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Welcome to my updated website! I am happy to announce that I have a new book coming out this fall: Unspeakable: A Life Beyond Sexual Morality. This book is the culmination of work that I began during my sabbatical year in Paris, 2013-2014, when I wrote most of the blog posts below. The road to […]

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Chicken, Oysters, and Time Travel

“To smother a Fowl in Oysters,” advises the first American cookbook author Amelia Simmons, “fill the bird with dry Oysters, and sew up and boil in water just sufficient.” These instructions, from her 1796 volume American Cookery, are bound to make most modern stomachs revolt. We like our surf and turf well enough when it’s steak and lobster, cooked separately, […]

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Love’s Oven is Warm: Baking with Emily Dickinson

“Love’s oven is warm” Emily Dickinson wrote to her friend Sarah Tuckerman, on a note that enclosed a gift of slightly scorched handmade sweets, possibly chocolate caramels. If the words were by any other author, one would be forgiven for reading in them a possible sexual double entendre. But Emily Dickinson is enshrined in our […]

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Benjamin Franklin’s Apple Pudding

Like many eighteenth-century recipes, Benjamin Franklin’s instructions for making apple pudding don’t offer a lot of detail, just enough to inspire certainty that the end result would be inedible by twentieth-century standards. What better reason could there be to break out the mixing bowl! The sense of the unfamiliar has always been what compels me about history. I […]

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The Benjamin Franklin Diet

“A Full Belly is the Mother of all Evil,” Benjamin Franklin counselled the readers of his 1743 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack. For some mysterious reason this aphorism hasn’t had the sticking power of some of the inventor’s more famous sayings, like “he who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas,” or “fish and visitors stink in […]

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Elizabeth David & Coming Home

When Elizabeth David came home to Britain in 1946, after spending the war years in Egypt, her agonies from the the flavorless diet she rediscovered drove her to write a cookbook recollecting all the wonderful things she had eaten during her absence. Britain was at the height of postwar rationing and gristle rissoles were on the menu, along with flour […]

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Salons of Paris, Then and Now

The quality of the eating, without a doubt, could make or break a Parisian salon. Today’s nostalgists may fantasize about the gathering of minds that took place each week at Gertrude Stein’s apartments on the rue de Fleurus near the jardins Luxembourg, but for many participants the buffet table held equal appeal. Stein’s lover Alice B. Toklas paid so much […]

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The Long and Short of It: Looking Back on the History of Same-Sex Marriage, One Year after Windsor

Here is a guest post I wrote for the wonderful history-of-medicine blog Nursing Clio

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Harry and Caresse Crosby’s Lessons in Polyamory

I am trying hard not to be faithful. I am trying to keep my options open. I fall in love too easily. When I find someone I like I am all in right away, head down at the archives, taking notes for a biography. I need to learn a thing or two from the legendary Lost Generation […]

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Iced Oysters and Iced Champagne: The Life of Isadora Duncan

When Isadora Duncan’s mother was pregnant with the dancer, she could eat only iced oysters and iced champagne. Isadora danced her first dances in the womb, she claimed, under the influence of those effervescent bubbles and slippery molluscs. And she kept right on drinking champagne and dining on luxuries until her dying day. She would buy buckets of champagne […]

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