About The Edible Eighteenth Century

Carole Counihan speaks of food as, “Not only … a medium for gender definitions, but … also linked to overall social hierarchies and power relations.” She continues that, “access to food might be called the most basic human right, yet with the development of capitalism and its handmaidens of colonialism, imperialism, and food commodifications, access to food has become a key measure of power and powerlessness.”  From philosophers such as Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin to contemporary food advocates such as Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, for centuries, it appears, food has provided, well, food for thought.

Yet, Counihan’s articulation of food establishes that the adage “you are what you eat” shatters the boundaries of mere nutrition.  Capitalism, colonialism, imperialism: how do the demands for food and the desires of the palate shape the world and global exchange, and how, in the burgeoning moments of Western Colonialism and Imperialism did food influence the political sphere?  How did perceptions of nutrition, of digestion, and of toxicity influence diet and cultural understandings in the eighteenth century?

We will utilize this blog to pursue the questions raised by considering edibles in the eighteenth century. We will begin by pondering the role of art in society and we will develop these questions by examining historical moments and figures in the eighteenth century that add dynamic shading to our reading.

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