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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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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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The Apostle of Voluntary Restrictions: Raymond Duncan

I fell in love with Charity and Sylvia, the subjects of my last book. And I feel seduced by many of the figures of my new research, including problematic characters like Norman Douglas, a pederast as well as an epicure. But I will never fall for Raymond Duncan, who was not only a megalomaniac, but who also preached the […]

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Lost Recipes of the Lost Generation

Thelma Ellen Wood was stupendously tall, sexually irresistible, and a wonderful cook with a propensity for rum and coke. Many authors who crossed paths with Wood wrote lavish accounts of her body as a dish, but none bothered to record her favorite recipes. – Most readers encounter Wood through the eyes of her jealous lover […]

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See Naples and Die

February kept me so busy with work that I had to learn a new French phrase: date limite. The French sounds a lot less morbid than deadline — or ligne morte — but I think the English better captures the anxiety I suffered wondering if I could get through everything. At least “deadline” suggests the possible cardiac outcomes of my […]

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Robert Burns Night à Paris

Gertrude Stein famously wrote that a writer has to have two countries, “the one where they belong and the one in which they live really.” By living abroad, writers discover their native countries within their minds’ eyes. But what about when you have three countries? This is the situation I find myself in, living in […]

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Sex, Food, and Surrealism

The last several weeks I have been hard at work on writing projects related to my new book Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, which is coming out in May 2014. I’ve missed having the time to work on this blog and read more about Americans dining and cooking in Paris, but […]

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Legendary Paris Dinner Parties

Scads of American memoirists have rhapsodized about their wonderful meals in Paris’s restaurants, but Janet Flanner, who for decades wrote a fortnightly “Letter from Paris” column for The New Yorker under the pen name Gênet, preferred to recall the dinner parties. It requires a certain longevity spent in a city before invitations to dinner begin pouring in. […]

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The Belly of Paris

Although he managed to escape Paris – and starvation – during the Prussian siege in the fall of 1870, the French novelist Émile Zola returned to the city in March 1871, in time to witness the bloody rise and fall of the Paris commune. The following year he moved to Les Halles where he wrote Le […]

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