A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food

A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food

by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt


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Combining the study of food culture with gender studies and using per­spectives from historical, literary, environmental, and American studies, Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt examines what southern women’s choices about food tell us about race, class, gender, and social power.

Shaken by the legacies of Reconstruction and the turmoil of the Jim Crow era, different races and classes came together in the kitchen, often as servants and mistresses but also as people with shared tastes and traditions. Generally focused on elite whites or poor blacks, southern foodways are often portrayed as stable and unchanging—even as an untroubled source of nostalgia. A Mess of Greens offers a different perspective, taking into account industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s increased role in the work force, all of which caused massive economic and social changes. Engelhardt reveals a broad middle of southerners that included poor whites, farm families, and middle- and working-class African Americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as southern food were very high.

Five “moments” in the story of southern food—moonshine, biscuits versus cornbread, girls’ tomato clubs, pellagra as depicted in mill literature, and cookbooks as means of communication—have been chosen to illuminate the connectedness of food, gender, and place. Incorporating community cookbooks, letters, diaries, and other archival materials, A Mess of Greens shows that choosing to serve cold biscuits instead of hot cornbread could affect a family’s reputation for being hygienic, moral, educated, and even godly.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820340371
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 09/25/2011
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 943,487
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

ELIZABETH S. D. ENGELHARDT is a professor of American studies and women’s and gender studies at the University of Texas, Austin and is the chair of the Department of American Studies. She is the author of A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food (Georgia) and The Tangled Roots of Feminism, Environmentalism, and Appalachian Literature.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Whose Food, When and Why? Longing for Corn and Beans
1. Moonshine: Drawing a Bead on Southern Food and Gender
2. Biscuits and Cornbread: Race, Class, and Gender Politics of Women Baking Bread
3. Canning Tomatoes: Growing "Better and More Perfect Women"
4. Will Work for Food: Mill Work, Pellagra, and Gendered Consumption
5. Cookbooks and Curb Markets: Wild Messes of Southern Food and Gender
Conclusion. Market Bulletins: Writing the Mess of Greens Together

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