In the borderlands of northeastern North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, hunger forced colonists and Native Americans to eat substances they found disgusting. This article reads captivity narratives and missionary accounts to argue that disgust fundamentally tested, transgressed, and reified cultural boundaries in the borderlands, while shaping the archive of early American foodways. In doing so, this article historicizes the concept of disgust and its formation in early America, and examines how colonial disgust formed perceptions of Indigenous food supplies. English and French settlers recorded their disgust with Indian food and claimed that Indigenous people could not even conceptualize disgust. The rhetorical aims of this literature of disgust shaped the colonial written archive, which records far fewer incidences of Native disgust. Nevertheless, these same sources document Native experiences of revulsion at colonial foodways and the foodways of other Native nations, which complicate the colonial narrative of the absence of Indian revulsion. A case study of fermentation and decay in Native and colonial foodways demonstrates that colonists saw Native fermented foods as rotten and thereby understated Native Americans' food supplies, contributing to an imperial discourse on Indigenous "poverty," food systems, and land use that sought to justify colonialism.


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pp. 264-293
Launched on MUSE
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