A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

By Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

Combining the learn of foodstuff tradition with gender reviews and utilizing per­spectives from old, literary, environmental, and American stories, Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt examines what southern women’s offerings approximately meals let us know approximately race, classification, gender, and social power.

Shaken via the legacies of Reconstruction and the turmoil of the Jim Crow period, assorted races and periods got here jointly within the kitchen, frequently as servants and mistresses but additionally as individuals with shared tastes and traditions. quite often interested by elite whites or terrible blacks, southern foodways are usually portrayed as sturdy and unchanging—even as an untroubled resource of nostalgia. A Mess of Greens deals a distinct standpoint, taking into consideration industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s elevated position within the workforce, all of which prompted significant monetary and social adjustments. Engelhardt finds a wide center of southerners that incorporated negative whites, farm households, and center- and working-class African americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as southern nutrition have been very high.

Five “moments” within the tale of southern food—moonshine, biscuits as opposed to cornbread, girls’ tomato golf equipment, pellagra as depicted in mill literature, and cookbooks as technique of communication—have been selected to light up the connectedness of nutrients, gender, and position. Incorporating neighborhood cookbooks, letters, diaries, and different archival fabrics, A Mess of Greens exhibits that selecting to serve chilly biscuits rather than scorching cornbread may well impact a family’s popularity for being hygienic, ethical, expert, or even godly.

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Additional resources for A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food

Sample text

In her letters home, most of the local people were ignorant or pitiable; the moonshiner, however, was mysterious, romantic, and fascinating. No wonder some of those locals took on the moonshiner identity in response, such as the young, educated lawyer from the area who, to go on a picnic with the new schoolteacher, agreed to show her his gun and escort her to a notorious moonshining area. From his North Carolina mountain vacation home, Du Bose Heyward wrote in his 1926 novel Angel that the moonshiner role did not moonshine 25 just attract others but also provided a path to respected manhood.

16 introduction South from the 1870s until the 1930s in order to tease out how diverse women used food to negotiate their own changing southern and American identities. Whether in the characterizations of moonshiners, the choice between biscuits and cornbread for the family meal, records of girls’ tomato clubs, the specter of the starving and diseased body in mill literature, or the hidden archives of curb markets, local cookbooks, and market bulletins, this book explores issues of power involved in the nation’s evolving fascination with, nostalgia for, and creation of social hierarchies in and about the South, despite—or because of—its ever increasing integration into national markets and cultures.

Just as often, my scholarly research interests have unexpectedly added to the family stories—as when the tomato club research I began in Mississippi led me to the North Carolina archives of Jane McKimmon and a picture of my great-great-grandmother posed with her own tomato club, a moment from her life none of us knew previously. My personal definition of southern food, then, is both significant and meaningless without all the other definitions. What I can do as a scholar—and what I hope you as a reader of this book will join me in doing—is ask what is at stake in the changing definitions.

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