Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2012

Department

History

Abstract

Food is material and familiar, and because it is, we are often overconfident about our ability to understand the culinary past. It is easy to believe that if we can discover the recipe for some forgotten dish, the history of the dish becomes intelligible. When it does not, it tempts those who consume culinary history to impose modern sensibilities on our predecessors. The Nation before Taste" argues that historians and museum curators must be especially vigilant when presenting the history of food. Reviewing a series of historical challenges that stemmed from studying the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the author suggests three strategies for grounding food history in the past: recognizing that taste is constructed and temporal; engaging with material and social contexts, especially physiology, class, and gender; and admitting to our audiences that not all culinary mysteries have immediate or simple answers.

Publication Title

Public Historian

Volume

34

Issue

2

First Page

53

Last Page

78

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