Next month I will be seventy-five and I have been writing for over seventy years.
It was only natural that, over time, the focus of my writing would change. During my long working career in the high-tech industry, I acquired a reputation among my colleagues for the thoroughness of the research I devoted to the respective markets for high-tech components and equipment, anticipating and, on occasion, advancing the state of the art. I put together comprehensive seminars at some of the major industry seminars, with speakers drawn from the major corporations around the world.
I combined my research skills with my writing skills to create reports about various aspects of the industry that were as readable as they were informative.
After retiring I began to collect historic cookbooks and recipe collections. Soon I found I had over a thousand of them. I read them as others read novels, often finding curious bits of history in them.
In 2000, however, severely shaken by something Senator Lieberman of Connecticut had said in a speech to a church congregation in Detroit, I began collecting everything I could find about the legendary (but very real) King David and, then with all that information in hand, began sifting it to separate out what might have been based upon fact, what might have been maliciously twisted to put David in a bad light, what he might have deliberately created to put a positive spin to advance his career, etc. This led, in turn, to my study of the authorship of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible or, as Christians call it, the Old Testament. That study resulted in a book that tells the story of the writing of the Hebrew Bible in a chronological fashion so that it can be understood in terms of the changing political agendas of its authors over some eight hundred years.
While the writing and rewriting of that book continues, I returned to my interest in the history of the preparation of food. In 2002 I was invited to write a series of monthly articles about historic cookbooks. The series eventually covered thirty-eight hundred years of culinary history--from the Mesopotamian Culinary Texts (circa 1750 BCE) to Bobby Seale's Barbeque'n With Bobby, published by Ten Speed Press in 1988.
Whenever possible I tried to determine--and then describe--the one event but for which a particular cookbook would never have been written or preserved. In the case of the "Mesopotamian Culinary Texts", I described how when Hammurabi's mercenaries set King Zimri-Lin's palace on fire circa 1757 BCE, the roof fell in with the fortunate result that the fire baked the clay tablets on which the palace chef'sThThis led to my writing a series of articles about cookbooks and their authors that eventually covered thirty-eight hundred years of culinary history--from the Mesopotamian Culinary Texts (circa 1750 BCE) to Bobby Seale's Barbeque'n With Bobby, published by Ten Speed Press in 1988. Whenever possible I tried to determine--and then describe--the one event but for which a particular cookbook would never have been written.
"The Joy of Cooking", possibly America's second most revered cookbook, would never have been written had not Irma Rombauer's husband, Edgar, having lost all but $9 thousand in the stock market crash of 1929, committed suicide in February 1930, leaving it to Irma to find a way to support herself.
Those articles are now being gathered together and made available on a website, www.cookbooksalacarte.com