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An avid cook and cookbook collector, Cynthia D. Bertelsen is a food historian, photographer and compulsive writer now settled in Blacksburg, Virginia. She discovered the pleasures of food and cooking at an early age, by learning to cook recipes passed on by her Southern grandmothers.

For many years, she lived and worked long-term in Mexico, Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti, Morocco and Burkina Faso. Among her more memorable experiences, she includes starting up a catering business in the midst of the overthrow of Baby Doc Duvalier in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; working in a pre-natal clinic in the United Fruit Company Hospital in La Lima, Honduras; and training the restaurant staff at the American Club in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso -- they made the best chess pies ever!

Cynthia wrote "Mushroom: A Global History," published by Reaktion Books in 2013. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in several well-known food-studies encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers, including Gastronomica and "The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink" (2nd edition).

"So Spoke the Earth," an anthology of women's writings about Haiti, features her story immortalizing a Haitian vegetable-market vendor. In 2011, she won a Julia Child Independent Scholar grant from the International Association of Culinary Professionals to study the impact of France’s colonial heritage on the future of French cuisine. To read more of Cynthia’s writing, take a look at “Gherkins & Tomatoes,” her well-known blog devoted to in-depth analyses of cooking, cookbooks, and food history; you will find much food for thought at She is working on two new books and contributing to In Search of Taste magazine.

London's large Ghanian and Nigerian population means that fresh cassava is always available in markets. Credit: Credit 2015 Cynthia Bertelsen

Cassava, to me, is the Sleeping Beauty of the African kitchen. The first time I ate cassava, I was on a leaky porch in Paraguay

Peanuts closely resemble the Bambara groundnut , a vital ingredient in many West African dishes. Credit: Cynthia D. Bertelsen

Africa. What a complicated and enormous continent it is, comprising more than 50 countries, all different, all with their own culinary specialties. In this, the

Vin d'Orange, a French aperitif made by infusing sweetened wine with a trio of citrus peels - orange, lemon and lime - brings a sunny brightness to wintry holiday gatherings. Credit: Cynthia Bertelsen

As I watch the sun, feeble in the morning skies at this time of the year, I think of the sunshine-yellow oranges my parents

Pickled shrimp goes way back in the South, and it's still a treat among modern-day holiday fare. Credit: Cynthia Bertelsen

"Swimpee! Swimpee!" shouted the shrimp vendors of years past in Charleston, S.C., as they wended their way through the streets, the fresh shrimp in

'Tis the season for pumpkins, Jack-o-Lanterns, and, of course, pumpkin pie.

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? -- John Greenleaf Whittier, "The

Yellow crookneck squash. Credit: Cynthia Bertelsen

It's the end of a long, wet and unusually cool summer in the Virginia mountains. And, to my joy, the water-logged soil yields more


"Mushroom: A Global History"
"Mushroom: A Global History" is written by Cynthia D. Bertelsen