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Political Appetites: Revolution, Taste, and Culinary Activism in the Early Republic

August 3, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm |

We invite CHS members and visitors to join us for a brown bag lunch talk with Nancy Siegel, Ph.D., New England Regional Fellowship Consortium Fellow and Professor of Art History and Coordinator of Museum Studies, Towson University.

Her  brown bag talk will examine the creation, naming, and function of comestibles in American culinary history as an expression of nationalism and patriotic sentiment from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. From ladies’ tea boycotts in the mid eighteenth century, to the creation and use of homebrews such as Liberty Tea, to the development of a vast number of individual recipes with patriotic associations—such actions bring attention to a segment of American culinary history that require attention. The creation and naming of recipes in American cookery books by women who developed these recipes furthered the causes of republican values as part of a domestic ideology. This culinary vocabulary often occurred in the gendered space of the kitchen, where hostesses prepared sweet treats for their guests in praise of the new and fragile nation, with names such as Democratic Tea Cake, Washington Pie, Franklin Buns, Lafayette Gingerbread, and Jackson Jumbles to name just a few. Women, in particular, as communicators of social and cultural mores, became culinary activists authoring cookbooks that functioned as both educational tools in the areas of literacy, social instruction, and domestic reform in addition to providing a platform for promoting democratic ideals. Likewise, agricultural productivity would become a vibrant symbol of the success of democracy in a post-revolutionary environment. With a decided nod to Enlightenment ideals, horticulture as a branch of intellectual inquiry developed as an important field of study in America for political as well as economic reasons while in the scientific community the propagation of native fruits and vegetables was coupled with a strong desire to promote American varietals. Such nationalistic associations with food allowed for poignant expressions of commitment to the new nation. In their own ways, these culinary activities codified and spread the themes of republican values in a cogent and material manner, thus firmly establishing its success in ways more powerful than presidential addresses or ratified documents ever could.

We will provide coffee and dessert, feel free to bring your brown bag lunch to enjoy during the talk. Please RSVP by August 1 and indicate the program name and date by calling (860) 236-5621 x238 or emailing [email protected]

More information on Professor Siegel:

Nancy Siegel is Professor of Art History at Towson University and specializes in American landscape studies, print culture, and culinary history of the 18th and 19th centuries. Her current project, Political Appetites: Revolution, Taste, and Culinary Activism in the Early Republic, investigates the intersection among American art and political/horticultural/culinary histories. Most recently, she led the seminar, “Culinary Culture: The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900,” for the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA. She has authored/edited The Cultured Canvas: New Perspectives on American Landscape Painting (2012); River Views of the Hudson River School (2009); Within the Landscape: Essays on Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture (2005); Along the Juniata: Thomas Cole and the Dissemination of American Landscape Imagery (2003); and The Morans: The Artistry of a Nineteenth-Century Family of Painter-Etchers (2001). Her work has appeared in Gastronomica, The Burlington MagazineNineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, and she has been the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, Yale University, Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Culinary Historians of Chicago, the New York Public Library, and the State of New York.


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