What was Cooking in Leonardo da Vinci’s Kitchen?

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci self portrait, c. 1512. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Born in the town of Vinci in 1452, Leonardo da Vinci came from humble beginnings. He was born out of wedlock to a notary and a peasant woman, then rose to become one of the most celebrated minds of the Italian Renaissance. Though well known in Italy during his lifetime, his creative genius, technological inventiveness and vision would not be fully recognized until hundreds of years after his death. We are most familiar with da Vinci’s remarkable artistic abilities, as evidenced by masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. In addition to being a gifted artist, da Vinci was a polymath… a scientist, engineer, mathematician, musician, sculptor, astronomer, architect, zoologist, anatomist… and, perhaps most surprisingly, a budding nutritionist. Da Vinci was intrigued by food and valued its importance in our daily lives. He was also captivated by kitchen gadgets and inspired a few of the machines we still use today, including an automated device for turning meat on a spit. Shawarma, anyone?

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The Hemingway Special

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Hemingway Special

This frozen daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.

- Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

F. Scott Fitzgerald may have been the first novelist to introduce the daiquiri to a literary audience in This Side of Paradise, but Hemingway was positively poetic about the icy drink. In the 1930s, just after the publication of Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway found himself with a cemented reputation as a celebrated novelist. His house in Key West was constantly flooded with family, friends and literati wishing to bask in his limelight. A crowded home, as you might imagine, does not make the best atmosphere for writing. As a means of escape, he bought a ticket to Cuba and rented a corner room in the Ambos Mundos Hotel where he would devote the cool, breezy mornings to his craft. Once the hot afternoon sun set in, Hemingway would put his work to rest and drift into the city. He spent a good amount of his free time fishing, betting on games of jai alai and, in true Hemingway fashion, familiarizing himself with the local bars and taverns. American Prohibition had recently ended, a period during which Cuba provided a playground for tourists in search of legal intoxication, so there were many bars to choose from. El Floridita, near Havana’s Parque Central, became one of his favorites. It was here that Hemingway was first introduced to his beloved daiquiri.

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What Lewis and Clark Ate

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark, better known as Lewis and Clark, led one of the most famous expeditions in American history. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, the Corps of Discovery Expedition was one of the earliest exploratory missions to the Pacific Coast. Though its primary purpose was to find a direct water route to the Pacific Ocean, President Jefferson also wanted the journey to focus on the economic usefulness of different regions, particularly in terms of plant and animal life. On May 14, 1804, along with 31 other men, Lewis and Clark set out to do exactly that. It was a long, treacherous trip by water and on foot across a vast unknown wilderness. Keeping the expedition members healthy and well-fed was obviously a pressing concern. This epic mission had a wild, strange and often surprising menu.

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The Great Gatsby, Prohibition, and Fitzgerald

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald circa 1920

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, and what F. Scott Fitzgerald would later describe as “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history” have all come to describe America under the influence of Prohibition. In Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, we are introduced to the opulent lives of wealthy east coasters during one of the rowdiest periods in American history. How accurate is this portrait of Prohibition America, and what influences led our country into an era of drunken excess?

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William Randolph Hearst’s Welsh Rarebit

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Hearst Castle - William Randolph Hearst’s Welsh Rarebit

Hearst Castle

I grew up near San Luis Obispo, an idyllic town on the Central Coast of California. The rugged Pacific coastline, dark sapphire waves and golden hills provided me a bountiful natural playground. I spent countless childhood weekends hunting for seashells, fishing for sanddabs and exploring the tide pools. Growing up surrounded by natural beauty was a privilege, one I appreciate all the more now that I’m living in the noise and traffic jams of Los Angeles. Every so often, I feel the need to return to my roots… to the open spaces and bracing ocean breeze of the Central Coast. In the summer of 2012 I did just that, taking a road trip up the coast of California. My first stop was Hearst Castle, the historical ranch home of William Randolph Hearst. Nestled in the hills above Highway One, 42 miles north of San Luis Obispo and 94 miles south of Monterey, this magnificent estate was Hearst’s dream home, an unfinished 28-year construction project that now stands as a state historic park and museum. Today, the castle receives roughly 1 million visitors per year.

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The Caffeinated History of Coffee

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

History of Coffee

Second only to oil, coffee is the most valuable legally traded commodity in the world. We love it, we rely on it, and we drink it in massive quantities. It is estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide. New Yorkers are said to drink 7 times the amount of any other U.S. city, which is why it may seem like there is a Starbucks on every corner of Manhattan. Famed French writer and philosopher Voltaire was rumored to have drunk 40 – 50 cups per day. Coffee is a daily ritual in the lives of millions of humans around the globe. Where exactly did this caffeinated phenomenon begin?

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Passover: Healthy Recipes for a Meaningful Seder

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Passover is a celebration of freedom, and an opportunity for the Jewish people to connect to their shared spiritual history. The eight day long Passover holiday commemorates the Biblical story of Exodus, in which the Israelite Jewish slaves of Ancient Egypt are liberated from slavery. The holiday originated in the Torah, where the word pesach refers to the ancient Passover sacrifice (known as the Paschal Lamb); it is also said to refer to the idea that God “passed over” (pasach) the houses of the Jews during the 10th plague on the Egyptians, the slaying of the first born. In a ritual feast known as the Passover Seder, the story of Exodus is told. Prayers and blessings are recited, songs fill the air, and traditions are kept alive through ancient customs. For Jews, the ritual of a Passover Seder meal is filled with reverence. The same prayers and stories have been said over the Passover table for centuries. It’s a symbolic, meaningful holiday that never fails to fill me with joy. The celebration of Passover is one of the many reasons I connected to Judaism, and eventually converted.

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Katharine Hepburn’s Favorite Brownie Recipe

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn Studio Portrait ca. 1941.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

As a resident of Los Angeles, I pass by that famous white Hollywood sign every time I go for a hike or make a run to the grocery store. Living in the middle of Tinseltown can make one feel somewhat jaded, particularly when Oscar season rolls around. In my neck of the woods, the Academy Awards ceremony means helicopters flying overhead day and night, incessant local news coverage and traffic jams. Cynical as I might feel about the fanfare, I always watch the Oscars, and I always get a little flutter inside when the ceremony begins. There is something magical about the movies… a dark theater, the smell of popcorn, the music of a beautiful soundtrack sending shivers through your core. I love the experience of watching a movie. Unfortunately, the majority of films today fail to move or excite me. If I could, I’d travel back in time to the “good old days,” when movie stars kept it classy and talent was the name of the game. I’m talking about old Hollywood, the silver screen, and the days of Katharine Hepburn. Katharine is currently the record holder for the most Leading Actress Oscar awards (4 to be exact). She was beautiful. She was smart. She was unafraid to express her opinion. All this, and the woman knew how to make killer chocolate brownies. They broke the mold with Katharine Hepburn.

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