Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

THIS PROJECT was born out of a love of food. Through the encouragement and dedication of my remarkable mentor, Jaime Harker, it became a project about the women who write about food. Jaime taught me to see the women behind the pages, to recover and value the voices of those who may never stand at a podium but who nonetheless contribute in immense and varied ways to the development of American culture. This desire to see women’s activities that often pass unnoticed in daily life has informed and transformed my...

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Note on Sources

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pp. xiii-xvi

FOR SCHOLARS studying nineteenth-century cookbooks, finding accurate circulation statistics is a difficult task. Between 1820 and 1850, the publishing industry grew exponentially, yet it remained largely unregulated until well after the Civil War. Improved printing technology made it possible to print books quickly and sell them cheaply, so competition and piracy were common.1 This makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of publication and circulation patterns. The same text could be printed under multiple covers by several printing houses. Because books had become less expensive over time,...

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Introduction: Taste and the American Cookbook

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pp. 1-27

TASTE IS an elusive concept. It is at once a sensory perception and an expression of reason. It is informed by cultural associations yet is often asked to provide empirical truth. Taste is present in all people from birth and, in eighteenth-century rhetorical tradition, is improvable by means of persuasion. Despite its complex philosophical history, taste remains, as Hugh Blair notes, imprecise. While it is “founded on a certain natural and instinctive sensibility to beauty, . . .reason . . . assists taste in many of its operations, and serves to enlarge...

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1. Taste and Virtue: Domestic Citizenship and the New Republic

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pp. 28-52

AMELIA SIMMONS opens her 1796 cookbook, American Cookery, the first both written and published on American soil, by clearly asserting, “This treatise is calculated for the improvement of the rising generation of Females in America.”1 In this phrase alone, she boldly argues that a cooking text can improve the character of a population, particularly the first generation of American women. Amid much public debate regarding the goals of American democracy, the reach of the federal government, and the education of its citizens, Simmons...

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2. Taste and Morality: Motherhood and the Making of a National Body

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pp. 53-81

CATHARINE BEECHER was a leading domestic expert in mid-nineteenthcentury America. She published extensively on topics ranging from furnishing one’s home to raising Christian children. Much like Amelia Simmons, Lydia Marie Child, and Mary Randolph, Beecher and her contemporaries believed that proper domestic practice could assure the future success of the young nation and that good taste was essential to domestic propriety. Midnineteenth-century experts, however, added to republican tastes a theoretical...

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3. Taste and the Region: The Constitutive Function of Southern Cookbooks

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pp. 82-112

ONE OF the most powerful illustrations of how food discourse can nourish and define both an individual and a community appears in a letter included in a journal written during the Civil War. In the final revision of her Civil War journal, Mary Chesnut includes this letter from her friend Miss Middleton in the entry dated April 5, 1865. In the letter, Middleton describes the deprivation experienced by wealthy southerners. The idea that a dish can be “read” implies the complex definition of consumption in Victorian society, described in the previous chapter. It also suggests the necessity of the cookbook for survival...

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4. Taste and Science: Cooking Schools, Home Economics, and the Progressive Impulse

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pp. 113-142

HENRIETTA GOODRICH’S “Standards of Living,” a speech delivered at the fourth Lake Placid Conference on Home Economics, epitomizes Progressive domesticity’s revision of taste discourse. Throughout the piece she emphasizes “standards,” defining what they must be and listing precise ways men and women devoted to home economics can bring them about. “A man’s standard of living determines how he shall live,” she claims, yet those standards are “not always conscious” or are theoretical and inconsistent with his ways of...

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5. Taste and Race: Revisions of Labor and Domestic Literacy in the Early Twentieth Century

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pp. 143-165

AS THE homes are so will the nation be, for the nation is nothing more than a collection of what is produced in the homes. The as it is oftener called, domestic science, is thus the very key-stone of the political arch.”1 With these words, Ellen Bartelle Deitrick opens her paper on “Domestic Science,” presented to the Boston Woman’s Era Club, an African American women’s literary society, in March 1894. Developed to expand the opportunities and intellectual possibilities for African American women in the final decades of the...

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Epilogue: The Relevance of Taste

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pp. 166-172

IN A 2009 New Yorker article, “What’s the Recipe?,” Adam Gopnik explores our culture’s fascination with cookbooks, why so many people collect them, pile them on nightstands for bedtime reading, and mark recipe after recipe as if we’ll ever have the time or occasion to make all those dishes. Yet, he writes, the problem is less about the volume of recipes we collect than our constant disappointment with the outcome. He notes of the novice cook, “If the first thing a cadet cook learns is that words can become tastes, the second is that a space...

Notes

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pp. 173-202

Bibliography

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pp. 203-216

Index

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pp. 217-222