A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

By Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

Combining the learn of meals tradition with gender stories and utilizing per­spectives from historic, literary, environmental, and American stories, Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt examines what southern women’s offerings approximately foodstuff let us know approximately race, category, gender, and social power.

Shaken via the legacies of Reconstruction and the turmoil of the Jim Crow period, various races and sessions got here jointly within the kitchen, frequently as servants and mistresses but additionally as individuals with shared tastes and traditions. normally considering elite whites or bad blacks, southern foodways are usually portrayed as reliable and unchanging—even as an untroubled resource of nostalgia. A Mess of Greens deals a special point of view, making an allowance for industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s elevated position within the workforce, all of which triggered gigantic monetary and social adjustments. Engelhardt finds a wide center of southerners that integrated bad whites, farm households, and center- and working-class African americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as southern meals have been very high.

Five “moments” within the tale of southern food—moonshine, biscuits as opposed to cornbread, girls’ tomato golf equipment, pellagra as depicted in mill literature, and cookbooks as technique of communication—have been selected to light up the connectedness of nutrition, gender, and position. Incorporating group cookbooks, letters, diaries, and different archival fabrics, A Mess of Greens exhibits that deciding on to serve chilly biscuits rather than scorching cornbread may well have an effect on a family’s acceptance for being hygienic, ethical, trained, or even godly.

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Extra resources for A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food

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35 Kit Brandon suggested that if America could incorporate even a place as wild as Kit’s mountain past, then anyone and any place could enter the nation, even through their most taboo foodways, moonshine. Characters like Brandon performed cultural work within and beyond the South as they explored how disposable labor became sophisticated producers and consumers. Through them, Anderson also explored the costs to society and individuals of such a transition. Unlike any of the previous works, Anderson’s questioned how blurry the boundaries between legal and illegal, food and drink, and public and private practices really were.

10 Given that moonshine, too, was perennially constructed as outside the rest of America, what better practice to explore how such women fit into society? Authors of the era seemed to think so when they wrote stories combining moonshine with active, strong women and then explored a range of responses to them. In Lucy McElroy’s novel Juletty, a southern, female moonshiner illustrates the expanded work roles New Women could perform when the domestic and public were combined around a taboo food practice.

Juletty works, manages others, plans for the future of her organization—she is a skilled leader, having fun along the way. At the same time, viewed in the context of New Womanhood, the details of Burton’s reactions and Juletty’s two careers reveal inherent anxieties around women’s work: perhaps women would best men at earning money; perhaps they would defy masculine codes of proper business behavior; and perhaps they would even enjoy breaking the law. moonshine 29 McElroy’s novel trades in contradictions and tensions.

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