Events Calendar

Jack Bouchard: High School Teachers Institute

Friday, October 21, 2022, 09:00am - 02:30pm


The Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis


Tasting the Past: Understanding Global History Through Food and Diet

Friday, October 21, 2022

9a - 2:30p, AB 6051

Jack Bouchard, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

Well before the development of modern, globalized foodways, our ancestors were foodies – they obsessed about what they ate every bit as much as we do today, from the best spices to use in their wine to the right temperature to serve their calves’ foot pie to the healthiness of eating too much musk. Historians have focused recent research on how premodern households made food that they thought tasted good and made them healthy. Yet what that meant to different people – goodness and healthfulness – is hard for us to understand, and harder to teach. How do we take premodern household food seriously, and what can we learn? This talk will explore foodways in premodern Europe and the Mediterranean, in order to show the most recent work in food history and to think about how we can use a growing body of digitized primary sources to teach about food. It will use household and published recipe collections as a basis for studying medieval and early modern household and elite cuisine. As we will see, through these recipes we can see the interconnectedness of the premodern world. Not only do European recipes call for spices and flavours from Indonesia, Mesoamerica, West Africa and Central Asia on a regular basis, but they are also heavily influenced by Arab, Persian, and Indian thinking about health and food. But recipes also show the quotidian experience of food. They record the daily labour that went into food, and how that labour was organized around gender and racial lines. Recipes even teach us about the use of experimentation, knowledge-sharing and scientific investigation which households put into making food, and what that can teach us about premodern mentalities.