A Historian’s Take On Food and Food Politics
“Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize,” is an oft-repeated slogan.
Well, our grannies were born sometime from 1880 to 1970. That may seem a pretty long period and so it is. Historically speaking though, it’s massively unrepresentative of most of culinary (kitchen) history.
These grannies all came into a world in which they could count on at least some industrial foods, in which they could shop for food on city streets, and in which their nationality shaped what they ate.
Behind the last three to six generations stand some seven hundred earlier generations. They toiled as hard to prepare food by hand as they did to grow the raw materials, they depended on the limited and precarious foods grown within a few miles from their dwellings, and their class did more to shape what they ate than their nationality.
In Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History (2013) analyzes how entire populations in the richer parts of the world today eat as well as, actually better than the greatest emperors of the past.
I was delighted that the New York Review of Books described it as “a triumph,” and the (London) Times Literary Supplement as “magnificent.”
My work has also appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Times Literary Supplement, Scientific American, the LA Times, Saveur, and Utne Reader as well as numerous academic journals.
I have had an academic career as a historian and philosopher of science and technology (CV Rachel Laudan 2016); a childhood on a farm; and the chance to live for extended periods of time on five continents.
My research on food history has made me an unabashed, though not uncritical enthusiast about modern food. Most of what I talk about on my blog revolves around that.
I love comments, discussion, and criticism (constructive, of course).