There’s always something new by looking at the same thing over and over.

~~John Updike ~~

Note: If you would like to make a comment on any of my posts on this blog, you must provide your name in some way, not “Anonymous.” Thank you.

Here’s where  I indulge my obsession for the life-giving nature of cooking and growing and eating food. My focus is ultimately global and historical. I write about what interests me. My latest projects include a magical realism novel about women healers, a possible book on the culinary history of Florida,  and research concerning the British empire’s impact on food and cooking, particularly the influence of the English diaspora and British cooking on the early traditional cooking of the United States.

My goal is to clarify a lot of misconceptions floating around out there about British cooking and its historical importance, through the story of my family and their long history in the New World. My genes are very, very English, descended from some of the earliest settlers at Jamestown, Virginia, as well as Massachusetts and throughout the American West. I’ve been a Southerner all my life, although I was born in California. The food culture in my family’s kitchen, thanks to my grandmothers, always veered South – cornbread, biscuits, fried chicken, soup beans. My father loved greens, but my mother didn’t, so when she went off to give papers at conferences, Daddy would cook himself a huge pot of greens with bacon.

From the age of 17, I’ve physically lived in the South, first Florida, then Virginia, except for the times I spent in Mexico, Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti, Morocco, and Burkina Faso. Plus a lot of gallivanting through Europe and parts of Asia. And now I am back in Florida, seeking a greater immersion in a place that’s been a part of my life for years, of fleeting visits and stays of weeks, and sometimes months. Even years, if you count Cedar Key, where I wrote a food column for the local newspaper. Gainesville, of course, now a dynamic entity, the site of the enormous University of Florida

But my blog, “Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s Gherkins & Tomatoes,” is not just about one place on Earth – at root, it’s about the universal language of food, an incredible story about how humans managed to feed themselves even in the direst of times.

Essentially, in the end, it’s all about the eternal search for home, a sort of “culinary exile.© 

Join me on the journey … .

Happy to see you here!

Creds? I have a B.A. in Latin American Studies, M.A. in History, M.S. in Human Nutrition and Foods, and M.L.I.S. in Library and Information Science. And I’ve been writing for several decades, with articles in various food encyclopedias, book reviews in a number of publications, a book about mushrooms and their culinary history (no, I am not a mycologist, please remember), and several posts on various online sites other than this blog.

Languages? English, French, Spanish, GuaranÍ, Italian, Portuguese, Latin.

And for more click the following link for More About the Author.


Gherkins and Tomatoes, by Luis Egidio Meléndez

The title of this blog,”Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s Gherkins & Tomatoes,” sprang from the title of the eponymous painting by Spanish painter Luis Melendez’s painting, 1772, Prado, Madrid, one of the first European renditions of tomatoes.



  1. Thank you for the Railroad Cake recipe and historical background.
    My mother born in 1930, made a cake called Railroad Cake and always served it with sweetened strawberries. She is not alive anymore and I often wondered why she called it railroad cake. Most people serve strawberries over a biscuit which I never cared for as much as the railroad cake!
    The history you provided behind the cake and how it got its name has finally satisfied
    my curiosity! My family is from Wisconsin of German descendants. It’s fascinating that the same recipe you researched which was found in the Historic Haile Homestead is the same as my family had been using for generations!


  2. Hi! I was looking through the recipe index and tried several links, all of which were broken. I thought you’d want to know. Great blog!


  3. Hello Cynthia, I came across your blog. What an impressive CV you have! You have certainly traveled the world. I have done some traveling, too, but rather modestly. How interesting that you explore the world from a culinary angle. I enjoy to read blogs from people around the world. Yours definitely stands out. I am a food blogger from Canada, and I invite you to visit/follow my blog at: Cheers, Angelika


  4. I’ve just discovered your fascinating pages and look forward to reading your take on British cooking’s influence on the New World. I’d be glad to help from this end if I can — I’m on the English-Welsh border, near Oswestry — and I guess my email is visible to you but not others as a result of this post.


  5. Many happy felicitations, Cindy, on the occasion of this very special anniversary for a gorgeous, important and scholarly, scrumptious blog! Wishing you many more years of success and satisfaction! Love and thanks…….Leo


  6. I see you frequently on Merril Smith’s Facebook and blog posts, so I’m poking around in yours, which is making me hungry. :-)

    A Spanish painting inspired your blog title – marvelous!


  7. I have just discovered you through the photography 101 course – you have amazing images on here and a lovely take on a subject that I’m passionate about too!


  8. Glad to have found your blog too. I am on Photo101 with you. I love cookbooks new and old and how food connects with history. I’m following your blog now. Looking forward to reading more.


  9. Your comment about wearing braids as a child on Merril Smith’s website induced me to click on yours. I’m married to an artist, have a photographer son, and enjoy the grueling exhilaration of writing. Very stylish blog, Cynthia.


  10. I’ve just nominated you for a ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ and will publish the post that includes your name soon. No need to participate – just enjoy.


  11. Cynthia, I can’t figure out how to leave a comment for your Julia piece. There is no comment box at the end of your blog. Am I supposed to do something else?


  12. Ok, yes, yet another conspiracy theory (YACT). US and THEM.
    So, yes, we have all these nice books, by famous Chefs. Who work in professional restaurants. Who have things like vacuum pack machines, and Salamanders, and Isis, and Fires-of-Hell gas stoves. Pasta cookers. Henny Pennys.

    But their books do NOT tell us how to prep half a kg of seared mediterranean veggies in a Salamander. No! We, the great unwashed US (see YACT above) are broiling individual peppers on a fork over a gas flame and then messing about with paper bags. They do NOT mention that you can do real nice pressure fried chicken in a old-fashioned pressure cooker. No.

    What I am suggesting is that THEY (see YACT above) don’t want US (see YACT above) to know how they really run their restaurants. AKA Food Service Businesses.

    Friends, these THEM (see etc….) are looking like they are helping. But, are they really what they look like? Are THEY ( see….etc.) in fact acting secretive like some medieval Guild of StoneMasons?
    See if you can find a recipe that needs a Salamander! Or a Henny Penny. (Colonel where are you now?)


  13. I am a writer/filmmaker currently living in Canada – but 8th generation born in Savannah, Georgia. I am thrilled to have this beautifully written and photographed resource to flood my senses with textures from my youth and roots. Thank you! What a brilliant mesh of art, history and culture – with resources for research to boot! Cheers!


  14. Wow. I am so excited I found your blog. Beautiful photos and deeply knowledgable posts. Thanks so much for sharing. Signed, an ex-New Orleanian, cooking in San Francisco


  15. Tony,

    I agree – I would probably like that book, but it’s WAY out of my price range. Will have to seek an interlibrary loan! Your background sounds intriguing. Thanks for writing. My culinary desert started in my Mom’s kitchen – her addiction to Campbell’s Soup-inspired casseroles often sent me gagging silently from the table.


  16. Its different nowof course, but when I was a young adult Dublin was a culinary desert of Kalaharian proportions. I remember Jamet’s was replaced by a Berni Inn chain steakhouse. Prosperity, it seem cuts both ways!
    So I was awakened by Jane Grigson’s fish book – which of course led to Elizabeth David and eventually to Julia Child and MFK Fisher. Ireland became a Celtic Tiger and then crashed – hence Myrtle Allen’s effort to teach Irish to cook!
    And I ended up in Africa – a happy colonial with wonderful resources from ethnic markets, Ethiopian, Congolais, and BoereMense.
    The paths we follow to build our libraries are different, but the building and the sharing seem to me to be an important part of creating civilization.
    Do seek out Braam Kruger’s “Provocative Cuisine” – I think you might like it.


  17. Deptford Pudding, thanks for stopping by and telling me that. I sure hope that someday (and maybe it’s here already and I don’t know it) WordPress will add the bells and whistles to allow readers to print recipes directly. I find keeping up the recipe index a chore, if I don’t do it every time I post something with a recipe.


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