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Food in Time and Place

Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History

Paul Freedman
Joyce E. Chaplin
Ken Albala
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Food in Time and Place
    Book Description:

    Food and cuisine are important subjects for historians across many areas of study. Food, after all, is one of the most basic human needs and a foundational part of social and cultural histories. Such topics as famines, food supply, nutrition, and public health are addressed by historians specializing in every era and every nation.Food in Time and Placedelivers an unprecedented review of the state of historical research on food, endorsed by the American Historical Association, providing readers with a geographically, chronologically, and topically broad understanding of food cultures-from ancient Mediterranean and medieval societies to France and its domination of haute cuisine. Teachers, students, and scholars in food history will appreciate coverage of different thematic concerns, such as transfers of crops, conquest, colonization, immigration, and modern forms of globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95934-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  6. Introduction: Food History as a Field
    (pp. 1-18)

    Perhaps the most personally useful historical lesson for students is that career paths are circuitous and unpredictable. Like most of my colleagues in this book, I am quite sure that as an undergraduate (in my case, in the late 1960s) I would have been very surprised to learn that over forty years later I would be writing an introduction to an AHA-sponsored collection on the state of food history. That I would turn out to be a historian would have been less surprising, as I had had good high school teachers who seduced us would-be intellectuals with soft paperback copies...


    • CHAPTER 1 Premodern Europe
      (pp. 21-40)

      In the two thousand year span on which this chapter focuses, there is scarcely a topic that cannot be discussed as essentially concerned with food. This is hardly surprising since growing, processing, and consuming food has been the preoccupation of most people on earth until very recently. Nonetheless, the traditional historical focus on topics such as war, the rise and fall of empires and great leaders, social strife, and great intellectual movements has obscured the fact that human history is at its very core about obtaining basic nourishment. This is true not only of ordinary people but even of powerful...

    • CHAPTER 2 China
      (pp. 41-67)
      E. N. ANDERSON

      The recorded history of food in China may be said to go back to ancient times, when somewhat folkloric stories of famous chefs were enshrined in the standard histories written in the Warring States period (481–221 b.c.e.). Serious, detailed attention to food continued throughout Chinese history.

      Chinese food is traditionally divided into northern and southern, the north being wheat based (with noodles, dumplings, and breads), the south rice based. The south is then subdivided into three: east, west and south. The core of the east is the Yangzi Delta, with a variety of sea foods and a tendency to...

    • CHAPTER 3 India
      (pp. 68-94)

      In India, as in other societies, food is one of the central elements of culture and reflects the social and economic structure of society. Any discussion of the subcontinent’s food traditions, therefore, needs to be mapped onto its cultural, economic, environmental, and sociological features. India’s great size and immense diversity belie broad generalizations. In geographical terms, it contains long stretches of coastal land, in conjunction with thickly forested inland regions, mountainous territories, arid deserts, and great stretches of plains crisscrossed by rivers—a diversity that has shaped food availability and agricultural techniques. Social and cultural diversity has contributed greatly to...

    • CHAPTER 4 Out of Africa: A Brief Guide to African Food History
      (pp. 95-106)

      Balkanized by Victorian politicians at the 1884 Berlin Conference, disparaged by ethnographers of the same period, and laid open to colonial acquisition and subsequent imperial incursions, the African continent remains under-acknowledged and unsung. The continent, though, provides some of humanity’s earliest food history and also offers indications of some of the world’s pressing contemporary food issues and innovative food solutions.

      The African continent is one of astonishing diversity. It is made up of hundreds of ethnic groups speaking a Babel of languages and is of such a geographical vastness that no one can truly claim to understand the whole. Over...

    • CHAPTER 5 Middle Eastern Food History
      (pp. 107-119)

      The Middle East refers primarily to the Fertile Crescent of Syria and Iraq together with neighboring Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. Because of the cultural unity provided by Islam in this overwhelmingly Muslim part of the world, North Africa is regarded as part of the Middle East. Agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent, and early domesticates still predominate in the local cuisines. Wheat is still the chief grain (except in Iran and southern Iraq, where rice arrived in the early Middle Ages); sheep and goats are the primary meat and dairy animals; and chickpeas, lentils, and favas remain major sources of...

    • CHAPTER 6 Latin American Food between Export Liberalism and the Vía Campesina
      (pp. 120-141)

      Latin America is widely regarded as a land of exotic civilizations and export agriculture. The Aztecs, Maya, and Inka are renowned for their ancient grandeur, while bananas, coffee, and chocolate from the region appear regularly on the breakfast table. These are just stereotypes, but they do illustrate a central theme of Latin American history: the exploitation of indigenous communities in order to produce commodities that are consumed somewhere else. Indeed, that story of oppression is about the only mention that Latin America receives in many world history textbooks.¹ Yet there are more positive lessons that can be learned by studying...

    • CHAPTER 7 Food and the Material Origins of Early America
      (pp. 142-164)

      The most important recent development in early American food history is perfectly disgusting if also somewhat reassuring. In the spring of 2013, archeologists of the Jamestown Fort in Virginia, site of the first permanent Anglo-American settlement, introduced the world to “Jane.” The female remains that went by this name are interesting for food historians because they had been cannibalized after death, with telltale signs of flesh having been removed from bone. Flesh and brains, that is, and the latter was the (faintly) reassuring aspect of the grisly case: the cannibals had twice attempted to open Jane’s skull to extract her...

    • CHAPTER 8 Food in Recent U.S. History
      (pp. 165-187)

      Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested in his 1966 essay “The Culinary Triangle” that relationships with food are one of the few universal truths of human activity.¹ Civilizations rise and fall with the success of agricultural technologies; wars are waged and won on the stomachs of soldiers; modern citizens challenge their governments through their food choices. Just as gathering, preparing, and eating food frames our daily lives, it also profoundly shapes national, global, and cultural histories. Because it is such a necessary element for life, food access has a direct link to social and political power, making its history an ideal subject...

    • CHAPTER 9 Influence, Sources, and African Diaspora Foodways
      (pp. 188-208)

      I define foodways as the study of how recipes, cooking and eating methods, and traditions develop over time. By the 1700s, shortly after the start of colonization in the Caribbean, European planters became the minority to African slaves. In Jamaica, planters supplied slaves with weekly rations of salt cod, but slaves also negotiated access to small parcels of land set aside to cultivate produce. Many of the planters remained so focused on returning to England wealthy that they made little effort to re-create British culture and, instead, slaves were allowed to retain and cultivate an African cooking aesthetic. For years...

    • CHAPTER 10 Migration, Transnational Cuisines, and Invisible Ethnics
      (pp. 209-230)

      Territorial presumptions about culture have been challenged by research on interconnected histories, borderlands, and oceans.¹ Drawing on that work, I contend that food traditions are as much a matter of movement and emplacement, as they are of roots. National figures often excise migrants from their cultural sphere with arguments about belonging, yet the construction of place-based food cultures, developed without acknowledging the significance of immigrant habitation, can produce virulent locavorism. For instance, Northern Leaguers in Italy mobilize around slogans of “polenta, not couscous” to exclude doner kebab sellers from the city-center in Lucca, and Mikkel Dencker, of the Danish People’s...


    • CHAPTER 11 The French Invention of Modern Cuisine
      (pp. 233-252)

      Assigning beginnings always provokes debate, and never more so than with cultural practices and products. For strict constructionists it makes little sense to talk about the “invention” of any cultural phenomenon, much less one as complex as French cuisine. At the mere suggestion of a definitive origin, any historian worth the salt on the table will come up with a precedent or at the very least an antecedent to challenge any starting point.

      Yet invention is a concept that, apparently, we cannot do without. The more significant the product, the more ardently we look for origins. Such is the case...

    • CHAPTER 12 Restaurants
      (pp. 253-275)

      The average American devotes about one-half of all his or her food expenditures to restaurant meals, and 75 percent of the population eats outside the home at least once a week. An extraordinary surge in dining out has taken place over recent decades in the United States, but the world leader is Japan, where 196 meals per year are consumed in restaurants (the figure for the United States is 119).¹ The restaurant industry hires more people in the United States than any other segment of the economy except for government. Developing (especially newly prosperous) economies have seen radical increases in...

    • CHAPTER 13 Cookbooks as Resources for Social History
      (pp. 276-300)

      We humans have probably been talking about food for nearly as long as we have had language. For most of that time the conversations were not written down. Until the early modern period most of the people, men and women, who cooked and baked and preserved were illiterate or bound to silence by trade secrets. Cookbooks are the scarce, flawed, irreplaceable records of some of these voices, some of those realms of knowledge. Some cookbooks were written before any conventions established what a cookbook or a recipe should contain; some were patched together by foraging in the writings of other...


    • CHAPTER 14 The Revolt against Homogeneity
      (pp. 303-321)

      This essay focuses on the modern tensions between defining food (and drink) as a commodity versus as a good, as well as the implications of that choice for practices and perceptions.¹ Defining food as a commodity uses the narrow lens of modern capitalist economics: a commodity is something produced to be bought and sold in the marketplace purely as an economic transaction, providing profit for the producer and a needed service for the consumer. When food is defined solely as a commodity, use value and exchange value are conflated, whereas considering food as a good permits greater diversity of meaning....

    • CHAPTER 15 Food and Popular Culture
      (pp. 322-339)

      Few drinks can claim a more iconic and enduring presence in popular culture and the global imagination than champagne. This product has been the object of historical analyses of its origins, the changes of its flavor profile over time, the heated political debates that accompanied the definition of its area of production, and the role played by economics and global trade in determining its success. However, aspects of champagne’s unique story would risk being overlooked if research neglected its presence in popular culture, which has reflected and reinforced its prestige. Mentioned in theatrical productions as early as 1698, in the...

    • CHAPTER 16 Post-1945 Global Food Developments
      (pp. 340-364)

      This chapter focuses on one big question: How can we possibly seize the fast and wide-ranging changes of our food since the late 1940s? Keywords of this chapter would indeed lead to an endless enumeration because of the richness, coverage, and complexity of reflecting on foodways since 1945. To illustrate these changes, I have used the hundreds of keywords that typify the papers that deal with the twentieth century published in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in two journals:Food, Culture and SocietyandFood and History. The outcome is far-reaching and truly mixed, but also somewhat discouraging precisely because of...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 365-368)
  11. Index
    (pp. 369-396)