Dear Atlantic World Foodways participants:
As we reflect back on our conference, please refer not only to the full conference program at the link above, but also to the archived Conference Paper summaries provided below by some of our panelists.
Corn as Foodway
Deborah Adelman and Shamili Ajgaonkar Sandiford
As a study of why we eat what we eat and what it means, the term foodway is typically used to describe the eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period. Seldom is a particular crop studied as a foodway in and of itself but we argue that corn could be considered as such. This single crop not only unites human geography, history, and culture but also demonstrates the application of a wide range of scientific approaches from “peasant science” to “genetic engineering.” From the first domestication of corn from the wild grass teosinte in Mexico some 10,000 years ago, corn has traveled the world from its original Mesoamerican home, spreading first throughout the Americas and then becoming one of the most important crops of what historian Alfred Crosby calls the Columbian exchange — the comingling of New and Old World plants and animals – that is perhaps one of the most defining events of global environmental history. Today the cultivation of corn has not only transformed the landscape of the American Midwest, replacing a highly diverse prairie landscape with vast monocultures of a single industrial crop; it has also transformed our lives as corn has found its way into hundreds of industrial and food products. Corn composes such a large part of the American diet that much of the carbon that builds our bodies today originates from corn. But regardless of whether the Mayans were correct, for according to their creation story humans were created from white and yellow corn, what is true is that corn has had a significant impact on many societies and cultures throughout the world. This presentation will explore corn as a foodway from an interdisciplinary perspective utilizing the lenses of science, ecological economics, literature, film, environmental and cultural history.
Vem pras praias! : Baianas do acarajé and the politics of the cultural imaginary
Scott Alves Barton
Deemed the cheiro da cidade, perfume of the city, acarajé, black-eyed pea fritters cooked in dendê, palm oil, are a ubiquitous staple of the profane and sacred food cultures of Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. Black-eyed peas are a foodstuff emblematic of the West African diaspora. They appeared throughout the Americas with the arrival of enslaved Africans. Since the initiation of negros-deganho, slave day laborers acarajé has been sold on street corners throughout the city and state. The majority of the vendors are women, As Baianas do Acarajé, who historically were also filhas de santo, adepts in Candomblé religious practice. These women and a small cadre of male vendors are described as the postcard of Bahian identity. Since 2006 different incursions by the town council, local government, FIFA and Evangelical religious factions have threatened this Afro- Brazilian street food. The persistence of culture despite incursions by outside entities opposed to these practices is a tipping point in discourse between
tradition and modernization. This paper investigates the impact of municipal regulations, conflicting religious ideologies, and alleged threats to the environment as control mechanism for the production and consumption of acarajé. Media practices create a cultural and tourist imaginary often distinct from the lived reality. The production, consumption and distribution of food and foodways within the Bahian public sphere offer a means to discuss identity
politics, and issues of gender, race and class.
“All his skore of dainties”: An “American” Dinner Party, 1625
In 1625, the prior of Vera Cruz hosted a dinner for European priests who had disembarked in New Spain to supply their ship before they continued to their mission in the Philippines. One of them, an Englishman named Thomas Gage, jumped ship. Transformed by his encounter with American foods, luxury goods and peoples, Gage stayed on in New Spain until 1637, when he sailed to England, converted to Protestantism, and published accounts of his travels.
In 1648, he described this dinner in detail, vacillating between admiration and disapproval—the food and music were a “delight” yet “prodigal.” It is clear that the dinner of “sweete meats,” “capons, Turky Cocks, and hens” and “the Indian drink called Chocolatte,” worked a powerful transformation on him. Despite the weeks at sea, adventures on Caribbean islands, and opportunities to taste other American foods, Gage writes that only at this party were the travelers “truly transported from Europe to America.”
This claim affirms the power of Atlantic foods, but we must take note of the full range of goods he consumed. “America” for Gage does not inhere in “Indian” consumables. Rather, I argue that the identity is produced when particular commercial markers of the Spanish global empire are brought together. Gage becomes a chocolate aficionado (if not addict) during his time in New Spain, but what most impresses him about the colony is that its commodities include “all the East and West-India’s Treasures.” I argue that we must consider how the colonial dainties Gage tasted reflect not only Atlantic but also global foodways in the early modern world.
Un Vrai Jambalaya ‘A True Mess’: The Complex Etymologies of Jambalaia and Hoppin’ John in Their Transatlantic Historical Context
Anthony F. Buccini
While food writers have long recognised the importance of etymological evidence in culinary history, the field has often been bedevilled by amateurish explanations of word origins which are generated to support historical assumptions rather than being the product of serious linguistic investigations that shed new light on the culinary developments in question. This shortcoming is especially apparent in the cases of two related regional dishes from the American South, jambalaia and Hoppin’ John. Ironically, the first sound discussion of these dishes in the context of a broad treatment of rice cookery in the Carolinas and beyond by Hess (1992) offers particularly bad etymologies for each. More recent studies (Sigal 2007, Taylor 2011) offer valuable discussions but do not find or offer any etymological answers.
In this paper, I build on my study of western Mediterranean vegetable stews (2005) and demonstrate that the name ‘jambalaia’ (like ‘jambineto’) is clearly of Provençal origin and fits, moreover, into the group of names of ‘messy’ dishes attested in southern Italy (cianfotta, ciambotta) and Catalonia (samfaina, xamfaina). The attested forms of this word also show clear linguistic signs of their popularisation in the American French Creole language before being borrowed into Cajun French and being (re-)introduced to Provençal. A remarkable result of this research is that the name Hoppin’ John finds clear explanation, with the path involving a reanalysis of ‘jambalaia’ within French Creole and subsequent calquing into English. From these linguistically sound etymologies, we draw several important conclusions regarding the history of these dishes.
Digestion or indigestion? Use of food in Fuentes’ La muerte de Artemio Cruz
La muerte de Artemio Cruz is a Mexican novel that typifies Mexican History. Through the ascension of Artemio, the novelist demonstrates many historical events that occurred (i.e. the Mexican Revolution, las guerras cristeras, agricultural reforms, etc.). Along with these socio political changes and historically altering events, Fuentes demonstrates the dichotomy of power and suppression within Mexican society. Surprisingly enough this novel also brings to light the cultural richness of the nation through food representations in the text supporting the verisimilitude of the work. Although at times these are grotesque in description, other times they are simple manifestations of popular culture or a mere ethnographical portrayal. Yet through the narrative structure and order of the novel another aspect of the use of food illuminates in contrast to the current agony of the protagonist Cruz. It is this suffering in opposition to indulgence that this paper will explore and demonstrate that power is connected to the desire to consume.
To Market, To Market: Enslaved Women and African Trading Practices in the Antebellum South
During the antebellum period, African and African American women integrated West African trading techniques into southern marketplaces. Market behaviors that specifically imitated those of the Muslim Hausa dominated local food commerce. Between 1803 and 1808, South Carolina and Georgia imported over 40,000 Africans from the Bight of Biafra, many of whom were female war captives of the “jihads” occurring in Hausaland. In 1804, Shehu Usman dan Fodio had initiated the Sokoto “jihad” against the Hausa in what is now Northern Nigeria. He waged war, in part, to reduce Hausa women’s unlimited freedom in local markets, which contradicted his interpretation of a woman’s public place under shari’a law. Unlike their Fulani neighbors, Hausa women had bought, sold, and controlled agricultural surpluses from the rural areas to the city markets for generations. The rise of the Sokoto Caliphate pushed the Hausa out of the markets and into strict purdah; women who did not abide by the new laws were sold to slave traders. In the United States south, antebellum newspapers frequently described enslaved women colluding on prices and organizing trade networks outside the plantation, practices that paralleled Hausa commercial behaviors. Like their West African counterparts, enslaved women in South Carolina and Georgia created economic relationships between different groups of enslaved people and were responsible for the flow of surplus foods to the cities. In the process, they created a distinctive commercial system that intertwined African and European foodways into something uniquely southern.
“Feasting on (and in) Tom Jones”
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Henry Fielding’s masterpiece may be the only novel in the English language that begins with a menu, “a Bill of Fare to the Feast,” in which the narrator compares himself to the owner of an ordinary that offers one provision to its customers, human nature prepared in a variety of rural and urban styles. While introducing this trope to explain the author/ reader relationship, the first chapter initiates the novel’s broad interest in British foodways in the mid-eighteenth century. Whether defending his hero’s “Act of Eating” by invoking “that eating Poem of the Odyssey” or defining heterosexual love as including “Hunger,” Fielding returns again and again to appetites satisfied by food and drink. He also represents characters’ meals, from Squire Allworthy’s breakfast early in Book 1 to Tom and Sophia’s wedding entertainment in the final chapter of Book 18, as he examines ways in which the British ate and used the language of food.
“Edible Charleston: Selling the Lowcountry Brand in the early Twentieth Century South”
Marcie C. Ferris
In the first decades of the twentieth century, the branding of Lowcountry food cultures symbolizes a changing region as conservative, white southerners struggled to retain the racial constructs of the Old South and black and white progressives pushed the South into the modern era. A public relations machine operated by automobile clubs, railroad companies, hotels, restaurants, and city and state-sponsored travel organizations pumped out a sea of tourist guides steeped in the romance and flavors of the colonial and antebellum Lowcountry. A constructed historical narrative of white nobility, black service, and exceptional hospitality enlivened this invented South. No region packaged and sold the Old South better than the region’s historic colonial cities, particularly Charleston, which fashioned itself as an epicenter of southern hospitality, authenticity, and antiquity. The Lowcountry’s rich culinary heritage was central to this brand. Brochure copy, tour guides, and historic house docents told stories of the region’s distinctive seafood and rice country dishes, such as pilau (rice cooked in a flavorful broth with meat or seafood) and “hoppin’ John” (field peas and rice) and the “mammies” who prepared these delights. Museums, historic homes, and southern-style restaurants and “olde” tea rooms became Charleston’s “memory theaters.” In and around these venues, the “authentic” food-related folkways of historic Charleston and the Lowcountry were transformed into popular tourist attractions in the 1930s. Lowcountry cuisine was also highlighted in special issues of House and Garden magazine in 1939 and National Geographic in 1952. My presentation analyzes the economic and social power of this culinary “brand” in the racialized consumer culture of the early twentieth South and the nation.
“Gumbo and Syphilis: Sassafras in the Atlantic World”
Sassafras has long been used as a food and medicine in the Atlantic World by Indian, African, and European peoples. Sassafras leaves are a vital ingredient in filé gumbo, a dish shaped and molded by the mixing and hybridization of European, African, and Indian cultures in the lower Mississippi valley. Its use continues today in the manufacturing of fragrances, soft drinks, and illegal drugs. However, the usage of sassafras as a medicine in the early modern era is often overlooked in historical scholarship. The links between sassafras, bioprospecting, and colonization are only recently starting to be explored.
This paper will draw on travel narratives, receipt books, medical texts, and maps to argue that sassafras was not only an important food in the Atlantic world, but also was an often overlooked impetus behind Anglo-American colonization. English adventurers sought out sassafras as a valuable commodity believed to cure the French Pox, or syphilis. The desire to attain sassafras is linked to the diverse motivations behind the English Roanoke (1587), Cuttyhunk (1602), Jamestown (1607), and Sagadahoc (1607) colonies. Understanding the role of sassafras as both a food and a medical commodity deepens and complicates our understanding of the development of the Atlantic world.
The paper includes a visual element and therefore I request a projector be made available for a PowerPoint presentation.
Journey to Enlichenment (presentation)
Small, plain, unassuming – lichens go unnoticed by people enamored with bright flowers, showy leaves, and magnificent height. Yet outward appearance is not necessarily an accurate indication of inward beauty. Lichens are a good example. They have provided food and medicine for indigenous peoples all around the Atlantic rim and beyond. For thirty years, I have studied wild foodways and natural medicines, yet until recently, I rarely even noticed lichens, much less made the effort to get to know their uses. That all changed when I discovered a reference to an unknown herb in an ancient, Anglo-Saxon salve recipe.
This herb is called Stime [Stune]; it grew on a stone,
It resists poison, it fights pain,
It is called harsh [stiff], it fights against poison. (Gordon 93)
What grows on rocks? Lichen. A quick check of my material medica revealed an astonishing fact. Many lichens contain usnic acid, a proven antibiotic. Could Stime be a type of lichen? Thus began this fieldwork project, through which I have gained a new appreciation for these unassuming organisms. Examining several species common both to Europe and the Americas, I will describe them in their natural settings and discuss their known uses on both continents as medicines and foods to various people groups. Recipes for salves and soups, compresses and curries will be provided. From naturalist, to herbalist, to cook, this is my journey to “enlichenment.”
Gordon, R.K. Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Everyman’s Library. New York: Dutton, 1954. Print.
Mother-fish: Overfishing, the Gendering of the Atlantic Cod, and Donna Morrissey’s Sylvanus Now
This paper, after overviewing the gendering of Atlantic cod in cod-fishing or eating cultures, focuses specifically on Newfoundland, and Donna Morrissey’s 2005 novel Sylvanus Now. Gadus morhua—literally the codfish whore—has been an Atlantic world food staple since 8th century Vikings first began trading “air-dried cod preserved without salt” (Bolster 25). Since then, Atlantic cod has become target of a centuries-long, multicultural fishery: featuring in Atlantic basin cuisines from Portugal, Italy, Britain, the Caribbean, and even West Africa (Kurlansky; Moloney; Wilks & Barbosa eds.). The highly fecund and historically abundant cod’s versatility as a durable and high quality protein source led to centuries of intensive fishing and the disastrous collapse of groundfish stocks around the Atlantic basin (Jackson, Roberts).
The novel Sylvanus Now, published thirteen years after the collapse of cod stocks on the Grand Banks, abounds with discourse of gender and portrays a fishery in transition and decline. Morrissey genders her ocean and her cod, thereby aligning the reproductive struggles of her protagonist’s wife with the overfished ocean’s plight.
Overfishing is a complex interdisciplinary problem, so my reading of Sylvanus Now necessarily examines the novel’s scientific, historical, and nautical context. This interdisciplinary analysis reinforces the novel’s discourse of gender, demonstrating humanities scholarship’s unique ability to cast marine environmental problems in a deeply personal light. The culturally pervasive gendering of cod and the ocean becomes especially wrenching because, for many overfished centuries, gadus morhua has been a ‘mother’ to millions of people and a major contributor to Atlantic foodways.
Henry Norwood’s A Voyage to Virginia owns it all: a Royalist’s exile from Cromwell’s England, drunken sailors and lost boats, a harrowing sea voyage and marooning, starvation, desperation, cannibalism, castaways, more starvation, more desperation, rescue by friendly Indians, a suggestively implied night of passion with the mother of the Indian “king’s” daughter, reluctant leave taking, the trek to plantation lands, and the denouement of our narrator’s restoration to civil society. Whew! A compact fifty pages in print, Norwood’s account is notable as a conversation about the culinary topographies of the early modern Eurocentric domestic world. His recitation offers extraordinary insights into mid seventeenth-century Atlantic world foodways not only in its descriptions of certain meals and preparations but also in its silences about others. Even where Norwood dwells on particular foods (peaches, rats, hominy, and oysters) and preparations (roast venison, hickory and hominy porridge, and oyster, mussel and turkey stew), he says only enough to whet (maybe dampen) the historian’s appetite. For the most part, he elides the details, relying for the substance of his content on the readers’ culinary imaginary. Simply, Henry Norwood wrote through food silences – and it is our task to reconstitute at least some of the voice and noise of that world.
Food silences superintend the naturalized, typically unarticulated, systems of values and beliefs that serve as the cement and sense of everyday relations around ordinary gastronomical culture. Because food silences are so deeply naturalized, we encounter them largely through “food noise,” those remarked upon moments of the exceptional, the exotic, the grotesque. The critical position that defines the limits of historical knowledg is well established in readings of power and its applications. In whiteness studies, for example, “white” reveals itself by describing its “other” and only rarely by limning itself. That is the work of silences within their generative contexts – to consolidate forms of cultural authority and convention through the representations of difference. As historian Michel-Rolph Troulliot succinctly writes, “The ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.” Norwood’s food silences are as rich and suggestive as are his descriptions of what he ate and how it was prepared and consumed. Together they sketch something of the larger expressions of power surrounding kitchen and table in the early modern Atlantic world – and they raise the vexing question of how do we make this world heard, visible, and savored in the present.
Early Fusion Food in Tampa, Florida: Italian and Spanish Foodways in an Immigrant Enclave, 1885-1955
After 1885, Tampa, Florida became home to unique immigrant enclaves built around the cigar industry known as Ybor City and West Tampa. Sicilian, Galician, and Asturian newcomers (along with Cubans) became the dominant groups in these enclaves. Each group adapted its food to suit their new surroundings. In Tampa’s restaurants, Spanish food became synonymous with fine dining and luxury, while Italian food was largely co-opted by the restaurants run largely by other Latin groups. Over time, Tampa’s ethnic communities created some notable fusion dishes associated with Tampa’s immigrant community rather than old world origins.
In this presentation, I will trace the histories of Spanish and Italian cuisines in Tampa, drawing upon archival sources, oral histories, and local cookbooks. The following portraits will reveal how disparate ethnic groups fused into a self-identified “Latin” community, and how their foods fused into distinctive dishes that have stood the test of time. The restaurant industry will also be covered, drawing upon Tampa’s eateries past and present, and how they presented their products and the aforementioned cuisines.
Food, Music and Memory in La familia vino del norte by Silvia Molina
Silvia Molina overlaps many literary genres in her text. One of her novels, La familia vino del norte, can be read as a historical novel, an autobiography, a family history and a detective novel. The protagonist, Dorotea Leyva, writes the story of her grandfather, Teodoro Leyva who was a general during the Mexican Revolution. In the text, food serves as a tool of memory to recall past conversations and construct the autobiography of the family and of the nation. The text also explores how food is utilized by Manuel, the reporter and lover of Dorotea, to manipulate her and to change her personality towards a more sophisticated life style. Music also has a special place in memory in order to recall the life of General Leyva. It is through music that Manuel tries to insert sophistication in Dorotea’s life. Mexican traditional food and music in La familia vino del norte represent a lower class status and by ordering her food and selecting her music, Manuel seeks to refine the protagonist’s life. The protagonist explores food and music and through her choices constructs her story and her own self.
Latin American Influences on Low Country Cookery
The Culinary Institute of America
The Colombian Exchange that occurred after 1492 introduced ingredients from one part of the Atlantic world to the other. Over time similarities and differences between parts of the Americas in terms of the usage and prevalence of ingredients occurred as indigenous plants traveled from one colonial American port city to the other. A connecting force exists between the cuisines of Madrid, Mexico City, and New Orleans yet very distinct differences remain. Multiple plant and animal varieties were available but there were incredible differences in the treatment of foods across the huge and culturally diverse Atlantic world. Low country flavors have diverse origins coming from a mix of influences from the indigenous people to the Spanish explorers and soldiers who colonized the Americas to the enslaved Africans arriving directly from Africa or vis-à-vis a stopover in the Caribbean.
“A Culinary Democracy?: Visions of Gastronomy in Gilberto Freyre’s Brazil”
This paper deconstructs the romanticized food ideology set forth by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in his seminal work, Casa Grande e Senzala (Masters and Slaves), published in1933. By examining his book as well as related early twentieth-century writings, I hope to explore the development of Brazilian national pride through gastronomy. I argue that Casa Grande e Senzala encouraged Brazilian cultural nationalism through food references by promoting a mixture of cuisines while criticizing the prevailing theory of white supremacy.
In his work, Freyre uses cookery to support his theory of racial democracy. Because food is often an identifying marker of the ethnic group that prepares it, for Freyre, the dishes became tangible byproducts of racial and ethnic mixing. From the writings of José Enrique Rodó, Freyre gleans a rejection of United States culture and uses it to shun U.S. cookery, while also attempting to elevate the status of his own food. He also borrows ideas from Manuel Querino, who provided Brazil with extensive scholarship on African influences on Brazilian culture, including culinary elements. Freyre melds these ideas in Casa Grande e Senzala to promote a unified cuisine that supported his theory. The popularity of Freyre’s work, in combination with the government’s endorsement, created a widely-accepted national cuisine.
Ethnic Grocery Stores in the US: Economic, Social and Cultural Sustainability in a New Home.
Lucy M. Long, PhD.
Ethnic grocery stores in the US serve multiple functions beyond their immediate purpose. They offer a public face for presenting ethnic foods —and mediating with the food ethos and aesthetic of the host culture and specific localities—as well as a private space for performing ethnic identity and constructing social networks. They are sites in which individuals use their food traditions as a resource for finding a place in the American economic system while also maintaining connections to their cultural heritage. They also frequently serve as community centers, focal points for informal gatherings and social networking, thus constructing and shaping ethnic communities.
This paper will explore ethnic grocery stores as sites for economic, social, and cultural sustainability among immigrant groups. Using ethnographic data from such establishments in the urban Midwest, it also raises more general questions over the role food has played in the making of a multicultural nation and the impacts this commodification has had on food traditions.
The Importance of Food in the Spanish Humanist Tradition: Juan Luis Vives and Cipriano de la Huerga
Francisco Javier López-Martín
The sixteenth century in Spain is a time of constant change. During the first half of the century in the Spain of Charles I, important figures such as Vives, Alfonso de Valdés and Erasmus emerge and question critically the essence of humanity and the actions of humans. In this paper I will show how the representation of food can help us recognize a cosmological, theological, social and medical perception determined through the study of two of the most representative humanists in the sixteenth century Spanish setting: Juan Luis Vives and Cipriano de la Huerga.
Thus, I will analyze the uses of food in De Sapientia by Juan Luis Vives. According to him, food is just an obstacle in reaching wisdom and being one with God. However, Cipriano de la Huerga in Comentarios al Cantar de los Cantares understands the importance of food as a sensorial appetite essential to enjoy life. Although apparently these two approaches are radically different, in fact both reach the same conclusion: the importance of food in order to achieve equilibrium in a cosmological world reigned by God and humans.
Cooking as Sacred Alchemy: Mexico and the Mediterranean
Cooking –the manipulation of earth, or rather of its products, using fire and air and water— has always been a sacred and priestly act, bound up with rituals of sacrifice and communion. And it has always been a form of alchemy, transmuting lower forms of matter into higher, making possible human life and human civilization, and laying the groundwork for spiritual evolution. Even today, culinary traditions are defined, in large measure, by religious law which determines what can be eaten and what cannot, when, and by whom. In this sense cooking is the primary act of human culture and its most enduring.
This paper will build on the insights of Rachel Laudan in her Scientific American article “The Birth of the Modern Diet,” (Laudan 2000), which argues that modern “French” cuisine was the product of a displacement of Aristotelian by Paracelsan alchemy, and on Clifford Wright’s analysis in A Mediterranean Feast of the impact of the Islamic agricultural revolution on Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines, and look specifically what the New World generally, and Mexico in particular, contributed to the mix. In doing this, I will take seriously Aztec and other Native American foodways as distinctive alchemical traditions, and not simply as contributors of ingredients. I will also analyze the first fusion which took place in convent and peasant kitchens in colonial Mexico and in Sicily, among other places, and which continues today as ingredients from both sides of the Atlantic are combined and recombined, usually but not always using a French of Paracelsan alchemy. I will conclude with a consideration of just what the resulting cuisines mean, alchemically and theologically, as ways of transforming matter in the spirit.
Historical Recovery of African Agricultural Knowledge Systems through Roças and the Culinary Legacy their Agency Endowed to Colonial Bahia
This paper explores often-overlooked contributions resulting from Africa’s involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, particularly in colonial Bahia. This paper uses cacao production and considers the impact of West African arrival on the colonial tastescape. Through Portuguese dereliction of responsibilities, enslaved Africans, forced to provide sustenance via provision gardens, or roças, contributed to a new cuisine. Elaborating on Carney, who provides evidence of prior agricultural knowledge systems and the presence of an African indigenous rice variety (Oryza glaberrima) in the New World, I argue that the trafficking of Africans to the New World not only transferred their indigenous agricultural knowledge systems, but moreover, Africans adapted this knowledge to their new environment not only to enable, but also to enhance their livelihoods. I then argue that enslaved women in their roles as domestic servants used ingredients from these gardens coupled with their prior culinary knowledge systems to establish the foundation for Northeastern Brazilian cuisine. This paper seeks to challenge the widely held notion in academia that enslaved Africans only contributed insignificantly to the colonization of the New World, save for their bulk labor. Enslaved Africans transformed the agricultural landscape of Brazil and other colonies throughout the Americas by adapting their knowledge systems to various novel environments; furthermore, they significantly contributed to the various material cultures of the Americas, particularly in Bahia—an African state, which has recently come to embrace the significance of its historical legacy, most notably through its cuisine.
Keywords: Colonial Bahia, Historical Recovery, Food History, Atlantic Africans
Memories of Hunger: Scars of Disintegration, Isolation, and Alienation in 1960s Consumer Spain
Nina B. Namaste
Antonio Buero Vallejo in his 1967 drama El tragaluz portrays the haunting effects of the Spanish Civil war and post-war years on both the individual and society. Critics concur that Buero’s portrayal of family relations, difficulties with work, effects of the war, and socio-economic distress provided a means to confront social issues of the time, demonstrate the author’s dissension with those issues, and attempt to provoke Spaniards to reflect on their situation. Though not a particular focus within Buerian studies, critics who mention the use of culinary imagery in Buero’s dramas demonstrate how such imagery adds to the dramatist’s overall themes of familial, occupational, and social difficulties. Through the death of an infant due to starvation, an obsession with ensaimadas, (a coiled dough pastry) and metaphors of consumption, this play presents the process of disintegration and isolation from the social collective. The culinary imagery in El tragaluz makes manifest the role changes Spaniards experienced as a result of Francisco Franco’s economic policies. In addition, the drama emphasizes a heightened sense of alienation from fellow family members and, by analogy, from society. Buero effectively exposes the conflicts that working-class citizens felt between daily existence and the state-produced vision of normality and uniformity. I propose that through the use of various culinary images, Buero examines such issues as changing roles, estrangement, and the subsequent loss of individual and collective identities in order to contest the singular Spanish identity propagated by Franco.
Atlantic World Foodways Through The Lens of Zora Neale Hurston
Frederick Douglass Opie
In the late 1920s, Zora Neale Hurston began her career as an anthropologist and writer doing fieldwork in Georgia her home state of Florida, and the Caribbean. Hurston, like other African Americans, came from a tradition in which every community had a griot, or storyteller, who had the responsibility to teach the oral history of the older generation to the younger. In her fieldwork, she collected materials based on observations of black migrant workers in sawmill and turpentine camps and made recordings at plantations in the American South and the Caribbean. She also researched blacks in sedentary communities such as her hometown of Eatonville, Florida. The resulting work can best be described as that of a griot rather than a social scientist. Up until this time, white scholars did not see any merit in collecting the kind of African American folklore that attracted Hurston’s attention because they viewed the African American culture she went on to study as useless rubbish. Hurston’s work provides one of the first documented accounts of the African American table. Through her writings, both differences and similarities in black foodways in terms of class, gender, and regions become apparent.
Eighteenth-Century France’s Culinary Transformation of Colonial Terroirs
The word “terroir” has been loosely defined in relation to food as the “taste of place.” Products such as wine and cheese bearing the gustatory stamp of their origin are coveted today by gastronomes looking to enrich the hedonistic culinary experience with an analytic confirmation that foods are authentically marked by their provenance. Yet, in France, the word and concept of terroir were held in opprobrium in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, signifying the rustic or impure character of food and languages, or behavior unfavorably affected by an inurbane patina.
My paper contextualizes terroir at that moment and then queries terroir’s revival in France later in the eighteenth century when colonial and warm-climate products became sought after not only for the flavors, but for the “vigor and vitality” their terroir could bring to the French. One could not however safely enjoy these products without the intervention of the chef, explained writers like Foncemagne, whose job it was to transform foods by “cooking out impurities.” In doing so, the chef made food properly French. In fact, fruits and vegetables qualified as “francs” were those that were cultivated as opposed to wild, and a “vin franc” was specifically a wine that did “not smell of the terroir.”
I demonstrate how, using art and science to cultivate and “purify” products from chocolate to sugar to coffee, pre-Revolutionary French chefs extracted the life force of colonial goods while making colonial terroirs safe and palatable for French consumption.
Domestic negotiations and self-creation in Sandra Cisneros
This presentation explores the gendered roles and domestic space of the Chicanas’ characters presented by Sandra Cisneros in The House of Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek and other Stories.In both collections of stories, the characters enact domestic negotiations (McMahon 2013, Kaplan 2002) that both challenge and reinforce geographical, racial, gender and national borders.
Through her narratives, Cisneros criticizes and brings attention to the binaries domestic/foreign, white/nonwhite, and legal/illegal that have sought to exclude certain communities from belonging in the U.S. Nation. Cisneros’ narrative illuminates domestic representations that create gender, racial or social hierarchies. This presentation will focus on food and its consumption as one classdifferential that plays an important role in racial attribution. Eating certain type of food, wearing business like attire, and the use of standard speech, function and are perceived as markers of superior economic and social class. By focusing on how food is presented in both of these texts, we can investigate how Cisneros’s characters construct their self-creation by reconfiguring the domestic space in order to re-create gender relations and power within and outside the private realm (Mesa-Bains 2003).
Against the (Heritage, Heirloom) Grain: Foodways as Cultural Brand
As Pierre Bourdieu has observed, one of the key “‘inventions’ of Romanticism” was “the representation of culture as a kind of superior reality, irreducible to the vulgar demands of economics”—although, as he adds, this representation was itself a “reactio[n] against the pressures of an anonymous market.” This paper follows Bourdieu in approaching foodways not as a set of cultural objects and practices that are (incidentally or silently) available for purchase, but as commodities that are, intentionally and explicitly, embedded in culture. Taking the lowcountry dish of shrimp and grits as my point of departure, I offer a tour of contemporary southern foodways with a skeptical eye toward both their position within a consumption-driven economy and their embedding in conceptions of the U.S. South. Just as “heritage,” which such foodways are said to deliver, is always a selective and gratifying version of history, so “heirloom” screens the innovative market forces driving the production and consumption of food. Heirloom grains (or tomatoes) are usually exchanged for money, are rarely inherited from grandma, and didn’t exist 50 years ago. Husk Restaurant, which bases its cuisine in “the rediscovery of heirloom products,” articles the paradox with some precision.
In considering the broad effects of market forces on cultural memory, I argue that these are mostly benign. The multiracial genealogies of southern foodways, which typically repress the racial divisions involved historically in the production and consumption of southern food, imagine the South as happily multiracial, and thus offer, at least potentially, a conceptual template for a post-racial melting pot. More practically, the ascendance of foodways in the discourse of culture tends to weaken culture’s coercive force by displacing difference to dishes. If, as a Tennessee pastry chef quoted in Cornbread Nation is to be believed, “sharing a meal connects all walks of life to their common humanity, encouraging appreciation for cultural differences without losing a special place for one’s own.” When cultural differences are reduced to pie form, imagining a common humanity becomes easier.
Food as a tool of reality in Señorita México by Enrique Serna
Hilda Y. Salazar
For many, food is not only nourishment, but a source of pleasure. The enjoyment of food comes at the moment it is consumed, and often at later times when it is remembered. In many occasions when reflecting, the food is not the only thing recalled; with whom it was shared, when, where and other things are evoked. These happy memories are absent in Señorita México by the Mexican writer Enrique Serna. The protagonist, Selene Sepúlveda, tries to construct and share her “happy” life with a reporter during an interview. She divulges fanciful lies to cover her true origins and present state of emotional and physical wear. The reader discovers a more truthful version of her life through an external narrator who uses food to create a more realistic accountof her life. The purpose of this presentation is the exploration of food as a source of veracity in the text; and with it the reader is introduced not to the dream that Selene would like the reader to believe, but the reality/nightmare that she is living and tries to conceal from the public.
Canela: The route and incorporation of soft cinnamon in Mexico
Soft cinnamon, known as canela in Spanish, is a favorite of the Mexican palate. From beverages –such as atole and horchata- to desserts –the bread pudding capirotada– all the way to several moles and medicinal teas, the bark of the cinnamomun verum plant has become a key ingredient in Mexican cooking. So much so, that in 2009 two-thirds of all the cinnamon produced in Sri Lanka was exported just to Mexico.
Having arrived with Columbus on his first voyage, and continuing to make the trip from Spain as part of the culinary repertoire of the conquerors, this project explores how soft cinnamon become such a key element in Mexican cooking. What was it that allowed the bark to insert itself so well into the blend that occurred between pre-hispanic and Spanish dishes and ingredients? How much of this incorporation is a product of the Catholic convents -famed for their role in developing Mexican candies – and how much is it a process that happened in the private houses and markets?
With a focus on beverages and desserts, I attempt to answer the above questions by looking at Mexican recipe collections ranging from the 16th through the 19th Centuries, as well as colonial chronicles, historical literature and the trade routes between the Phillipines, Acapulco and Seville.
Memory, Food, Travel, and Taste: Exploring the Sensory in Gullah Foodways
Katie M. White
Memory, Food, Travel, and Taste: Exploring the Sensory in Gullah Foodways connects Gullah women and foodways with processes of migration, cultural heritage, sustainability, and memory. Drawing on women’s studies, history, anthropology, literature, film, and food studies, this interdisciplinary project looks at the preparation and presentation of food as an integral part of a sustained Gullah culture. Using Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Ntozake Shange’s Sassafras, Cyprus, and Indigo alongside contemporary ethnographic anthropologies of the senses, the work discusses how movement of peoples into and out of the Sea Islands of South Carolina complicates the relationship between the sensory, particularly taste, memory and home. Most importantly, through ethnographic study combined with analyses of cookbooks and other culinary notations, this paper examines the vital role women have played in maintaining Gullah culinary history and the dissemination and sustenance of Gullah culture. It enhances not only our understanding of Gullah culture but also the processes of social and cultural changes necessary to sustain it. Food becomes a site for mapping the traditions, pressures, changes, adaptations, and resistances within a particular racial-ethnic community as it encounters dominant cultures, as well as a site of creativity, pleasure, and survival.
“Preserved for Better Things”: Caribbean Salt Roots and Commodity Communities in The History of Mary Prince
This paper argues that food practices in the 19th century West Indies enable what I call “commodity communities”— ways of recognizing kinship systems in sites of enslavement. The 1831 first-person account The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave Narrative makes visible how women in the West Indies engaged in community formation amid the degenerative and corrosive space of salt water slavery and the physical labor of the salt ponds. In her narrative, Prince constructs a domesticity despite being mobile and enslaved, and her narrative emphasizes kinship formations that are outside traditional/imperial definitions of family and community. My goal is to show how food practices and food systems—in particular Prince’s work in the salt ponds— productively challenges the idea that the colonial Caribbean was solely a site of labor rather than cultural production. I locate commodity communities and their connection to food production as the root and route of creolized forms of culture that show the making and remaking of creolized domesticity, community, and cultural production in the Atlantic World. In shifting our thinking from commodity chains (the unilateral movement of goods and raw materials from colony to metropole) to commodity communities, we can uncover 19th century Caribbean voices of those enslaved and further recognize their role to shaping an Atlantic economy and an Atlantic aesthetic.
“Calas, bels calas tout chauds!”: Race, Gender, and Street Food Culture in Nineteenth Century New Orleans
Ashley Rose Young
This paper explores the pivotal role of enslaved women in the making of nineteenth century Southern foodways through a study of their roles as street food vendors, and in particular, as calas vendors (calas are deep fried rice cakes traditionally sold in the streets of New Orleans). These women, who were not often fortunate enough to occupy the coveted stalls in the French Market, clustered on street corners and cried out to passers-by, entreating them to purchase piping hot calas. They were quintessential entrepreneurs in the public marketplace, which served as a meeting ground for the city’s diverse urban population—a key space where the daily rituals of consumption bonded community members together.
As street vendors, calas vendors expertly prepared the baked goods they sold on the streets of New Orleans while also maintaining the urban gardens that supplied their raw ingredients. They planted, harvested, and fixed the fresh and prepared foods they sold. I argue that through their food entrepreneurism, these vendors continually shaped Southern cuisine by incorporating West African, Caribbean, Latin American, and European traditions into preexisting creolized Southern dishes such as calas. I highlight the intrinsically Atlantic nature of New Orleans’s foodways by contextualizing calas vendors within the food economy of one of America’s most important port cities. In placing these women at the heart of my study, it is clear that they played a pivotal role in proliferating creolized Atlantic foodways not only within their local communities but also along the expansive Atlantic trade networks that fueled New Orleans’ broader economy.
A Room of Their Own: Women of Color and the Louisiana Creole Kitchen
Berlisha Morton and Danielle Klein
It has been documented that food items such as okra, rice, and hot peppers traveled from West Africa to Louisiana during the Atlantic Slave Trade. However, another West African transplant, the detached kitchen, has not been given significant consideration in regards to its influence on the development of Louisiana foodways. In a journey through space and time, the West African detached kitchen evolved into the Louisiana Creole kitchen and its primary occupants were women of color. In tropes about Louisiana foodways, women of color have been stereotyped into the space of the Creole kitchen, but the power these women wielded is not acknowledged. We argue this exclusion was made possible by the Creole kitchen’s move from an autonomous space physically detached from the main house during the colonial era to a confined place inside of the home during the antebellum era. This process mimicked the Occidental project of power’s goals to constrain and define the bodies and roles of women of color. To that end, this paper names the Louisiana Creole kitchen as a space and place where foodways are acted out and impacted by the historical intersections of gender, race, class, power, and religion. While patrilineal power structures have written women of color out of the Creole kitchen and replaced them with mammy stereotypes, we explore in greater detail the figure of the Creole mammy and reconsider her as a pedagogue who transforms the Creole kitchen into a fluid learning space.
From Market to Kitchen: Public History and Women Food Entrepreneurs in the US South
This presentation explores the place of women as food entrepreneurs, the telling of their stories, and the collection and presentation of the artifacts of material culture through which to tell and document the story. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is an interface between the public and (a) the spirits of the women who worked in a place – thus requiring a communication of the place, (b) the culture that the women come from and reflect as well as the culture that they change – thus requiring a communication of culture, (c) the work that the women actually perform, the products they produce – thus requiring a method for communicating this work and the work product, and (d) the influence that the women had on their time and our time.
How to be the bridge between the past and the present, accurately telling the story, and being careful to include the untold stories is a constant and changing challenge. And knowing what of all of the potential artifacts should be chosen for inclusion in an exhibit and chosen for safekeeping to represent history for future visitors requires much analysis and understanding of history. How and why to make the decisions form a methodology that reflects the issues of public history.