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13 october 2019

The first college course I ever taught, 38 years ago, was "Shakespeare." I was responsible for explicating plays like King Lear to unenthralled freshmen. "'Twas this flesh begot / Those Pelicane Daughters," the king exclaims at one point. I sort of knew what the reference meant, but it was going to be complicated to explain. And then I looked outside into the courtyard beyond our classroom window, and caught sight of an emblematic sculpture of a pelican baring its wounded breast while pelican chicks lapped blood from it. "It's like that," I resourcefully pointed. My teaching career had nowhere to go but downhill after that.     read more

9 october 2019

When I was a young child, the vast category of "pickles" reduced to a single product: sweet gherkins in jars, which we extracted with a diabolical-looking slender pickle fork capped at the non-business end with a jaunty 1960ish red plastic sphere.     read more

6 october 2019

Like many of the Reaktion Edible series, Heather Arndt Anderson's Berries must begin with definitions. Berries, as word and idea, are similar to nuts in that they exist as horticultural, culinary, and cultural categories that mostly fail to overlap. Anderson explains that technically a berry is any fruit that contains a collection of seeds encased in pulpy flesh and sealed with a soft skin. Tomatoes are berries; eggplants are berries. Melons qualify, so do citrus fruits, and even bananas, whose wild ancestors, at least, were full of seeds.     read more

5 october 2019

Ross MacPhee's End of the Megafauna is a welcome hybrid: a keen essay on scientific reasoning that doubles as an attractive picture book about prehistoric animals.     read more