What a joy to get the chance to write about one of my food heroes in The New York Times Magazine. For 53 years, 84 year-old food historian Barbara Ketcham Wheaton has been working on an extraordinary labour of love, a database designed to analyse every cookbook published in Europe and the U.S. up to 1900. I've known and admired Barbara for around fifteen years through the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. But it was only this summer, when she gave a talk about her beloved database, that I fully appreciated what she had been working on all these years. It is a project of Borgesian ambition, but also one with great charm. Barbara - BKW, as she signs herself - remains genuinely entranced by these books and the puzzles they hold about how we cook and eat.
My article on Barbara and the database is here.