When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s, my parents would announce periodically that we would be going to go out to dinner. When the announcement was made, the evening was imbued with a festive air. We dressed up — I have a recollection of patent leather shoes and crinolines. Eating out was an occasion; it happened rarely and felt like an extravagance.

I don’t think my family was unique in this. Most people of that era — unless they worked in advertising — rarely ate out.

No longer. Now, everyone eats out all the time.
More… “The Eating Out Habit”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.


You’d think even the most eager partygoer would hesitate to accept a dinner invitation from someone known as “Vlad the Impaler” (1431-1476). The Central European warlord got his catchy nickname as a young sadist in his 20s, soon after he assumed the throne of Wallachia, next door to Transylvania: After entertaining 500 boyars (nobles) at a sumptuous feast, he had most of the guests executed with his signature method, driving sharpened wooden stakes through the nether regions and leaving them squirming like insects until they died.

Tony Perrottet’s book, Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, is a literary version of a cabinet of curiosities (HarperCollins, 2008; He is also the author of Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists and The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.



It was never my intent to spend $650 on myself, by myself — at lunch, a credit-card-statement reality made all the more painful by the news, weeks later, that the U.S. economy fell off a cliff and that the reliability of my livelihood had suddenly come into question. I am by all definitions a “foodie,” even though I dislike that term. Yet compared to the foodies who got me into the situation of spending such a lavish and obscene amount of money on a meal for one, I am a but a lightweight, a middling palate, a common snacker.

Yet even if the slight sting of buyer’s remorse would last months — indeed, I still wonder today whether I should have spent that lewd sum — the food high I experienced burned brightly for at least 24 hours and… More…