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An Archive of Taste

Race and Eating in the Early United States

2020
Author:

Lauren F. Klein

An Archive of Taste

A groundbreaking synthesis of food studies, archival theory, and early American literature


An Archive of Taste examines the gustatory origins of aesthetic taste in early American literature, showing how thinking about eating can help to tell new stories about the range of people who worked to establish a cultural foundation for the U.S. Lauren F. Klein reframes the philosophical work of food and its meaning for those who prepare, serve, and consume it.

There is no eating in the archive. This is not only a practical admonition to any would-be researcher but also a methodological challenge, in that there is no eating—or, at least, no food—preserved among the printed records of the early United States. Synthesizing a range of textual artifacts with accounts (both real and imagined) of foods harvested, dishes prepared, and meals consumed, An Archive of Tastereveals how a focus on eating allows us to rethink the nature and significance of aesthetics in early America, as well as of its archive.

 

Lauren F. Klein considers eating and early American aesthetics together, reframing the philosophical work of food and its meaning for the people who prepare, serve, and consume it. She tells the story of how eating emerged as an aesthetic activity over the course of the eighteenth century and how it subsequently transformed into a means of expressing both allegiance and resistance to the dominant Enlightenment worldview. Klein offers richly layered accounts of the enslaved men and women who cooked the meals of the nation’s founders and, in doing so, directly affected the development of our national culture—from Thomas Jefferson’s emancipation agreement with his enslaved chef to Malinda Russell’s Domestic Cookbook, the first African American–authored culinary text.

 

The first book to examine the gustatory origins of aesthetic taste in early American literature, An Archive of Tasteshows how thinking about eating can help to tell new stories about the range of people who worked to establish a cultural foundation for the United States.

An Archive of Taste

Lauren F. Klein is associate professor in the departments of English and Quantitative Theory and Methods at Emory University. She is coeditor of the Debates in Digital Humanities series at Minnesota.


An Archive of Taste

Contents


Acknowledgments


Introduction: No Eating in the Archive


1. Taste: Eating and Aesthetics in the Early Republic


2. Appetite: Eating, Embodiment, and the Tasteful Subject


3. Satisfaction: Aesthetics, Speculation, and the Theory of Cookbooks


4. Imagination: Food, Fiction, and the Limits of Taste


5. Absence: Slavery and Silence in the Archive of Eating


Epilogue: Two Portraits of Taste


Notes


Bibliography


Index