Tag Archives: food

THE ENSLAVED CHEFS WHO INVENTED SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

26 Jul

“We need to forget about this so we can heal,” said an elderly white woman, as she left my lecture on the history of enslaved cooks and their influence on American cuisine.  Something I said, or perhaps everything I said, upset her.

My presentation covered 300 years of American history that started with the forced enslavement of millions of Africans, and which still echoes in our culture today, from the myth of the “happy servant” (think Aunt Jemima on the syrup bottle) to the broader marketing of black servitude (as in TV commercials for Caribbean resorts, targeted at white American travelers). I delivered the talk to an audience of 30 at the Maier Museum of Art in Lynchburg, Virginia. While I had not anticipated the woman’s displeasure, trying to forget is not an uncommon response to the unsettling tale of the complicated roots of our history, and particularly some of our beloved foods.

So begins Kelley Fanto Deetz’s essay at Zocalo Public Square about slave chefs and Southern hospitality. You may read the entire essay here.

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Ice Cream Saloons?

27 Jun

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On August 28, 1900, Rebecca Israel decided to treat herself to dinner at Cafe Boulevard, a fashionable restaurant in the heart of Manhattan’s Jewish theater district. Despite being polite and well-dressed, Rebecca was refused a table and asked to leave. The restaurant’s owner, Igantz Rosenfeld, had a strict policy against serving women who were unaccompanied by men. Rebecca sued him for discrimination, but the case was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in 1903.

Throughout the 19th century, restaurants catered to a predominately male clientele. Much like taverns and gentlemen’s clubs, they were places where men went to socialize, discuss business, and otherwise escape the responsibilities of work and home. It was considered inappropriate for women to dine alone, and those who did were assumed to be prostitutes. Given this association, unescorted women were banned from most high-end restaurants and generally did not patronize taverns, chophouses, and other masculine haunts.

As American cities continued to expand, it became increasingly inconvenient for women to return home for midday meals. The growing demand for ladies’ lunch spots inspired the creation of an entirely new restaurant: the ice-cream saloon. At a time when respectable women were excluded from much of public life, these decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk.

You may read the rest of Jessica Gingrich’s fascinating historical piece at Atlas Obscura here.

A History of Pizza

26 Jun

Fast food outlet: a Neapolitan pizza seller, 19th century.

Pizza is the world’s favourite fast food. We eat it everywhere – at home, in restaurants, on street corners. Some three billion pizzas are sold each year in the United States alone, an average of 46 slices per person. But the story of how the humble pizza came to enjoy such global dominance reveals much about the history of migration, economics and technological change.

So begins Alexander Lee’s concise “slice” of the history of pizza. You may read the rest of his piece at History Today here.

How Pumpkin Pie Sparked a 19th-Century Culture War

23 Nov

 

Thanksgiving in Union camp sketched on 28 November 1861, believed to be the camp of General Louis Blenker.

Thanksgiving in Union camp sketched on 28 November 1861, believed to be the camp of General Louis Blenker. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/ LC-DIG-PPMSCA-21210

Although meant to unify people, the 19th-century campaign to make Thanksgiving a permanent holiday was seen by prominent Southerners as a culture war. They considered it a Northern holiday intended to force New England values on the rest of the country. To them, pumpkin pie, a Yankee food, was a deviously sweet symbol of anti-slavery sentiment.

So notes Ariel Knoebel in her engaging post at Atlas Obscura. You can read her entire post here.

 

 

For Thanksgiving feasts, celery and olives used to be featured

20 Nov

Celery and olives.

From the late 1800s until the 1960s, these two foods — which usually only come together in the murky depths of a Bloody Mary — were a must on seasonally decorated tables in homes across America.

So begins Hilary Sargent’s concise food history of celery, olives, and Thanksgiving meals. Read the rest of her account at Boston.com here.

The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too

1 Nov

The protest movement Luther launched 500 years ago revamped not only how Europe worshipped but how it drank. We’d call him the patron saint of beer except, well, he wouldn’t like the “saint” part.

Source: The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too : The Salt : NPR

The Illustrious History of the Avocado

24 May

Avocados had an important place in Mesoamerican peoples’ diet, mythology, and culture. It’s possible that they were eaten in Mexico 10,000 years ago. Digest this concise history of the avocado by Erin Blakemore at JSTOR Daily: The Illustrious History of the Avocado | JSTOR Daily

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