Research

My research agenda explores how writing about food is a way of telling the story of the South, forming and reforming what it means to be a Southerner. My focus rests on the intersections of food, identity, and memory. I regard the cookbook as a form of literature which can reveal how gender, race, class, and power have taken shape in the southern United States.

Read below to learn more about my current and past projects.

Southern Discomfort: Pleasure and Pain in Southern Cookbooks

The cookbook genre tends to be oriented toward celebration and pleasure. My first book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press, 2018), offered an understanding of the ways in which recipe headnotes act as origin stories as a means to celebrate the “authenticity” of the recipes. This new project examines another narrative convention of the cookbook genre to reveal the unique ways that writers negotiate the expectation that cookbooks are tools for pleasure. The central questions of this book attempt to understand the unique rhetorical situation of the Southern cookbook as it negotiates a tension between the expectations of the genre and the metanarrative of essential Southern experiences, one focused in pleasure and one focused in pain. Each chapter is devoted to a different kind of pain, examining how that particular kind of suffering connects to an “authentic” Southern identity and how narratives of that suffering negotiate the conventions of the genre as they relate to pleasure.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

The Vintage Intergenerational Food Stories Project

Generously funded through a grant by the AARP and CRAFT at Chatham University, I led this project connecting Chatham students with participants at the Vintage Senior Center in Pittsburgh. The participants shared oral histories about food in Pittsburgh throughout the decades and provided recipes which students worked to publish in a community cookbook for the participants.

Learn more:
The Vintage Generations Cookbook Blog
Chatham students connect generations through a cookbook in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Ask an Expert: How to Connect with Older Family Members on Chatham Pulse

Food and Feminism

I argue conceptions of authenticity surrounding gender performance in the U.S. south can be interpreted through the recipe origin narrative in “Writing Culture: A Feminist Historiography of Recipe Origin Narratives” which appears in Food, Feminisms, and Rhetorics edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite. Purchase it from Southern Illinois University Press here.

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