William Rubel, Traditional Foodways Expert

Name: William RubelWilliam Rubel Traditional Foodways Expert

Occupation: William Rubel writes about bread, hearth cooking, and traditional foodways. He is the founding editor of Stone Soup, a magazine by children.

Place of Residence: Santa Cruz, California, with time also spent with his partner in London, England.

General interests and hobbies: bread, hearth cooking, mushroom collecting, classical clarinet, ocean and urban foraging, insect and plant collecting with his daughter, and culinary history

Bread and Traditional Cooking

William started baking bread when he was eleven years old and has been baking ever since. He mills and refines most of his own flour and takes a relaxed, improvisational approach to baking. He bakes bread and many of his meals in his outdoor bread oven.

William started traveling abroad when he was in his twenties. Inspired by the antique iron fireplace cooking tools he purchased at a flea market in Paris, he traveled to Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia and fell in love with cooking with live fire. More generally, he has a love of traditional cooking and foodways, including kitchen gardening and foraging. William cooks most of his evening meals either on his fireplace fire, his bread oven or an outdoor charcoal brazier.

Gardening and Foraging

William has a community garden plot where he grows most of his vegetables. At home, he favors a wild gardening style, which allows reseeding vegetables to escape the designated vegetable garden to join wild plants, such as dandelion and thistle, as residents in the flower beds. William is a longtime enthusiast of wild mushroom collecting and, with his young daughter, fishes off a nearby ocean pier and gathers urban fruit and watercress on neighborhood walks.

Research Through Books and Travel

The French government named William a Chevalier in the Ordre du Mérite Agricole to acknowledge his work in support of traditional cooking. William combines scholarship with ethnographic travel to bring back food practices that were poorly documented or are to the point of extinction.

Current projects: William is writing a bread history for the University of California Press and an annotated edition of an early book on kitchen gardens called The French Gardiner, first published in 1654. He has an ongoing research project exploring the smoke-cured and fermented milk of the Samburu of Northern Kenya.

Books and Articles

William has written two books,The Magic of Fire, a book on hearth cooking, and Bread, a global history. He contributed a chapter on kitchen gardening to The Good Gardener?: Nature, Humanity and the Garden.

William’s  articles on food and food history have appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Gastronomica, Petit Propos Culinaire, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking, and Economic Botany.

More places to find William on the web:

William Rubel’s Facebook page

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