Dissertation Research

Nourishing Networks: The Public Culture of Food in Nineteenth-Century America

I am interested in exploring cultural networks in America—specifically the ways in which Americans are bonded together through foodways, which Jay Anderson defines as “the whole interrelated system of food conceptualization and evaluation, procurement, preservation, preparation, consumption, and nutrition.” These connections are extremely complex and vary in strength and influence, ever changing with the cycle of the seasons and the ebb and flow of populations. This is not easy history; it can be as unpredictable as okra gumbo and as dark and mysterious as oysters fauche. But it is a rich and rewarding history, one that taps into the heart of cultural expression and the importance of community in American life.

Food is a particularly dynamic lens through which to examine these American cultures in an Atlantic World context, because everyone ate. Food was more than an item that satisfied basic needs; it was an important presence in both private and public life and was inextricably entwined with the political, economic, and religious institutions of the nineteenth century. The complexity of food cultures is particularly apparent in the dynamic histories of American port cities. My research hones in on the heart of food distribution and consumption in New Orleans’ municipal markets and the informal and often unregulated street food culture that surrounded them.