Category Archives: food

The Sunday porch: Venice patio

Venice hotel patio, Library of CongressProfessional photographers Gertrude Käsebier and Frances Benjamin Johnston eating together on a hotel patio in Venice, Italy, 1905, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

(Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Johnston — from Washington, D.C. — and Käsebier — from New York City — had traveled across the Atlantic at the invitation of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.  On the same trip, they also visited France, Switzerland, and Italy.

The older and more successful Gertrude Käsebier had been born in a log cabin in Iowa in 1852.   After marrying* a successful businessman of aristocratic German origins and having three children,  she began to study photography at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  Within ten years, by the late 1890s, she had opened a studio on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

At the time of this photo, she was  “one of the best known photographers in the United States,” according to her Library of Congress biography. Her portraits of women and children were shown in major exhibitions and won her critical acclaim and financial independence.

Käsebier’s ability to discern the complexities of situations helped her achieve conflicting goals. She aimed to be associated with fine art and the upper classes but she enjoyed the relatively déclassé technical art of photography. She also wanted to earn a living, a desire that brought criticism from [Alfred] Stieglitz for sacrificing art to commerce, while society frowned on women participating in any kind of business. At a time when a salesman challenged women’s right to purchase high quality photographic equipment, Käsebier encouraged women to enter the professional world. For example, she befriended and supported Frances Benjamin Johnston, whose ambition and need to earn an income may have surpassed her own.

Kasebier worked until the mid-1920s, when she turned her studio over to her daughter, Hermine.

Johnston had a long career as well, ultimately specializing in architectural and garden photography.  She retired at age 81 in 1945.

*It was an unhappy marriage and inspired her to make this photo.


Filed under architecture, culture and history, design, food, garden design, life in gardens, nature, The Sunday porch, travel, vintage landscape

Vintage landscape: O cabbage gardens

cabbage garden, FBJohnson collection, Library of CongressCabbages in the vegetable garden of Chelmsford, Greenwich, Connecticut, ca. 1914, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Alaska cabbage garden, via Library of CongressA cottage garden in Alaska, between 1909-1920. By National Photo Company, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

garden history giant cow cabbageBrassica oleracae longata, called tree cabbage, giant cow cabbage, long-jacks, or Jersey Kale. It is found on the Channel Islands, U.K., and is grown for making walking sticks. The ca. 1900 photo above via gardenhistorygirl.

Cabbages, Samuel Bell Maxey Hse., via Texas State ArchivesThe vegetable garden and cold frames of the Maxey House, Paris, Texas, undated, from the Samuel Bell Maxey Collection, via Texas State Archives Commons on flickr.

Norris gardenMrs. Jim Norris with homegrown cabbage, Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940, by Russell Lee, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

eternity swallows up time
                        O cabbage gardens
summer’s elegy
                        sunset survived


Susan Howe, from “Cabbage Gardens


Filed under American gardens, architecture, design, food, garden design, landscape, life in gardens, nature, plants, vintage landscape, working in the garden

Life in gardens: coleslaw, anyone?

cabbage, Library New Zealand“A cook holding up a giant cabbage at a camp in Wairarapa[, New Zealand],” ca. 1890s, photographer unknown, via National Library of New Zealand.

One of my favorite coleslaws is made by tossing shredded cabbage, a chopped apple or underripe mango, and some chopped peanuts with the dressing part of Vietnamese green papaya salad (recipe here).

At Samoa, hardly unpacked, I commenced planting. . .
I plant cabbage by moonlight, set out more cacao.
The heart of a death’s-head moth beats a tattoo in my hand.

Carolyn Kizer, from “Fanny


Filed under food, landscape, life in gardens, nature, plants, vintage landscape, working in the garden

Life in gardens: June 14, 1944

PX Beer Garden, June 14, 1944, via LoC

PX beer garden at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 14, 1944, by Victor Alfred Lundy, via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A beer garden is simply a shady outdoor area with tables and chairs where beer and sometimes food is served. The idea originated in the Bavaria region of Germany in the 19th century and soon came to America. There’s a brief history of beer gardens in the U.S. here.

Some American beer gardens were such pleasant, seemingly wholesome places that they rattled the resolve of the temperance movement. A woman on a committee investigating Chicago drinking spots wrote of one: “Isn’t it beautiful? Can it be, is it possible, that after all our ideas are wrong and these people are right?”

Beer gardens, like the one pictured above, were features of at least some homeland military camps and forts in the mid 1940s. Camp Mackall in North Carolina had six. I found a reference to one at Fort McClellan near Anniston, Alabama.  

During his U.S. Army service, Victor Lundy filled eight sketchbooks with scenes of his training at Fort Jackson, his life on a transport ship crossing the Atlantic, and his frontline duty in France.

After the war, he became an architect, admired today for “his sculptural sense of form” and  “innovative use of engineering technology,” according to the Smithsonian Institution.


Filed under a garden in history, American gardens, architecture, art, culture and history, design, food, life in gardens, nature, vintage landscape

In Rome

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Everyone soon or late comes round by Rome.
— Robert Browning, from The Ring and The Book

As you might imagine, late May was a beautiful time to be in Rome.  Coming in from the airport — and later on the way to Naples — we saw swathes of red poppies blooming all along the train tracks.  In the city, there were jasmine flowers everywhere.  The temperatures were in the seventies, and the crowds of tourists weren’t yet (too) bad.

We continued our rather unfocused wanderings in this city as well. But I did spend about two hours in the Museo di Palazzo Doria Pamphilj* (or Pamphili), which was recommended in a 2013 New York Times article, “Three Quiet Museums in Rome.”  It’s a family art collection in what is still the family’s palace home.

Prince Camillo Pamphilj and his brother Pope Innocent X began buying the paintings and sculptures in the 17th century.  In the 18th, the palazzo became the dynasty’s principal residence, and it is now mostly presented as it was at that time.

It is quiet, and you can see masterworks by Bernini, Caravaggio, Memling, Titian, and Rubens, among others.  Admission is €11 and includes a good audio tour by a current Pamphilj prince.

The extended family lives in other parts of the building (you can get a peek at their private courtyard garden just as you enter the museum).  We think my husband, who met up with me later in the gift shop, may have been directed around the corner to the entrance by two of its members — older Italian ladies who told him he would “have a lovely time” in perfect British English.  The audio guide tells you that English is the first language of the family today (a legacy of a 19th century English peeress ancestress).

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We were also able to visit the beautiful grounds of the American Academy of Rome on Janiculum Hill (photos above).

Miscellaneous tips for Rome

Reserve your hotel room as early as possible. I started looking about six weeks before our trip, and all of my first and second choices were booked up.

The two (casual) restaurants we particularly liked were:

  • the pizzeria Panattoni, Viale di Trastevere 53/57 (dinner only, cash only, closed Wednesdays) in Trastevere — for thin Roman-style pizza.
  • L’Antica Birreria Peroni, near Piazza Venezia — serving lunch and Peroni beer to local businesspeople. (The menu they gave us was only in Italian, but you can see a translation here.)

I liked the Kindle guidebook Revealed Rome by Amanda Ruggeri (and her blog of the same name) for culture, restaurant, and shopping tips.  I also consulted the blogs Parla Food Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, and The Guardian’s city guide for Rome.

I also liked Italian Survival Guide (on Kindle and paper) by Elizabeth Bingham for a good explanation of Italian pronunciation, numbers, and basic phrases, as well as culture tips.

Not Built in a Day by George H. Sullivan is an interesting guide to Roman architecture, but don’t buy the Kindle version, as I did.  The maps are tiny and fuzzy, making it very difficult to follow his walking tours.  

*It is not part of the large park, Villa Doria Pamphili. The Palazzo is just northwest of the Piazza Venezia in the historic city center.  The entrance is on Via del Corso.

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Filed under a garden in history, American gardens, architecture, art, culture and history, design, food, garden design, landscape, nature, plants, travel