Virginia Woolf and the Complexities of Cottage Loaf

WHAT WE MOST OFTEN REMEMBER from Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own are her thoughts on real estate: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Yet Woolf also recommends something that’s less commonly cited, but no less important—a good meal. She writes, “One cannot think…

The Messy History of Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake Recipe

IN THE DARK PANDEMIC DAYS of last December, 667 people gathered on a video call to celebrate Emily Dickinson’s birthday—and her black cake. Participants were invited to bake the recipe before the gathering, and many appeared on camera with their own rendition of the cake. The tradition had started five years before, when Emily Walhout, a…

Help Curate This Vast Trove of Kitchen-Table Remedies

HÉCTOR CALDERÓN WAS 19 IN 1965, when he was hired to help compile what would later become the Archive of Healing. He had entered the University of California Los Angeles hoping to become an accountant. That all changed when he started working for Professor Wayland Hand, the Director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Comparative…

This Writer is Tweeting Everything Sylvia Plath Ever Ate

LIKE MANY YOUNG, ASPIRING WRITERS, Rebecca Brill was obsessed with Sylvia Plath’s diaries. Their luminous, sensual, and often dramatic prose charts the ups and downs of Plath’s internal state with a serious attention that young women’s feelings rarely receive. So when the pandemic lockdown began in 2020, Brill, in the grip of a depression brought on…

The Museum Treating Home Cooking as Fine Art

LIKE MOST THINGS THIS YEAR, the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Reclamation exhibition did not go as initially planned. Curator and director of public programs Melani N. Douglass wanted to treat kitchen labor—the often-invisible daily work that disproportionately falls on women and feminine people—as high art. She envisioned an exhibition centered around kitchen-like spaces physically installed at…

The Chef Recreating 18th-Century Recipes From a Thrift-Shop Find

LUCINDA GANDERTON HAD THE BOOK hidden in the bottom of her shopping trolley. Around two years ago, she had taken a trip from London to Brighton, England, to visit Paul Couchman, a food historian and chef whom she met on Instagram. Ganderton, a textile artist whose family had once owned an antiques auction house, and Couchman,…

How to Recreate Your Lost Family Recipes, According to Historians and Chefs

Michael Twitty was leading a conversation on African diasporic food when the woman he was speaking to broke into tears. Twitty, a food writer, historian, and historical interpreter, had just explained that the word for “eat” in Wolof, a West African language, is nyam. The woman, a Massachusetts resident from an African-American and Puerto Rican family, had…

Cracking the Case of South India’s Missing Vegetables

AKASH MURALIDHARAN’S QUEST TO FIND forgotten South Indian vegetables began when he cleaned out his bedroom. It was January 2020, and he had just returned to his home city of Chennai after finishing his master’s degree in Food Design and Innovation in Milan. Like many students returning home after graduation, Muralidharan found that his childhood bedroom…

400 Years After Its First Apple Farm, Boston Remains an Urban Orchard

JOHN BUNKER NORMALLY SEARCHES FOR heirloom apple trees in the fields and forests of rural Maine, but on a trip to Boston, he stumbled upon one in an unexpected place: an ice-cream-parlor parking lot. An expert on American heirloom apples, particularly those of Maine, Bunker has been investigating, preserving, and growing nearly forgotten apple cultivars since…