IU's Lilly Library is home to a number of 19th-century American cookbooks. In the aftermath of the American Revolution these cookbooks sought primarily to erase British cultural influence on American cuisine -- to declare a kind of food independence, in other words. However, by the 1830s one begins to see in cookbooks the avid reintroduction of British and also French influence upon American cuisine, and then by the 1850s the welcoming of much wider global influences upon American cuisine. This transformation reveals the changing relationship of the young United States to the wider world in the first half of the nineteenth century.
There are at least two further interesting social and cultural elements related to Themester. i) The 19th-century cookbooks tend to imagine that foreign cuisine can be reproduced in American life with the importation of foreign food ingredients. Global cuisine could be domesticated, in other words, so that a new culture of food could be introduced without necessitating a new economy of food. ii) The cookbooks assign a significant role for women in first the nationalization and then the globalization of American food culture, whereas women are often neglected in the expansive contemporary scholarship on both nation-building and globalization in the 19th century.
Konstantin Dierks is an Associate Professor in the Department of History. His talk is presented as part of Themester 2014, "Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Art to Science."