Course Spotlight: Cookbooks and History

The 1909 cookbook, Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes by Miss Parloa and Home Made Candy Recipes by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill

What can cookbooks and recipes tell us about an individual? A community? A culture? What does the language of the recipe say about systems of knowledge and ways of thinking about the world? The movement of ingredients and food technology? The transmission of cooking knowledge? Does the analysis of historical cookbooks have contemporary applications?

In the “Cookbooks and History” course, Dr. Karen Metheny will help students consider these questions through a survey of historical cooking texts and in-class exercises. Students will examine cookbooks as a source of culinary history and a window into the changing material culture, practices, spaces, and relationships associated with food preparation and consumption. In addition, students will examine cookbooks and recipes as social documents that reveal the presence of social and economic hierarchies, networks and alliances, and political, economic, and religious structures. They will also examine these documents as cultural texts that reveal the construction of ethnic, gendered, and other identities. Students will study and analyze a selection of cookbooks from different historical periods and geographic regions leading to a final project and paper.

This class will meet on Monday evenings, from 6 to 8:45 PM, starting September 14th. The course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Non-degree students may also register. Please contact gastrmla@bu.edu for more information.

Dr. Karen Metheny

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One comment

  1. This was probably the hardest I’ve ever worked in an academic setting, and the most fun I’ve ever had doing so!

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