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The Larder

The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the American South

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    The Larder
    Book Description:

    The sixteen essays in The Larder argue that the study of food does not simply help us understand more about what we eat and the foodways we embrace. The methods and strategies herein help scholars use food and foodways as lenses to examine human experience. The resulting conversations provoke a deeper understanding of our overlapping, historically situated, and evolving cultures and societies. The Larder presents some of the most influential scholars in the discipline today, from established authorities such as Psyche Williams-Forson to emerging thinkers such as Rien T. Fertel, writing on subjects as varied as hunting, farming, and marketing, as well as examining restaurants, iconic dishes, and cookbooks. Editors John T. Edge, Elizabeth Engelhardt, and Ted Ownby bring together essays that demonstrate that food studies scholarship, as practiced in the American South, sets methodological standards for the discipline. The essayists ask questions about gender, race, and ethnicity as they explore issues of identity and authenticity. And they offer new ways to think about material culture, technology, and the business of food. The Larder is not driven by nostalgia. Reading such a collection of essays may not encourage food metaphors. "It's not a feast, not a gumbo, certainly not a home-cooked meal," Ted Ownby argues in his closing essay. Instead, it's a healthy step in the right direction, taken by the leading scholars in the field.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4652-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Redrawing the Grocery: Practices and Methods for Studying Southern Food
    (pp. 1-6)

    As scholars of the U.S. South and southern food, my coeditors and I frequently engage popular and academic audiences. Recently I taught a class on southern food studies for adult learners in Austin, Texas. Attended by eight adults and one ten-year-old, the class was part of a program designed to encourage older and low-income men and women to apply for college admission.¹ The adults’ ages ranged from the thirties to the seventies. They were single parents, retirees on fixed incomes, immigrants starting over at the bottom of their chosen fields, everyday men and women who recently pulled themselves out of...


    • [PART 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 7-9)

      JOHN EGERTON kicked off the modern era of southern food studies with an epic regional road trip. He catalogued the recipes, cookbooks, restaurants, and forgotten cooks of the region. In 1987’s Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History, he foreshadowed the concentration on cookbooks and recipes that has since dominated food studies. In the popular vein, Scott Peacock, a white Alabamian, and Edna Lewis, a black Virginian, wrote a 2003 book, The Gift of Southern Cooking, that made connections across races, eras, and stereotypes. Cookbooks have been helpful in building theoretical frameworks for judging when and where national...

    • CHAPTER 1 “Everybody Seemed Willing to Help”: The Picayune Creole Cook Book as Battleground, 1900–2008
      (pp. 10-31)

      In 1900, for just twenty-five cents, a freshly published copy of the “compendium of our local culinary science . . . an authentic and complete account of the Creole kitchen” could be obtained from any New Orleans newsstand. The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, boasted a promotional article in the Daily Picayune, would be “the first that has even been attempted, and probably the only one that can ever be made.” The demographics of New Orleans were shifting rapidly. The formerly enslaved people who toiled in the kitchens of their masters, including the many who continued to do so as freedwomen...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Were Worried: Transforming Domestic Skills into Saleable Commodities in Texas
      (pp. 32-56)

      The women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church were worried. Their fine new building in downtown Waco, Texas, was nine years old, and the congregation remained in debt. They pledged as a group to raise the great sum of $800 to help reduce the church’s financial embarrassment. But they had a problem. What could they, as upper-class white women, do to raise money? An unidentified person suggested publishing and selling a book of household hints and recipes, and in June 1888 the 328-page Household Manual and Practical Cook Book appeared. The women must have been pleased with their venture, for they...

    • CHAPTER 3 Prospecting for Oil
      (pp. 57-75)

      Of all the quests that early American farmers and horticulturists pursued, none was more enduring and consequential than the pursuit of culinary oils and fats—something less expensive and more suitable for salad dressing than melted lard. From Thomas Jefferson’s failed attempts to grow olive trees in Albemarle County, Virginia, to David Wesson’s labors in the laboratory to free cottonseed oil of its natural stink, the history of experiments is a fascinating chronicle of popular taste, economic ambition, and food chemistry. It begins in the attempt to acclimatize the best-tasting oil-producing plants of the Old World to the North American...

    • CHAPTER 4 Bodies of the Dead: The Wild in Southern Foodways
      (pp. 76-94)

      Among the papers of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission a worn clipping cries, “Water Valley Hides Bodies Of Its ‘Dead!’ Merovka Fails to Find Slaughtered Geese Slain on City’s Streets.” The story goes that on a winter night in 1932, a dense fog forced a flock of wild geese—probably Canada geese—to land in the northern Mississippi town. Citizens reacted with sticks and roasting pans. Effective game laws and enforcement were new to Mississippi at the time, but a citywide goose clubbing drew attention even then. Lawrence Merovka, one of only a handful of federal wardens in the...


    • [PART 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 95-98)

      IN THIS SECTION, we bring individual and community voices into the conversation. Beth Latshaw, Justin Nystrom, Rayna Green, and Tom Hanchett employ quantitative and qualitative social science survey methods, rigorous oral history project design, labor analyses, demographic observations, and close readings of festivals and celebrations to rethink food studies as community studies. Read together, they make a case that new understandings emerge from a careful analysis of food communities in local and regional settings.

      Most recent southern studies anthologies begin with explorations of how the South used to be viewed with a sense of stability and certainty. Next, they point...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Soul of the South: Race, Food, and Identity in the American South
      (pp. 99-127)

      When I bring up my research on southern foodways, I am consistently asked two central questions: first, why study food, and second, why study food in relation to the American South? To begin, in the twenty-first century, it seems nearly impossible to ignore the omnipresence of food in American popular culture, illuminating an association between eating habits, food preferences, and culture—an association presumed to be ubiquitous and deep, but oft en taken for granted.¹ Furthermore, food is inevitably intertwined and intimately related to numerous aspects of social life and more “traditional” topics of social investigation.² For instance, poverty, unemployment,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Italian New Orleans and the Business of Food in the Immigrant City: There’s More to the Muffuletta than Meets the Eye
      (pp. 128-154)

      “I was just a kid back then,” recalled John Gendusa. “My father had a route down in St. Bernard, so I would go with him down in St. Bernard. And we’d go down to the sugar refinery. . . . All these places had restaurants, [lots] of places up and down the river.” He remembered an old lady at the refinery’s lunchroom who would always give him a pork chop to eat, because she thought he was too skinny. Perched in the passenger seat with pork chop in hand, he and his father would make the rounds. “[We] took hundreds...

    • CHAPTER 7 Mother Corn and the Dixie Pig: Native Food in the Native South
      (pp. 155-165)

      Native food is in the news. Every day. All over the country, except in the South, farmers, chefs, environmentalists, and food writers are excited about Native food and foodways. That excitement usually comes from a “discovery” (or rediscovery) of the many virtues of old “slow” foods in the now hip vernacular—local, fresh, and seasonal foods that are good for you, good for the land, and good for the small food producer. Often, these rediscovered foods come from “Native” varieties that seed savers, naturalists, nutritionists, and Indians have propped up, from animals that regulators, commercial producers, and advocates have brought...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Salad Bowl City: The Food Geography of Charlotte, North Carolina
      (pp. 166-184)

      Exploring foodways can open up fresh perspectives on wider society. In my neighborhood along Central Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina, ethnic restaurants and grocery stores started popping up in the 1990s. Today at the corner of Central and Rosehaven, you can park your car amid a jumble of little shopping plazas and walk to a Vietnamese grocery and two Vietnamese restaurants, a Mexican grocery and a taqueria, a Salvadoran deli and two Salvadoran eateries, a Somali restaurant and grocery, an Ethiopian bar-restaurant-nightclub, and a Lebanese grocery-restaurant. It’s a delightful place to sample unfamiliar cuisines. It turns out also to be...


    • [PART 3 Introduction]
      (pp. 185-187)

      SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, GEOGRAPHY, and social constructions frame this section. When humanities scholars of food studies first looked to kindred disciplines for methodological inspiration, we learned from our colleagues in the fields of nutrition and family and consumer sciences. Historians such as Harvey Levenstein, Laura Shapiro, and Mary Hoffeschelle traced Progressive Era cooking school curricula. They examined the standardization of measurements, nutritional guidelines, and taste in home economics programs. And they explored the gendered and racialized expectations reflected in medical language of daintiness, pungency, and healthiness.

      Such efforts helped clarify the social construction of medicine and science that resulted in recommended...

    • CHAPTER 9 Eating Technology at Krispy Kreme
      (pp. 188-215)

      The social historian E. P. Thompson has argued that food should be understood not as a solid material for consumption but rather as a process within which every point offers “radiating complexities.”¹ Thompson’s analysis concerns the dynamics of a working-class food revolt, yet his metaphor remains useful in considering how the act of eating engages an individual with the social processes embedded in production, labor, and consumption. We can easily think of food as a taste or unit of energy dissemination; yet when we eat we also ingest, literally, the cultural practices of how food is produced. Our decision, then,...

    • CHAPTER 10 “America’s Place for Inclusion”: Stories of Food, Labor, and Equality at the Waffle House
      (pp. 216-239)

      “Love it. Martin Luther King had a dream, and I think Waffle House was in it,” declares singer-songwriter John Mayer.¹ According to Waffle House’s chairman Joe Rogers Jr., in the introduction of Inc, Waffle House’s corporate magazine, Waffle House is not simply “Good Food, Fast” or even “America’s Place to Work, America’s Place to Eat” but also “America’s Place for Inclusion.”² While the claims Mayer and Rogers made about the profound national position of the Waffle House may be hyperbolic and even off-putting, these statements reflect the way Waffle House fans and Waffle House Incorporated consistently present the all-night diner...

    • CHAPTER 11 “The Customer Is Always White”: Food, Race, and Contested Eating Space in the South
      (pp. 240-272)

      In 1964 Ollie’s Barbecue sat at the intersection of Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue South in Birmingham, Alabama. Ollie’s was a white-owned restaurant that offered table seating to white-collar businessmen and white families. Barbecue, nonalcoholic beverages, and homemade pies made up the majority of the restaurant’s sales. After almost forty years in business, the restaurant had been passed down through three generations of the McClung family. The current proprietors, Ollie McClung Sr. and his son, professed to run a business guided by their religious and family-oriented principles. They did not serve alcohol, they did not open on Sundays, and they...


    • [PART 4 Introduction]
      (pp. 273-275)

      DOES A CARROT GROWN TODAY taste the same as one grown a hundred years ago? Do the pots, pans, and cookbooks of our past represent the most or least used kitchen equipment? How do we “read” the food story if we have only have photographs and postcards? Can we approximate the sights and sounds and smells of the markets, kitchens, and tables? Can we account for their codification of southern cuisines? The articles in this section argue that all of these approaches are possible when using material cultures to study southern foodways.

      A cast-iron pot from the 1890s; seven black-and-white...

    • CHAPTER 12 The “Stuff” of Southern Food: Food and Material Culture in the American South
      (pp. 276-311)

      It is late December and bitterly cold on the farm where my husband grew up in Warren County, Mississippi. The sky is steely gray, and it feels like it may snow. Two horses graze in the field below the house. A screen door slams, and Bill calls to me, “Lunch is ready.” I come downstairs, passing the old De Muth “Improved Dough and Beaten Biscuit Machine” that sits on the brick breezeway between the house and the garage. The porch swing stands idle in the cold weather. Cast-iron pots of different sizes are filled with parsley and chives, herbs that...

    • CHAPTER 13 The Dance of Culinary Patriotism: Material Culture and the Performance of Race with Southern Food
      (pp. 312-332)

      World War II powerfully influenced American farming and food production. Shortly after the war began, food rationing became mandatory. Ration books were the order of the day. Continuing the World War I theme of “Food will win the war,” farmers and factories increased production to grow “army and navy men [of] rugged health and courage.” As medical doctor Thomas Parren made clear, “every drop of milk, every egg, every legume, every pound of meat and of fish [that could be produced] for Anglo-American nutrition, plus substantial quantities of animal and vegetable fats, fish liver oils, and certain vitamins [were needed].”¹...

    • CHAPTER 14 “I’m Talkin’ ’Bout the Food I Sells”: African American Street Vendors and the Sound of Food from Noise to Nostalgia
      (pp. 333-342)

      Food easily appeals to four of the five senses: the feel of the soft fuzz of a ripe peach, the juicy taste of a sun-heated tomato, the sight of a dew-drenched bush laden with blueberries, or the pungent aroma of a fiery habanero. Sound, though, is usually left out of the culinary equation. The sizzle of a steak on the grill or the tinkling sound of Moroccan mint tea poured from on high or the clink of glasses in a toast may well be evocative. But the best “text” waiting to be discovered comes from the generations of vendors, both...


    • [PART 5 Introduction]
      (pp. 343-344)

      THE FINAL PIECES in this collection, Andrew Warnes’s “Edgeland Terroir: Authenticity and Invention in New Southern Foodways Strategy” and the conclusion by Ted Ownby, take a close and critical look at the southern food studies enterprise. Both explore the role of theory and metacriticism in the methodologies of food studies.

      Warnes finds much to celebrate and much to approach with caution. He points out a collective temptation to see functioning communities, to romanticize easy cross-racial, cross-gender, cross-class affiliations, and to overstate the connections fostered by the study and consumption of food. Warnes criticizes the increasingly common misreadings of American studies...

    • CHAPTER 15 Edgeland Terroir: Authenticity and Invention in New Southern Foodways Strategy
      (pp. 345-362)

      In the pages that follow I would like to reflect a little on my monograph Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America’s First Food (2008). I would like to do this in order to offer some ideas about an area to which, I believe, the emerging discipline of southern food studies would do well to give deep thought over the coming years. Focusing on what I now recognize to be a source of scholarly confusion reflected in Savage Barbecue, the following observations in particular concern the relationship between this emerging discipline and the neighboring fields of southern studies...

    • CHAPTER 16 Conclusion: Go Forth with Method
      (pp. 363-370)

      I write to offer a few reflections on these essays, not as a scholar with training or teaching experience in foodways, but as a southern historian who has been observing the rise of southern foodways as a field. Some years ago, when the Southern Foodways Alliance began offering programming that challenged the boundaries between academics and others, I was excited by the possibilities of scholars, journalists, food professionals, and everyone else sharing discussions of food and the questions food can raise. I still find that exciting, and the good news is there are far more foodways scholars now, far more...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 371-374)
  11. Index
    (pp. 375-388)