There are five very different chapters in the book, with very different casts of characters. But across the book, there are really a few central questions: how do people use eating to tell stories about who they are? why and how did food become a way of telling stories about racial difference? why is eating often a metaphor for, or itself a mode of expressing, erotic or sexual feelings?
The impetus for the book came from my feeling that what we now recognize as two major ways of relating to food and eating in the contemporary United States - foodie-ism (the performance of personal specialness and class privilege via elite knowledges about food and/or wine) and localism (the political movement to cut down on pollution, oppose industrial food and agribusiness, and support local economies) - had a shared history in the consolidation of the United States as a nation organized around the idea that whiteness would be its ideal and most privileged racial identity.
I began with two lines of inquiry, but three texts: the fourth chapter of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and two books written by the nineteenth-century dietetic reformer Sylvester Graham. In future posts, I’ll talk more about where these texts led me…..
* - the image above is from a short story by Louisa May Alcott that I discuss in a forthcoming book chapter. The image is of a little white girl sitting on a cake toadstool, being served by a man named, and made up of, brownies.