Globalization and Comestibles: History and Food Panel

AHA Session 45
Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM
Empire Ballroom East (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Richard Trembath, University of Melbourne
Richard Trembath, University of Melbourne

Session Abstract

Globalization and Comestibles: History and Food Panel

In recent years Food Studies has developed towards a discipline in its own right, strongly influenced by the discipline of History. As an emergent field the tendency has been to focus on American and European topics, reflecting the interests of many of the foundational scholars in this field. Food Historians have, however, increasingly recognized the centrality of comestibles to the lived experiences, and to the role imperialism played in this process, tracing how products from extra-national territories changed the domestic and daily habits of those at the centre of empires. In this panel our concern is the historical and transnational lived experiences at the intersection of empire and consumption.

For Singapore, an entrepôt trading port of the British Empire, trade was its raison d'être and Nicole Tarulevicz’s paper shows how this trade shaped ideas about the safety of food. Drawing on food safety regulations, campaigns, advertising and public health messages she suggests anxieties about the safety of food are complicated by a reliance on the global pantry. Ingredients and techniques from afar provide the focus of the next paper in which Cecilia Leong-Salobir compares the consumption of curries in the colonial/settler societies of Colonial Asia (India, Singapore and Malaya) with Australia, using cookbooks, household manuals and colonial memoirs. She asks if the abundance of meat in Australia in the colonial era explains why although curry made its way to Australia it stopped short of becoming an important dish on early Australian dining tables.

Curry played a key role in the British colonial imagination and is one of the single most important dish of the culinary history of British imperialism. Yet, as George Solt’s paper shows, curry was also understood by some as a key avenue by which to recover native India from its British representation abroad. Focusing on the lives and cookery of Rash Behari Bose and A.M. Nair, Solt’s paper focuses on the introduction, production, and consumption of haute Indian cuisine in Japan between the 1910s and 1930s, and its connection to the rise of pan-Asianism as a political force. The Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942-1945) stands in stark contrast to the rest of the history of the city-state in that it was a period of food scarcity. Not surprisingly, this is a period of considerable interest in Singapore’s national history and in her paper Sandra Hudd examines sites of history-making including the National Museum of Singapore’s Wartime Kitchen book and the DVD series it commissioned, Eat to Live: Wartime Recipes to show that for a nation buying from the global pantry and obsessed by eating, a period of food scarcity remains a powerful historic moment.

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