Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, launched the Folger Institute's Mellon initiative in collaborative research. Active from 2017 to 2021, this project used the pervasiveness of food in everyday life as a window into early modern culture. Food, then as now, is a basic human need. It also has a history and is a gateway to understanding society and culture. In the course of this project, we investigated big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics, and imagination. Such issues as the unevenness of food supply, the development and spread of tastes with their darker supply sides of enslaved labor, and the socially cohesive rituals of eating together were explored through our vast array of scholarly and public programming.
This project was led by three co-directors: David Goldstein, Associate Professor of English at York University; Amanda Herbert, Associate Director for Fellowships in the Folger Institute; and Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger. Four postdoctoral fellows contributed to the project and filled out the core team. Together, the team mined rich and underexplored collections at the Folger; worked to highlight new voices and genres from the past; and brought food scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts into conversation with one another.
See our stand-alone Before 'Farm to Table' website for highlights of our various scholarly and public-facing endeavors over the life of the project. Click through to learn about the history of sugar and enslavement, see the early modern recipes we recreated, and much more.
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