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,…

No Thanks to Marco Polo: An Encyclopedia of Italy’s Pasta Shapes

Marco Polo returned to Italy from his Chinese travels in 1296. The myth, legend, what have you, credits him with introducing pasta into Italy’s culinary repertoire. But Marco Polo did NOT bring pasta to Italy. And 73-year-old Italian author Oretta Zanini de Vita wants you to know that, immediately, upfront and center. Zanini de Vita…

The Archaeology of the Pomegranate

Our sense of the ancientness of the pomegranate comes not just from words, but also from the earth. Words do provide clues to the incredible journey of the pomegranate, such as this little ditty inscribed in Egyptian hieroglyphics — said to be translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock, from an Italian rendition by Boris…

Honey, a Taste Sweeter Than Wine

THE BEE. Like trains of cars on tracks of plush I hear the level bee: A jar across the flowers goes, Their velvet masonry Withstands until the sweet assault Their chivalry consumes, While he, victorious, tilts away To vanquish other blooms. His feet are shod with gauze, His helmet is of gold; His breast, a…

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition (Medieval History and Archaeology), by C. M. Woolgar, Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron (paperback, 2009) In the unending quest to find models for culinary historiography, here’s another fairly up-to-date addition to the growing list: This book draws on the latest research across different disciplines to present the most…

Bioarchaeology and Paleopathology in Culinary History

(I’m dedicating this post to my mother, Barbara A. Purdy, a great archaeologist, whose passion for “old stuff” rubbed off on me, I guess.) A brief foray into the world of Sicilian mummies proved once more that food writers can learn a lot from silent “interviewees.” The trick lies, of course, in understanding unspoken language…

“Old” News — Chocolaholics of 1000 Years Ago

Put the word “chocolate” in front of my eyes and my salivary glands start secreting. And, oh boy, when the real McCoy appears on a plate in front of me, watch out! Like that Chocolate Mousse Cake looking at you, kid. Even when the discussion involves people drinking chocolate over 1000 years ago, those old…