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Friday, May 13 • 11:00am - 11:15am
What America Ate

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The 1930s are a fascinating moment to study food. At a time of economic upheaval, mass internal migrations, and the rapid industrialization of agriculture and the food supply, examining how ordinary people bought, cooked, ate, and thought about food can reveal aspects of American life that scholars still know little about. The project is digitizing and preserving an array of materials related to food in the Great Depression, starting with the original America Eats papers that until now have been scattered around the country. The America Eats project was a Depression-era jobs creation program within the Works Progress Administration, which sent about 200 writers and photographers across the country to chronicle American eating by region. Writers collected amazing stories: interviewing cooks and eaters, transcribing recipes, collecting songs and jokes and poems, and describing all manner of food customs. With few exceptions, the materials have remained in obscurity ever since, unknown to most scholars and unavailable to the general public. The project is also making two other important kinds of culinary sources accessible. The first is rare: 200 local community and charity cookbooks produced around the country from 1930 to 1940, held in the MSU Library’s Special Collections and the UM Library’s Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive. These rare books, produced by small organizations like churches, clubs, and schools, will provide unique insight into the kinds of eating that went on in America during the Depression. Second, the digital archive will include 700+ rare advertisements and food packaging materials produced by food companies in the 1930s from MSU’s Sliker Culinary Ephemera Collection, which highlight how technological and commercial forces were shaping American eating in this era. The paper will show how the project is developing new ways for users to interact with, enhance, and add to the collection of recipes. The project is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). What American Ate is a unique crowdsourcing digital project that also highlights the changing technologies of food in America.


Friday May 13, 2016 11:00am - 11:15am
COOR L1-18 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  • Session Location COOR L1-18

Attendees (24)