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Christine de Pizan Honored by GCP

I'm always very excited to find in history courses references to Christine de Pizan, a woman in the 1300s who was the world's first feminist and first professional writer. IMHO, she is under-heralded and too frequently overlooked. My novel A Slender Tether (Fireship Press, 2013), dramatizes her difficult early years that were filled with grief, poverty, and thwarted ambition.

 

I'm drawn to her because of her hunger to write (which I feel in my gut), her struggle with ambition (a love-hate relationship I know well) and her feeling that she is a "raptor among bluebirds", socially unacceptable for her ferocity (a more autobiographical idea than anything I've ever written before.)

 

So when The Great Courses Plus included her in their (excellent) course  Read More 

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Female Agency and a Diversified Sperm Pool

While I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality as it wends its way through the libraries in San Francisco, I wanted to get down what I know and think about this topic before I read the book, then follow up with new findings.

 

While streaming The Great Courses Plus lecture series on "What Darwin Knew and Why it Still Matters" the lecturer suggested that Darwin's book on sexual selection had far more difficulties being taken seriously or adopted in any way because the Victorians were unwilling to acknowledge the extent of female agency (or the ability of women to make and carry out important decisions on their own).  ("Wait, it's all the choice of a ...female?? Preposterous! Women are too fickle!")  Read More 

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Why Is It Called Devil's Food?

Milestones in the 17th, 18th and 19th century of chocolate, taken from a fascinating book, The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, that is part history, part recipe book, part engaging stories. 

 

Why Is It Called Devil's Food?

"By the end of the 17th century, chocolate houses had spread from France and England to the Netherlands. By coincidence, the group of Pilgrims that would later sail to Plymouth Rock took up residence next door to one of Amsterdam's biggest chocolate houses in 1690. The Pilgrims, who stoned people for adultery and basically repudiated anything that looked enjoyable, watched as the chocolate-house patrons cavorted next door. A few nights was all it took to convince the Pilgrims the chocolate was the devil's work.  Read More 

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Chocolate Comes to Europe in Surprising Ways

#chocolate #chocolatier #scharffenberger

The founders of Scharffenberger Chocolate have produced a fascinating book, The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate that is part history, part recipe book, part engaging stories of their lives and those of cacao growers around the world. The second in three blog posts give you the highlights of how chocolate came to Europe (slower than you'd think!).

 

The First Cacao in the Europe

"We know from recorded lists and paintings that cacao beans were among the first gifts that Christopher Columbus brought from the New World to the Spanish court in 1502. Columbus knew the beans had value  Read More 

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Was the First Chocolate Really Beer?

#chocolate #chocolatier #scharffenberger

 

 

Whoever heard of a cookbook you couldn't put down? The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg is delightful, readable, fascinating because of the background information on the two men who founded the company – one a successful vintner and the other a doctor battling leukemia – as well as fascinating information on cacao itself, the need for biting midges and shade, the lives of the growers they have encountered in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama.

 

In three blog posts, here are some of my favorite takeaways that come from sections they term "legends and lore" which are interspersed among recipes I just have to have.

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Pamela Colman Smith: Tarot Illustrator and Bohemian

The illustrations for the classic Rider-Waite Tarot Deck were painted by Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) who also designed and painted theater sets for the likes of William Butler Yeats; she was a writer/publisher of "ballads, pictures, folktales and verses" via her own broadsheet, and designated an "elderly female companion who shared her flat" as her heir.

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Segmented Sleep: Great for the Creative Mind

We take pills, potions and vitamins, get special pillows and now have beds that will tell us whether we have achieved that sought-after thing called a good night's sleep – eight uninterrupted hours. It's a multi-billion dollar industry but evidence is mounting that prior to the industrial revolution, we slept in two shifts with a period of activity between them. We can thank our pituitary gland that makes it a hypnotic time, a creative time.

 

In the pre-industrial past, it went like this: the "first" sleep started after dinner and sunset, which was close to 8 p.m. One slept about four hours, woke up at midnight and then spent two or three hours stoking the fire, playing music, making love, checking on food, telling stories, even visiting friends. Then, back to bed for the "second sleep" until dawn. In modern parlance, it's called segmented sleep. Read More 

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Himiko, Tomb Raider's Real Queen

Tomb Raider

I recently re-watched the new Tomb Raider (2018, starring Alicia Vikander), and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially when I discovered the next morning that the Japanese queen whose tomb was the focus of the film had been a real person: Himiko, a Japanese queen reportedly responsible for ending 50 years of war. Read More 

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New Book Reveals The Surprisingly Sophisticated Druids

The Discovery of Middle Earth, by Graham Robb

I had always thought that Druids were ancient magicians: Merlin and his group of men skulking in the shadowy forest. But Graham Robb, in his book The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, has described a surprisingly sophisticated culture.

 

Here's the historical snapshot: "Fifty generations ago the cultural empire of the Celts stretched from the Black Sea to Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. In six hundred years, the Celts had produced some of the finest artistic and scientific masterpieces of the ancient world.

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A Brief History of an Obsession: Fashion from Pre-Human to the Rental Box

We’ve apparently been at it for 60,000 years, this fashion thing, this daily obsession with clothing. I’ve always thought of it as a feminist issue: we get paid 80 cents on the dollar and then spend a foolish portion of that on clothing, accessories and make-up, unlike men. Not to mention the Pink Tax that reportedly costs women an extra $1,350 per year because of discriminatory pricing. And it’s always been ‘women’s work’ to create both the fabric and the clothing.
Early Clothing
Surprisingly enough, there’s evidence that we were making clothing before we became modern humans (!)

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