We are what we eat. If this commonplace is true (and so it seems), writing food history is an essential part of human history as such – indeed, it is a challenge to historicize what it means to be human in the first place. For several decades now, historians have explored cultures of food and changing eating habits, first mostly in terms of economic history but increasingly also using approaches from social, cultural, and environmental history. They have demonstrated how cultural practices and social norms, ecological resources and constraints, technological innovations and new goods all contributed to shaping historical food cultures – well beyond the mere opposition of scarcity and abundance.
The lecture introduces students to central topics and methods relevant to the interdisciplinary field of food history. Taking a longue durée approach, it focuses on selected fields from 1400 to 2000, thereby enabling students to explore long-term transformations in food history but also to question overarching historical narratives. We will discuss how boundaries of what was considered ‘eatable’ (and by whom) varied and changed over time and space – and how civilisational hierarchies were modelled through despicable eating habits (with cannibal stories as prime example at hand). Further lectures will focus on hunger in pre-modern and modern times, on practices of eating and non-eating such as fasting, vegetarianism, or diets, and we will analyse the role of technology and changing concepts of the body in transforming food cultures.
To obtain access to the lecture broadcast send an email to hiwis.brauner. @histsem.uni-tuebingen.de
Paul Freedman, Ken Albala, and Joyce Chaplin eds., Food in Time and Place, 2014.
Jeffrey Pilcher ed.,The Oxford Handbook of Food History, Oxford 2012.
“The Family Recipe” is both a very personal thing and a marketing device. In either case, it demonstrates how strongly cooking and eating is connected to constructions of identity and memory. This connection between food and identity goes well beyond individuals and single families: specific dishes and eating habits feature prominently in national and ethnic stereotypes. However, food is also highly mobile. When humans migrate and move, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, recipes and foodstuffs, eating habits and culinary techniques travel with them.
In this sense, globalization processes have, as some scholars argue, reinforced both homogenization and diversification: next to the much decried ‘Mcdonaldization’, we find an increasingly diverse range of foodstuffs, ingredients and cuisines available – allowing us to ‘consume” the globe – but also a strong interest in simple ‘authentic’ regional food and a growing organic sector.
Cookery books and recipe collections are a fascinating source to gain insights into travelling cuisines and their cooks. By for example observing how new ingredients – from spices like ginger and malaguetta to potatoes and chocolate – were compared to ‘old favorites’ and increasingly customized, we can study processes of cultural appropriation and their limits. Furthermore, cooking manuals offer insights into broader social, economic and cultural transformations: Back well into medieval times and beyond, recipes demonstrate how food was related to social norms and societal order more generally. Whereas manuscript recipe collections survive till this very day and frequently mirror personal family stories, writing cook books became a business over time. This also demonstrates how cooking was separated into a public (predominantly male) profession and a domestic burden.
Set up as an international CIVIS seminar, the (hopefully) transnational character of the group will allow us to study recipe collections and cook books in a comparative and entangled perspective. Drawing on the different language skills and resources available, we will, for instance, analyze translations of famous cook books such as the humanist classic De honesta voluptate et valetudine (first published in 1474) or the twentieth century Dr. Oetker manuals and track the establishment of specific dishes such as ravioli or “Maultaschen” as markers of national or regional identities.
The class will be taught digitally between November 2020 and February 2021 via Zoom. It will be followed by a spring school for all participants to be held in Tübingen in late March/early April 2021 (the latter one on conditional on receiving the necessary funding).
Students will be able to earn up to 9 ECTS from the seminar. To achieve this they will have to participate regularly and actively, present research findings in class and complete smaller assignments. Finally, a 20-25 page research essay will conclude the seminar. For the spring school, students can receive an additional 4 ECTS.
To apply for this class, please send an email to email@example.com until October 30th. Please include a short statement specifying the reasons for your interest in the class in English.
R. Appelbaum, Rhetoric and Epistemology in Early Printed Recipe Collections, in: Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 3,2 (2003), pp. 1-35
A. Campanini, P. Scholliers and J.-P. Williot eds., Manger en Europe. Patrimoines, échanges, identités. Bruxelles 2011.
P. Freedman, K. Albala, and J. Chaplin eds., Food in Time and Place, 2014.
J. Pilcher ed.,The Oxford Handbook of Food History, Oxford 2012.
Specific food and eating habits feature prominently in discourses on national identity and the construction of ethnic stereotypes. Thus, from meat dishes to cakes, Germans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries constructed regional and national identities by means of their favourite dishes. On the other hand, in British-English Germans in the twentieth century were frequently and derogatively termed “Krauts” based on a seeming preference for sauerkraut. However, such self-identifications as well as the stereotypes are not stable over time. As one example, a strong preference in Western Germany for Eastern Prussian dishes in the 1950s and 60s may be read as a way of not coming to terms with the territorial losses following the Second World War. As another example: Brazilian authorities rediscovered seemingly ‘authentic’ German food in the 1970s in an effort to encourage tourism to regions that had seen German immigration during the nineteenth century. The resulting “café colonial”, however, promoted very specific ethnic stereotypes of Germans via their food.
The seminar will start out by studying German constructions of themselves via food as well as such foreign ethnic stereotyping of Germans that has received attention by historians. Following this, we will take advantage of the set up as an international CIVIS seminar with participating students form varying European countries. Having different language skills, students will be asked during a second phase, to study stereotyping of Germans via food from their own national perspective.
The class will be taught digitally between November 2020 and February 2021 via Zoom.
Students will be able to earn up to 7 ECTS from the seminar. To achieve this they will have to participate regularly and actively, present research findings in class and complete smaller assignments. Finally, a 15 page research essay will conclude the seminar.
To apply for this class, please send an email to daniel.menning. Please include a short statement specifying your interest in the class in English. @uni-tuebingen.de
S. Berger, Inventing the Nation. Germany, London 2004.
G. Hirschfelder and G. U. Schönberger, ‘Sauerkraut, Beer and so Much More’, in: D. Goldstein et al. eds., Culinary Cultures of Europe. Identity, Diversity and Dialogue, Strasbourg 2005, 183-194.
J. Pilcher ed.,The Oxford Handbook of Food History, Oxford 2012.