After our examination of the 2nd edition of Richard Ligon’s True and Exact History, I thought you might be interested in Bradford’s manuscript of Of Plymouth Plantation. Here’s the page where he describes the first thanksgiving, and here’s the entire site.

Ask and the internet shall deliver. After getting some questions about what constitutes an appropriate post for the “Searcher” role, I logged into Facebook to discover that several professor friends had posted a link to this Buzzfeed post making the rounds: Post-Structuralism Explained with Hipster Beards.

In the post, the author, Chris Rodley, works through some of the basic concepts of structuralist (and then post-structuralist) theory using the example of the hipster beard. For instance, in order to explain the concept of the sign– that basic building-block of language– Rodley distinguishes between “the signifier (the face-fur itself), and the signified (the idea of the pretentious PBR-drinker who lives in Bushwick [Brooklyn]. (In class, I’d used the more canonical example of the word “tree” as signifier, and the picture of a tree as signified; this is the example employed by Saussure himself). In the case of trees, beards, trees that look like beards, or for that matter, any other sign you can think of, the point is that the tree/beard/sign isn’t just a reference to something– what Rodley describes as a “label”– the sign is how we understand the thing. According to structuralists, there is no way to access anything more elemental; the sign is as close as we get.

Rodley mentions Levi-Strauss in passing, although not the “Culinary Triangle” essay; all he has to say is that L-S used structuralism to analyze culture. It made me think about how an alternate post might use the example of culturally significant foods, though. In our present culture, kale comes to mind as a particularly telling sign-food, arguably replacing arugula (which in turn replaced granola) as a sign for upper-middle-class, liberal, excessively health conscious, etc. In the case of food, though, the association doesn’t always seem entirely arbitrary (as Saussure and the structuralists believe). People began eating kale because it was healthy, and so it came to signify healthy– and only later, healthy to a fault. Is it possible that food somehow comes before language? That it is somehow closer to reality? That is to say: how is food like a language? And in what important ways does it differ?

From the time of “first contact,” European explorers—and later, colonists and citizens—were alternately fascinated and repulsed by the new foods they encountered, and they wrote about them in their journals, narratives, histories, and letters. Early American writers, in turn, imbued acts of eating with new significance, as they attempted to distinguish their social, cultural, and political identities both from their European, African, and Caribbean counterparts, and from the native American cultures that abutted their own. This course will explore the ways in which ideas about food and eating were deployed in writing and in art, as well as at the table, so as to direct and reflect a range of early American concerns. We will also devote a significant portion of the course to the study of historical recipes and cookbooks. As a final project, we will work in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Libraries to design and implement a digital historical cookbook archive, updated and reframed for the Food Network age.