I have colleagues who have written articles and books on food history. I don’t consider food history one of my main subfields, but I’ve learned a lot from food historians, and their work has been incredibly useful to me as a historian who works on the intersections of ethnicity, religion, gender, and identity. I’ve learned a lot recently, for example, on the consumption of dog meat by Native peoples in the Americas, and how Wabanaki people might have survived on gathered foods in the Maine woods, winter and summer. (If you find yourself in need of a North woods cure for scurvy, I’m your gal.) The pretext for all of this Survivor Woman: colonial edition research is that I’m writing some book chapters about a little girl right now, and I’m interested in her food ecologies because I think food would probably have been something of urgent and pressing interest to her, especially because I’m coming to the conclusion that she was probably hungry more often than she wasn’t.
All of this seems connected to Anglachel’s “A Taste of Things to Come,” a personal essay about food, social staus, and identity. Here are a few excerpts, but you should just read the whole thing:
I think a lot about food.
I think about what it was like to grow up not being able to afford the kind of food “normal” people ate.I think about cans from charity. I think about having to shop at cut-rate food stores, buy day-old (“used” in my family’s lexicon) bread, have only non-fat dry milk on the shelf, cheap off-brand margarines on sandwiches, big cans of peanut butter we had to stir to keep the oil from separating, and lunch boxes that had books in them because sometimes there wasn’t lunch. I think about a mother too far gone in depression to care what she served her family. I think proudly about eating Hamburger Helper because I could make it myself and have it ready when Dad got home. I think about the way our meals improved as Dad finally got seniority at his job and his pay inched up. I look at the pantry shelf and wonder if I’m hoarding again.
I think a lot about food.
I think about the varying quality of produce between the IGA, the Trader Joe’s the Ralph’s and the Henry’s Market where I live. I remember, living in New York as a grad student, walking around Balducci’s, eyeing the perfect red bell peppers, then sighing and going to D’Agostino’s or the A&P.
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I think about the way in which grocery stores and shopping lists become political markers of having “made it.”
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