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The Worth of Fashion

Since Fashion Week is almost here, thoughts turn to fabulous clothes and their designers, people with names like Balenciaga, Givenchy, Dior, Versace, Saint Laurent, Armani.

Do you notice anything odd about that list? They are all men. Well, all right, Chanel ought to be there too, but that doesn’t change the fact that for the past hundred years and more, the famous couturiers have been men.

A-Banting We Will Go

William Banting was huffing and puffing by the time he reached the top of the first flight of stairs, or so the story goes. He said to himself, “I need to lose some weight.”

He was probably right about that.

At five feet five inches, Banting was not a tall man—but in his mid-60s he weighed in at about 200 pounds.

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

After the marathon of cooking and eating last week, soup has tremendous appeal.

Galla Placidia, Empress of Rome

Galla Placidia is one of the most fascinating historic figures I know, partly because so much about her life is shrouded in mystery, starting with the date of her birth, sometime around 390. What is known has all the makings of an epic novel.

 

Buried Treasure: Alaric's Gold

In 410 AD Alaric and his Visigoths sacked Rome.

Back when I was in high school, that date marked the Fall of the Roman Empire. Next came the Dark Ages, followed by the Middle Ages (they began in 800, with Charlemagne being crowned Holy Roman Emperor) and Modern Europe (1492—you know that date).

Do you suppose anyone noticed at the time?

Dining with Lady Elinor in Rome

Next week, on November 4 to be precise, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures will make its debut. To whet your appetite, I thought I would write about something Our Heroine might have eaten while she was off having her adventures.

Ortolans: A 19th Century Delicacy—or Excess

 


There was a story last week in The New York Times about some French chefs who want to return ortolans to the traditional menu. Ortolans are small songbirds, and they have been banned from restaurant menus since 1999. The ban may have been a conservation measure to keep the tiny birds from being hunted out of existence, or it may have been a reaction to the way the birds is prepared and eaten.

What to pack in 1841

When I began researching 19th century travelers for Lady Elinor's Wicked Adventure, I met Mrs. Hamilton Gray, one of those well-read Victorian ladies of insatiable curiosity and determination and good humor.

The more things change…

Guidebooks for travelers in the 19th century provide an interesting glimpse into the way things have changed—and the way they haven’t. Then, as now, people often set off for foreign lands with a picture in their minds drawn from books they have read. I know my picture of Paris was permanenty etched in my mind by BABAR THE ELEPHANT back when I was a toddler. The wrought-iron balconies are just what I expected, but I'm always surprised that there aren't any little old ladies wearing long dresses.

Madrigals and murder

The other day I had the radio on while I was eating breakfast and the announcer introduced a piece by “Carlo Gesualdo, composer of madrigals and murderer.”

Madrigals and murder. Now that’s a combination you don’t usually encounter.

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