A note to visitors: this site documents “Food and Eating in Early America,” a course conducted in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech in Fall 2014. The content will remain up as a resource for future (and former) students, and other inquiring minds. Please contact me at lauren.klein@lmc.gatech.edu, if you have any questions about the material that appears on the site.

http://www.mofad.org/

MOFAD is a museum dedicated to food and drink that is opening up in New York City sometime in the future.  Unlike most museums where you can only see and touch exhibits, MOFAD will allow for both tasting and smelling of the exhibits.  The goal of the museum is to educate people on their food choices.  They state that they will look at five aspects of food: history, culture, science, production, and commerce.

The first exhibit MOFAD has done is traveling exhibit, “Boom”.  They had on display a puffing gun (machine that makes cereal).  They would fire up the puffing gun and have it make puffs for the exhibit goers to eat.

As stated before, this museum is still in the process of being created, but there are ways people can help out.  On their site there are ways to donate money (also through kickstarter) and also ways to volunteer, so anyone interested in the project can contribute.

Overall this museum seems like a drastic departure from typical museums as one of their primary goals is to allow interactivity among the exhibits and participants.  Food exhibits are one of the best ways to do this as you can watch the food be made and then enjoy it immediately afterwards.  The museum looks very promising and should be able to complete its goal of educating the public on food and their food choices specifically.

 

Through our readings (that aren’t cookbooks) the food with which characters partake in are always vessels for intangible experiences and motivations. From Lee-Young Li’s introspections in “Persimmons” of childhoods and past loves to Japanese mother-made lunchboxes as representations of a nation’s cultural ideology. Sarah Josepha Hale’s Thanksgiving writings does not stray from this trend. In a young country with few celebratory days, Hale saw a chance and a need to establish a uniquely American tradition. She engaged in multiple literary ventures that I found it particularly interesting because in each piece, her words became increasingly direct and thus her mission became transparent. (She went from “Hey guys, you know what would be cool? Making Thanksgiving a holiday!” to “Mr. President we MUST have a Thanksgiving established NOW!”)

“Not yet; but I trust it will become so. We have too few holidays. Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival, and observed by all our people.”
You can’t get much more explicit than that.

I’m curious as to what Hale would think of the Thanksgiving entity that we have today. I’m curious because this quote–
“..it will be a grand spectacle of moral power and human happiness, such as the world has never yet witnessed.”
made me mentally compare these eloquent words to the more commercial event the holiday has become. While the “human happiness” factor has certainly been achieved (especially following Black Friday and Cyber Monday) I am unsure of how she expected the “spectacle of moral power” to materialize. However, I think she will overall be satisfied of Thanksgiving’s national prominence as a holiday and a reason for families to come together (hopefully without any familial bickering the holiday is also known for.)

In the past and even now Thanksgiving is a religious holiday to represent gratitude to God and just the expression of great thanks but recently I have noticed that the holiday is reducing to just another holiday. In the past few years, I recently noticed that the Thanksgiving holiday is being reduced and losing its true meaning to the point where most people do not feel the need of having Thanksgiving as a holiday anymore. After Halloween has passed, the stores then start stocking up on Christmas stock with decorations as well during the beginning of the November month which then starts having the new generation see Thanksgiving as a turning point for Christmas and not a time to give thanks and gratitude to what we have. This article from Talon Marks mentions that Christmas is overshadowing Thanksgiving mostly due to visual appeal for Christmas is much more appealing than Thanksgiving which deals with more people getting together and sharing the emotion of gratitude. This is all an opinion base but it is true during the recent years I have noticed from talking with friends and family that Thanksgiving does not seem like a holiday anymore with sales and Christmas decorations being put up, even I forget that Thanksgiving is coming up before Christmas since there isn’t much but Black Friday that is being advertised. By reading the Excerpt from Northwood it surprised me that in the excerpt Thanksgiving was not a national holiday by then since we have seen many pictures with the Native Americans. In the present should we start disregarding Thanksgiving as a holiday now or start showing the importance and history for the holiday for Thanksgiving?

Source: http://www.talonmarks.com/opinion/2014/11/18/christmas-marketing-overshadows-the-spirit-of-giving-thanks/

I was very interested to read the “Thanksgiving Proclamation” written by Abraham Lincoln in 1963, during the midst of the Civil War. My interest comes from a family history on the Confederate side of the Civil War and a respect for Abraham Lincoln as one of the most important presidents in American history. There were several questions posed just before the actual text in the excerpt provided and I thought it would appropriate to try and answer some of those questions about the text.

How does his beginning capture the audience’s sympathy?

Immediately, Lincoln appeals to the spiritual consciousness of his audience by reminding them of the routine blessings “of fruitful fields and healthful skies” that are often taken for granted and also other blessings “of so extraordinary a nature” that cannot be ignored by people insensible to a higher power. While most people would agree that it is important to be thankful for the blessings they have received, especially those common blessings often taken for granted, I find the tone of the introduction to be strange. It seems as if Lincoln is trying to paint a positive outlook and ignore the tragedy of war. Maybe that is his intention. Even so, imagining anyone from the Confederacy or even someone from the Union who has lost son, husband, or father reading this proclamation, I would expect more of an acknowledgement of the reality of war instead of an immediate declaration of “extraordinary” blessing. (To be fair, he does make such an acknowledgement later on in his proclamation when declaring the day of thanksgiving.)

Why does he believe that, despite the human “waste” of the war, the country may be permitted to “expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom”?

Lincoln declares that, despite diversions of resources from “peaceful industry” to the “national defense,” the civilian production is doing better than ever before and population has even steadily increased (outside of the battlefield, which is a notable exception to make). The increase in freedom in coming years would be due to the “augmented strength and vigor” of the nation.

What is his understanding of “the Most High God,” His relation to the United States, and “our sins”?

My interpretation is that Lincoln was implying that the war and internal conflict of the nation was due to the “sins” of accepting slavery for so long a time. He also believed that God was merciful and this belief strongly contributed to his optimism about the future.

Imagining yourself a Confederate auditor of this proclamation; would you be inclined to accept the invitation and recommendation Lincoln offers in the long fifth paragraph to “my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States”?

No, I would not. I have no disagreement with anything that Lincoln says in this proclamation, but the above phrase and the tone of the introduction would suggest an underlying agenda. It is no secret that Lincoln’s intent was to unify the nation that was divided, but the Confederates considered themselves a different nation. Therefore, this phrase creates a negative stigma to what Lincoln is trying to do and my reaction as a Confederate auditor would be to give thanks on another day not associated with the Union.

Is Lincoln’s case for “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father” still persuasive today?

Yes, I believe so. Although the religious climate today is much different today than it was 1863, even non-religious people can recognize the importance of being thankful for their possessions (tangible and intangible) and considering ways in which our nation can still be improved. It is common today for people on Thanksgiving to assist and serve those in need, which follows the spirit of what Lincoln established over 150 years ago and exhibits the deep-rooted legacy of the holiday Lincoln established.

This weeks excerpts on Thanksgiving really showed the reasoning behind why we celebrate the holiday. To start, in the excerpt from Northwood, we see a wonderful feast that a family is having together. We also see the importance of food in this feast and in the connections between family members. One specific example of food and its roll in memory and connection, is the pleasure Mrs. Romilly derives from preparing everything and trying to remember the dishes she used to make for her son before he left for a while. It seems as if her ability to cook those foods is her way of showing her love for him. On the flip, the son Sydney is so busy just enjoying being with his family and living in the moment that he is not even hungry. It almost seems like instead of consuming the food in front of him, he wants to consume the love from his family.

Later in the letters to the president, we get to see the importance of why Thanksgiving became a National Holiday. During a time of Civil War it would mean a lot for a nation to declare one day for all people to sit down, eat, drink, and give thanks to God. Sarah Josepha Buell Hale’s letter describes the importance of “permanency and unity” in the holiday, when describing her reasoning for asking President Lincoln to declare it a national holiday. This is clearly relating to the conflict within the nation and the desire that people be united again. Once again, we see that the act of eating together has much more power than just satisfying the need for food. Could eating together and celebrating this day consistently help bring together a nation currently at War?

 

With the Thanksgiving holiday creeping up on us I began thinking about what exactly the first Thanksgiving feast was really like and what items may have been served at meal. After a little bit of scanning the internet, I was able to come across this epicurious article detailing the differences in the first Thanksgiving back in 1621 and now. It was pretty interesting reading through the limited list of items that may have appeared at the table for the first Thanksgiving, which included plum, melon, grapes, other fruits, vegetables, beans, deer, fish, and shellfish.  A few of the items that we may typically find on a Thanksgiving menu that weren’t a part of the first meal include: Potatoes, sweet corn, bread based stuffing, and oddly enough turkey.  This brings up the question of how did the turkey became the recognized image/centerpiece associated with the holiday? Another interesting point mentioned in this article is that Thanksgiving was originally a multi-day event, lasting up to three days. The reasons for such could be due to the cook time of the meal and the difficulties associated with everything having to be done over an open fire.

http://ohlovelylolo.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/culture-the-first-thanksgiving/the-first-thanksgiving/

Resource: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/thanksgiving/first

In America, Thanksgiving means lots of food, lots of family, and time to reflect on what to be grateful for in the closing year. In China, the second biggest holiday after the Chinese New Year is the Mid-Autumn Festival. This is holiday is very similar to Thanksgiving here in America. Obviously, it takes place in late autumn, during the 15th day of the 8th lunar moon. The holiday is believed to have originated from Moon worshipping from the Shang Dynasty. Moon worshipping was motivated by Ancient Chinese you believed it would bring a large harvest in the coming year.

Like the American Thanksgivings, the entire country is essentially on holiday for a couple of days. Families get together and spend quality time engaging in Mid-Autumn traditions. The Chinese release lanterns into lakes and the sky as children watch, but not as elaborately as the Chinese New Year holiday. These holiday traditions include food of course. The most common food made and consumed during the Mid-Autumn Festival is mooncakes. The mooncakes are usually cut in the same number of pieces as family members and then enjoyed after a feast of other foods. I think this is significant because it demonstrates how food is used even across the planet to bring families together for a time of thankfulness in completely different culture.

 

Sources:

http://theweek.com/article/index/236515/6-thanksgiving-celebrations-around-the-world

http://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/mid-autumn-festival-history-origin.htm

After initially seeing this article, of course the first thing I did was scroll down to see Georgia’s Thanksgiving dish. I have to say that I was quite impressed, not just because pecan pie is one of my favorites, but I really do think it represents our state well. Pecan pie was a given dessert in my household growing up, and definitely is a representation of my childhood that I will carry in memory. Some other dishes that looked fantastic were Maine’s Lobster Mac and Cheese, Missouri’s Butter Cake, and Kansas’s Sweet Potatoes. It honestly would be hard to choose a bad dish from this article, because they all looked delicious. But as I was looking through the dishes and thinking back on my own Thanksgiving memories, I realized that there are fifty other dishes with this article, all uniquely representing a story similar to mine. Each of these recipes has affected millions of lives through times shared preparing the dish, eating it, and of course the company that you choose to share it with. Has any of the dishes in this article strongly recollected a fond Thanksgiving memory for anyone else? If so, I would love to hear about it. The diversity of American food culture is a fascinating idea. Sharing a meal, no matter what it actually is, can build some of the strongest friendships we ever make.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/18/dining/thanksgiving-recipes-across-the-united-states.html?_r=0

While researching for the final project, I came across the first documentation of a waffle in 1393. This document which included over 190 recipes and descriptions of ingredients was a predecessor of the cookbooks we have been able to look at in class. Although the pamphlet mirrors more of Lydia Marie Child’s The Frugal Housewife, Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy (1829) or Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife: or, Methodical Cook as it focuses on the best ways to create an efficient home and prepare proper meals, it is unique because it was written by a man to his wife. In the common patriarchal societies that existed in Europe, especially in France, it seems peculiar that the head of the household would transcribe such a document when women were supposed to have learned these skills. In particular, it is hard not to question that stripping of women of their only job by having their duties spelled out and therefore constricted.

Because of these assertions and the role of women introduced through cookbooks centuries after, the question of this pamphlet asserting male dominance or the shift of gender roles from 1393 to 1860 is to be made. Was this descriptive pamphlet given to the wife because this was a typical gesture of a husband to wife or was this author a very particular one who imagined his household running one way entirely? Is this author’s gender described by a translation of a higher class male to a lower class female? Or was cooking simply an interest of the author who then masked it by making this cookbook be more of a social contract between man and wife?

Reference: http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/menagier.html