Tools in Historical Archaeology,” Artifact, November 2012.
“Diana Kennedy,” in Icons of American Cooking, edited by Victor W. Geraci and Elizabeth Demers, 2011.
“Haiti,” in Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, edited by Ken Albala, Greenwood press, 2011.
“Honduras,” in Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, edited by Ken Albala, Greenwood press, 2011.
“Aztec Entertaining,” in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson and Francine Segan, Greenwood Press, 2008.
“Colonial Mexico,” in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson and Francine Segan, Greenwood Press, 2008.
“Cookbooks, History of,” in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson and Francine Segan, Greenwood Press, 2008.
“Inca,” in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson and Francine Segan, Greenwood Press, 2008.
“Saints’ Days,” in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson and Francine Segan, Greenwood Press, 2008.
“The Politics of AIDS: The Invisible Cure,” National Catholic Reporter, October 31, 2007.
“Novelists Train Their Sights on Islamic Terrorism,” National Catholic Reporter, October 6, 2006.
“Vincent van Gogh and starvation,” The Virginia Culinary Thymes, Spring 2006.
“Culinary historiography, or methodology in writing culinary history,” The Virginia Culinary Thymes. Winter 2005.
“Julia Child: America’s Bright Shining Star,” The Roanoke Times, August 18, 2004.
“AIDS in Africa: ‘Mass Murder by Complacency?,’” The Roanoke Times, 2004. “Far from desperate in Iraq,” The Roanoke Times, November 7, op-ed page 7, 2003.
“Now let’s reach out to the rest of the world,” The Roanoke Times, December 18, op-ed page 9, 2003.
“Now pass the pigweed, that is if there’s any more in the gourd,” with Barbara A. Purdy. The Daytona Beach News-Journal. December 16, 5A, 2003.
“Piece of Cake? Cookbook Indexing: Basic Guidelines and Resources,” KEY WORDS. 7(1): 1, 6-12, 1999.
“Indexing Food and Nutrition Materials,” in Medical Indexing: Indexing Specialties Series. American Society of Indexers, 1999.
“Medical Reference Tools for Indexers,” in Medical Indexing: Indexing Specialties Series. American Society of Indexers, 1999.
“Indexing Chinese Names: Some Basic Guidelines,” KEY WORDS 6(1): 16-17, 1998.
“Coming to Terms: Humanities Reference Tools for Indexers,” KEY WORDS 5(5): 11-15, 1997.
“Coming to Terms: Science and Technology Reference Resources for Indexers,” KEY WORDS 5(3&4): 30-33, 1997.
“Coming to Terms: Social Science Reference Tools for Indexers,” KEY WORDS 5 (3&4): 26-29, 1997.
“Coming to Terms: Medical Reference Tools for Indexers,” KEY WORDS 5(1): 7-9, 1997.
“Thoughts of Food and Such.” Cedar Key Beacon, Cedar Key, FL. (81 weekly columns on food history and nutrition) 1990-1991)
Selected Book Reviews
Reviews – a total of 49 written for The Roanoke Times appear at The Book Omnivore.
Plus several dozen mini-reviews written for Library Journal from 1995 -2000.
Seventeen reviews on French culture and food appeared in The New York Journal of Books between 2011 and 2012.
Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party & the Making of America, by Benjamin L. Carp, Gastronomica 12(1): 119 – 120, Spring 2012.
Taste or Taboo: Dietary Choices in Antiquity, by Michael Beer, Food Culture & Society 14 (4): 613 – 616, December 2011.
Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilization, by Evan D. G. Frasier and Andrew Rimas, Culinary Historians of New York newsletter, Fall 2011.
Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake, by Sarah Hand Meacham, Gastronomica, 11(3): 108, August 1, 2011.
Flavours of Byzantium, by Andrew Dalby, Culinary Historians of New York newsletter, Fall 2010.
Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, by Lilia Zaouli, Food Culture & Society 12(1): 117 -120, March 2009.
Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book, by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway, Culinary Historians of New York newsletter, Fall 2009.
The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby, National Catholic Reporter, May 2, 2008.
Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion, by Antonio Monda, National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008.
Women in God’s Kitchen: Cooking Eating and Spiritual Writing, by Cristina Mazzoni, National Catholic Reporter, February 10, 2006.
The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt, by Bill Manley, Digest of Middle Eastern Studies 7(1): 88 -89, Winter 1998.
Arab Women: Unequal Partners in Development, by Shirin J. A. Shuki, in Digest of Middle Eastern Studies 6(2): 65 – 67, Spring 1997.
The Bedouins and the Desert: Aspects of Nomadic Life in the Arab East, by Jibrail S. Jabbur, in Digest of Middle Eastern Studies 5(4): 78 -81, Fall 1996.
Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, by Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, Digest of Middle Eastern Studies 4(3): 93 – 97, Summer 1995.