Can dessert teach us something about history? Can history sweeten our lives? At History’s Just Desserts, I believe the answer is yes. The stories of people like Amelia Simmons – the “American Orphan,” who in 1796 published the first American cookbook – and Malinda Russell – an African American who had fled the South during the Civil War and in 1866 published a cookbook to raise funds to get home – show us how people have used cooking and food writing to build their lives, their country, their world. They help us understand our past more fully. And trying their recipes is certainly the tastiest way I know of exploring history.
History’s Just Desserts builds on my two careers, in pastry and history. In the 1990s, I worked for several years as a pastry cook at bakeries and restaurants in New York City, including at Mario Batali’s Babbo. For a short time, I was the pastry chef at Mark Furstenberg’s popular café, the Breadline, in Washington, DC. I then went to graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in American history. I have taught and published and, through it all, kept baking. With History’s Just Desserts, I am finally joining my two passions into one fascinating and delicious endeavor.