Category Archives: food

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


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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


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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.


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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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In Amalfi

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Two Saturdays ago, we were just beginning a brief vacation in Italy, in  Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.

On Sunday, as a day trip, we took a local bus along the winding, narrow, cliff-hanging road that edges the gorgeous Amalfi Coast.

We rode it all the way to Amalfi itself– an important city back around the first millennium A.D., but now just a very pretty coastal resort selling hand-painted ceramics and products made from lemons.

The little strip of grey pebbles and fist-sized rocks that is Amalfi’s “beach” did not impress us, but the sparkling blue, clear-to-the-bottom water was very inviting.

There is one main street, which runs straight back from the sea and up into the surrounding hills about a half mile. On either side above it, houses and small lemon groves cling to steep slopes, connected by an extensive web of covered and open alleyways and steps.

The duomo or cathedral is the town’s major site. It was constructed and re-constructed from the 9th to 19th centuries and displays a mix of Norman-Arab Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Baroque architecture styles.

The photos above are of its Cloister of Paradise, built in 1268 as a gravesite for local wealthy merchants. The Arab style of the beautiful simple arches is not surprising, given Amalfi’s close ties during the Middle Ages with Arab traders throughout the Mediterranean (not excluding traffickers in European slaves).

Pretty as the cloister was, however, I have to say that my favorite Amalfi garden was this tiny terrace (below). Its horizontally espaliered lemon trees were guarded by a Roman soldier and the seven dwarves.

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Visiting Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

Travel writer Rick Steves says this about Sorrento:

The Sorrentines have gone out of their way to create a completely safe and relaxed place for tourists to spend money. . . . Spritzed by lemon and olive groves, this gateway to the Amalfi Coast has an unspoiled old quarter, a lively main shopping street, [and] a spectacular cliffside setting.

That’s pretty much what we wanted for the first two nights of our vacation, and that’s what we got.   Like Amalfi, aside from tourism, the city is now mainly known for growing impressively large lemons.  Its limoncello is supposed to be the best.  (Although I think it tastes like an alcoholic lemon drop, much too sweet; Amaro is my Italian digestive of choice.)

A swimming area along the Sorrento waterfront.

A swimming area along the Sorrento waterfront.

Getting around . . . train

To get to Sorrento from the Naples train station (Stazione Centrale), follow the signs leading downstairs to the platform for the Circumvesuviana commuter train.  Tickets are only €4.10 and can be purchased right at the turnstile.  Make sure you get on a train marked “Sorrento.”  They leave every half hour.

The Circumvesuviana was the only place where we had any problem with crime during our trip.  The platform was very crowded, and almost as soon as we entered the train, a pickpocket tried to take my husband’s wallet. After that, he kept his credit card and money in a small zippered bag with a loop attached to his belt — something like this.

We were each traveling with a rolling carry-on bag and a “personal item.”  This is the most I would ever try to keep track of on this train.

From the Sorrento train station, it’s an easy walk to the historic part of the city.


To return to Naples, we walked to the Sorrento piers and took one of the fast hydrofoil boats. The boats leave about every two hours, and you don’t need a reservation. (From the same place, there are also boats to Amalfi, Positano, and Capri.)

To buy the €15 ticket, go to the sunken semi-circle area in the photo below, consult the extensive, yet unrevealing signage to the find the correct line, and then ask for a one-way on the “Jet”  to Calata Beverello-Naples (a brief walk away from the Piazza Plebiscito).  The view of Naples as you arrive by water is lovely.

That's Mt. Vesuvius in the center.

That’s Mt. Vesuvius in the center.


The SITA bus that took us to Amalfi and back was a bargain thrill ride (the road is often only one and a half lanes wide) at €6.80 for all-day, on-and-off access. Buses leave Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi about every hour (but not 24 hours, so check the schedule for the time of the last bus). The Sorrento-Amalfi trip takes one to two hours, depending on traffic.  In Sorrento, tickets are sold at the SITA bus stop in front of the train station.  The buses are blue, except when they’re red.

Hotel and restaurants

We stayed at the Hotel Rivoli in Sorrento, right in the center of the historic area.  The rooms were simple, clean, and comfortable.  The staff were very helpful with directions and advice.  The €5 breakfast offered croissants, cereal, and fruit, plus enough sweets to fill out a respectable Christmas buffet table.

We arrived in Sorrento after 24 hours of travel and by 6:15 p.m., we were exhausted.  At that very un-Italian dinner hour, L’Antica Trattoria served us their three-course “light lunch” very graciously.  Given the high quality of the food, it was a bargain at €20 each. We also had a very good meal the next night at the more unassuming Ristorante O’ Murzill’ at Via Dell’ Accademia, 17.

.   .   .   .  But warmer climes
Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
Of Alpine highths thou playest with, borne on
Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.

– Walter Savage Landor, from “To Robert Browning

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