About Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s Gherkins & Tomatoes + Contact Us

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

~~John Updike ~~

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 project concerns the British empire and its impact on food and cooking, particularly the influence of the English diaspora and British cooking on that of the United States up to this day.

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.

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 … .

To contact Gherkins & Tomatoes, please send an e-mail to cdbertel@gmail.com or leave a comment on one of the posts.

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.


33 Comments Add yours

  1. Alan Rawlinson says:

    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.


  2. Leo Racicot says:

    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


  3. marianbeaman says:

    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!


  4. Thank you, Hannah! Good to “meet” you, too! Yes, food and photography, what could be more fun?


  5. hannahkenway says:

    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!


  6. Why, thank you, Runaway Plate! Really appreciate it. Good to meet you and maybe we’ll find more common ground through Photo 101!


  7. 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.


  8. Thank you for “stopping by,” Marian. Love your idea about stories on your blog, exactly the right approach, as we all love stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. marianbeaman says:

    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. Thank you, that is so kind of you!


  11. ambradambra says:

    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.


  12. Kitty Morse says:

    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?


  13. I see you have some KC, MO recipes… which is where my family is from! My husband actually had KC BBQ there last night on a trip! :-)


  14. Thank you! I closed the comments because I was getting too many spam comments there for a while.


  15. Just wanted to compliment you on your fascinating, well-researched article on Van Gogh and starvation. Comments were closed on that article so I am putting them here. :)


  16. You’re right, Tony, cheffy books don’t express our reality very much!


  17. Tony Flanagan says:

    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?)


  18. tracybacenas says:

    Brilliant mesh of art, culture and history – with research resources to boot! Thanks, from an 8th-generation Georgian living in Canada!


  19. tracybacenas says:

    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!


  20. wildsherkin says:

    Such a beautiful blog and so glad to have found you, thanks to the WordPress post.


  21. Chef b,

    Thank you! Glad you’re here. It shall be an adventure.


  22. chef b... says:

    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


  23. Last week I sent you a comment nominating you for the Beautiful Blogger Award and the Reader Appreciation Award. A few of the comments went to the spam boxes of other nominees, so I hope you received yours! In any case, I love what you’re doing and am looking very forward to more in 2013! All my best for the holidays! http://becomingmadame.wordpress.com/appreciation/


  24. 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.


  25. Tony Flanagan says:

    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.


  26. Jeffrey, the envy is all mine, for the marvelous books you’ve written and published! But thanks for your comment – deeply grateful.


  27. fabulous site, and a hell of a lot of work! big envy.


  28. Dolores Jane Wills says:

    Yummy, omelet. looks good enough to eat. Beautiful web site


  29. I know, I still haven’t got around to doing it. I read all the advice on the WP forums and it put me off even more.


  30. 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.


  31. I came across your blog while searching how to make a recipe page. I’m glad I did!


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