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The Italian American Table

Food, Family, and Community in New York City

Simone Cinotto

Publication Year: 2013

Looking at the historic Italian American community of East Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, Simone Cinotto recreates the bustling world of Italian life in New York City and demonstrates how food was at the center of the lives of immigrants and their children. Drawing on a vast array of resources including fascinating, rarely explored primary documents and fresh approaches in the study of consumer culture, Cinotto argues that Italian immigrants created a distinctive culture of food as a symbolic response to the needs of immigrant life, from the struggle for personal and group identity to the pursuit of social and economic power. Adding a transnational dimension to the study of Italian American foodways, Cinotto recasts Italian American food culture as an American "invention" resonant with traces of tradition.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xx

... Looking back over the long time that this book has been in the making, I can see how many people have contributed so importantly to it.An early three-month period of research in New York was made possible through an Alberto Aquarone prize for the best Italian thesis in U.S. history awarded by the American Studies Department of the University of Rome III, the ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

... Even a perfunctory look at the representations of Italian Americans in film and on TV reveals the centrality of food in Italian American culture. In The Sopranos David Chase (born De Cesare) created at once one of the most sophis-ticated historical narratives about America at the turn of the millennium and a hyperreal description ?from the inside? of Italian American life. Throughout the ...

Part I: The Social Origins of Ethnic Tradition

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pp. 17-18

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Chapter 1: The Contested Table

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pp. 19-46

The proposition that family has been socially and psychologically central to the Italian American experience has become an axiom, as three generations of im-migration historians have demonstrated: the realms of domesticity and family intimacy have been the most significant venues in which an Italian American In her early classic study of the Italians of Buffalo in the peak years of im-...

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Chapter 2: "Sunday Dinner? You Had to Be There!"

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pp. 47-71

On a summer afternoon in the late 1940s, Orlando Guadalupe, a student who was preparing a paper on East Harlem street life for Leonard Covello?s class, ventured deep into the Italian section of the neighborhood. Back then, that could be a dan-gerous trip for a dark-skinned Puerto Rican boy. Guadalupe briskly walked the streets of Italian Harlem, memorizing the images that struck him the most. He ...

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Chapter 3: An American Foodscape

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pp. 72-102

The 1930s were difficult years for Italian Harlem. In New York, the Depression hit Italian Americans?the most proletarianized of the European ethnic groups in the city?especially hard. Italians were disproportionately represented among the recipients of city and federal subsidies, particularly in Harlem, where the poorest among them lived. Covello estimates that ?more than 75 percent of the people in ...

Part II: Producing and Consuming Italian American Identities

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pp. 103-104

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Chapter 4: The American Business of Italian Food

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pp. 105-154

From the beginning of the Italian experience in America, the importing, produc-tion, and sale of food has played an important part in the growth of the Italian American business community, and understanding the central role of food in the making of Italian American identity means understanding what the business of food represents in the economic life of the community. In New York, the largest ...

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Chapter 5: "Buy Italian!"

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pp. 155-179

Nearly every one of the many actors involved in the Italian food business in New York between the turn of the twentieth century and World War II tried to make consumers aware of the relationship between Italian food and Italian identities. No other group played a more important role in connecting food consumption with Italian nationalism than the city?s importers of food from Italy. From the time New ...

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Chapter 6: Serving Ethnicity

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pp. 180-210

One hot July evening in 1940, two men dined at Moneta?s, at 32 Mulberry Street in the heart of what was by then known as Little Italy.1 The men were Federal Writers? Project researchers working on a food guide to New York titled Feeding the City, and they had a lovely experience. The food was excellent, and the simple but fascinating atmosphere attracted a cheerful clientele. As they later wrote about ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 211-218

Third-generation Italian American writer Helen Barolini recently looked back at the values and ideals that in the 1950s guided the suburban life of her parents, the first in their families to join the professional middle class. Barolini recalled, ?In adopting American ways and the modernity of the twenties, both my par-ents lost the old-world family cohesiveness and unity of their parents. They had ...

Notes

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pp. 219-256

Index

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pp. 257-270


E-ISBN-13: 9780252095016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037733

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013