Before 'Farm to Table' — Events

Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures

List of Associated Events

Before ‘Farm to Table’  had an impact on programming throughout the Folger. Food brings us together, and Before ‘Farm to Table’ worked to gather Folger audiences–young and old, scholars and the public, first-time visitors and long-time patrons–around the table in conversation. Before ‘Farm to Table’ engaged, questioned, troubled, and celebrated our shared culinary history with a wide variety of public and scholarly events, publications, reports, and digital resources planned in the coming years. View a summary of our outreach here.


Spring 2020

Fall 2020

Spring 2020

Fall 2019

Spring 2019

Fall 2018

Spring 2018

Amherst College Undergraduate Fellowship with Before 'Farm to Table'

Interterm Undergraduate Fellowship
January 4-26, 2021

In our annual interterm course, students investigated a recently acquired 17th-century manuscript recipe book from the Folger's collection. Being among the very first researchers to work with this material, they joined the Folger's professional research team to engage in a close reading and analysis of the book, looking at how it was put together and examining its users, contributors and sources. Students considered issues of food justice, international trade, slavery, and other hidden labor, and other kinds of implicit knowledge encoded in the recipes. They transcribed, edited, and adapted recipes, and even recreated them. 

The interterm course culminated in a virtual salon in which five undergraduate fellows presented their research. Read more about the undergraduate fellowship here


We Are What You Eat Critical Race Conversation

October 15, 2020

Professors Gitanjali G. Shahani (San Francisco State University) and Jennifer Park (University of North Carolina at Greensboro" joined us for a discussion of "We Are What You Eat: Conversations on Food and Race." 

In this "Critical Race Conversation," Dr. Gitanjali Shahani (she/her/hers) and Dr. Jennifer Park (she/her/hers) explored the ways in which food studies, critical race studies, and early modern studies inform and enrich each other. They looked to modern and early modern foodways in order to examine different forms of what bell hooks has famously called 'eating the other.' Interrogating the blurred criteria of what marks matter as edible or inedible, digestible or indigestible, Shahani and Park explore the range of substances, as well as bodies themselves, that stand in or comprise a culture's "racial others," in order to trouble the racialized assumptions complicit in the dietary commonplace that "you are what you eat." 

Food and the Book: 1300-1800

October 2-12, 2020

The growing, preparation, tasting, and eating of food are bodily phenomena. To gain access to them through the distances of history, we must turn to words and images. This interdisciplinary conference examined the book as a primary intersection for foodways throughout the early modern world. The convened speakers explored how food interacts with books as physical objects as well as mental ones. They examined books as a way of studying food and its representations in historical perspective, especially tose of marginalized people and groups; and as instances of metaphorical food and sustenance themselves. The conference also hosted collaborations between scholars, food writers, and chefs, resulting in discussions of current food issues that aimed to reinvigorate questions about early modern cuisine for the contemporary world.

This virtual event was co-sponsored with the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library. Read more about the conference here 

Food History Talk at Phelps High School

March 2, 2020

The Before 'Farm to Table' postdoctoral research fellows Jack Bouchard, Elisa Tersigni, and Michael Walkden were invited to present a lecture on the history of food and landscape at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in D.C.

This talk was sponsored by the Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.


Amherst College Undergraduate Fellowship with Before 'Farm to Table'

Interterm Undergraduate Fellowship
January 6-17, 2020

Each January, the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library works with undergraduates from Amherst College in the Amherst-Folger Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. Traditionally, selected fellows spend the Amherst interterm in Washington, D.C. at the Folger; in January 2020, the Before 'Farm to Table' team brought the Folger to Amherst College. This intensive two-week program introduced undergraduates to the study of early modern foodways through seminars, field trips to interpretive historical sites, and recipe adaption.  

With guidance from the Before 'Farm to Table' team, fellows worked closely with an early modern manuscript recipe book and investigated its construction, users, contributors, and sources. Students identified seasonal ingredients, preservation methods and the ingredients made available through trade routes and the institutionalized enslavement of millions of African people. Students transcribed, edited and adapted recipes, leading to a public presentation in the form of a closing banquet of dishes drawn from collection item Folger W.b. 79, Mrs Knight's reciept book [1740]

Read more about the Before 'Farm to Table' Amherst Fellowship.

Eating through the Archives: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Early Modern Foodways

Fall Graduate Student Workshop
December 5-7, 2019

Food permeates every aspect of the early modern world, from the social rituals of the London coffee house to the saltfish eaten by enslaved people in Barbados, from the disappearing banquet in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest to the spare olla of Don Quixote’s rustic table. Food’s omnipresence is both a potential smorgasbord for scholars and an embarrassment of riches, for studying and talking about food is a complex affair that tests the boundaries of traditional disciplines. The program invited two dozen graduate students to reconsider the term “foodways” as a framework that maps the convergence of disciplines, including history, literary studies, biology, ecology, philosophy, mathematics, culinary studies, and art history. The Before ‘Farm to Table’ team led group discussions as well as focused break-out sessions centered around a core set of primary sources, including our collection of over one hundred early modern English manuscript recipe books—the largest such collection in the world—as well as other texts and images from the Folger collection.

EMROC 2019 Transcribathon
November 5, 2019

Our friends at the Early Modern Manuscripts Online Collective (EMROC) held their 5th international transcribathon on November 5, 2019. The Before 'Farm to Table' Team was pleased to welcome EMROC to the Folger as one of many host locations. 

The transcribathon was centered on Folger manuscript V.b.400.

View images of V.b.400 on LUNA.

Judith Carney, Distinguished Visiting Scholar
Professor of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles
In Residence, September 18 - 20, 2019

Public Lecture
"In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Food Legacy in the Atlantic World"
September 18, 2019

Critical Witness Seminar 
"Orality, Women’s Knowledge, and Food Preparation in (Early) Modern African Foodways"
September 20, 2019

World on a Plate, George Washington University Class Visit to the Folger
September 17, 2019

Chef José Andrés brought his "World on a Plate" course at George Washington University to the Folger on September 17. Students were treated to a talk in the Folger Theater before making their way to the Reading Rooms for a transcription activity led by Heather Wolfe, and a rare materials display curated by Before 'Farm to Table' postdoctoral fellows Jack Bouchard, Elisa Tersigni, and Michael Walkden.

A press release and photos of the event are available on GW Today.


Michael Walkden, " 'Excrements of the earth': Attitudes Towards Mushroom-Eating in Seventeenth-Century England"
Material Witness Seminar
July 24, 2019

Michael Walkden holds a PhD from the University of York in History, which he completed in June of 2018. Michael's scholarship is influenced by anthropology, literary studies, and neurobiology; his work explores the relationship between mind and gut in early modern England.

From the full English breakfast to the chicken and mushroom pie, mushrooms are a staple of modern British cuisine. In the seventeenth century, however, English dietary writers expressed vocal aversion towards the eating of mushrooms, viewing the practice as unnatural, debauched, and (perhaps worst of all) French. The language these authors used to discuss mushrooms was often viscerally hostile, drawing upon images of filth and decay. This session considered texts from a range of genres – including herbals, dietary advice literature, and recipe collections – to explore how culinary tastes can serve as microcosms of wider cultural anxieties.

Read a blog post that reflects on this material witness, or take a look at the materials that Michael consulted.

David Goldstein, "The Culture of Recipes: Authoring Community in the Early Modern English Cookbook"
June 18, 2019

David Goldstein is a critic, poet, food writer, and an Associate Professor at York University in Toronto. In this Research Colloquium, David reflected on his current scholarly work informed by a year's residence at the Folger serving as co-director of Before 'Farm to Table'.

"The notion of attaching the names of individual authors to cookbooks dates back to ancient Rome, but it was in seventeenth-century England that the genre of the printed, single-authored cookbook became a widespread cultural phenomenon. I examine the English printed recipe book as a rhetorical form that both drew from and shaped newly emerging conceptions of authorship. The case of the early modern cookbook, I argue, challenges the critical commonplace that the modern author consolidates notions of originality and power under the sign of that author’s name. Recipe book authors such as Hugh Plat, Robert May, William Rabisha, and Hannah Woolley develop instead a notion of what I call communitarian authorship, in which writers posit themselves less as figures of distinctive originality than as cathecting points for broader communities, both real and imagined. In fact a chief goal of much recipe publication in this period is the creation of community through the act of writing itself. The process of authorial individuation does not necessarily supplant the communal knowledge networks from which it emerges. In reimagining the recipe form in print, individual authorship helps realize a latent notion of community that emanates beyond the text and into the world."

Designed to fall during the end of each fellow’s period of residence, these hour-long conversations allow the Folger’s cohort of Long-Term Fellows to reflect on their time at the Folger and to share their discoveries, work, and insights with the wider Folger community. 

Woolley Week: New Discoveries in the Life and Work of a 17th-century Woman Writer
May 20 - 24, 2019

The Before 'Farm to Table' team dedicated a week to new discoveries in the life and work of seventeenth-century culinary and guidance writer Hannah Woolley. 

Read a round-up post on Woolley Week written by our team.

Watch a round-table session on the life & work of Woolley with the Before 'Farm to Table' team, hosted by our friends at The Recipes Project.

Hungry for more Woolley? Learn about the "re-discovery" of Hannah Woolley's lost book—a unique Folger holding—or read about the mysterious woman featured in that book's frontispiece. Or even try your hand at making marmalade  adapted from Woolley's recipes, featured in this year's First Chefs exhibit.

Wendy Wall, Distinguished Visiting Scholar
Avalon Professor of the Humanities, Northwestern
In Residence, May 2 - 4, 2019

Public Lecture
"Mobilizing Recipe Knowledge in 17th Century England"
May 2, 2019

Critical/Material Witness Seminar 
"What Can Early Modern English Recipes Tell Us?: Methodologies and Approaches"
May 3, 2019

Tastes of the Mediterranean: Music of 16th-Century Spain and Italy, Folger Consort
March 29 - 31, 2019

Pre-Performance Talk and Pop-up Exhibition
Elisa Tersigni, Postdoctoral Digital Research Fellow
March 30, 2019

"Join the Folger Collections team and scholars in exploring rare materials related to the Folger Consort's Tastes of the Mediterranean: Music of 16th-Century Spain and Italy. Enhance your Consort experience with this pre-show pop-up event and get a behind-the-scenes look at items from the Folger vault."

Confection, Third Rail Projects

Conceived and written by Zach Morris.
Directed and choreographed by Zach Morris with Tom Pearson and Jennine Willett, and created in collaboration with the company.
March 4 - 24, 2019

"Commissioned by Folger Theatre in association with the Mellon initiative in collaborative research and inspired by the rich collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Third Rail Projects’ newest immersive experience, Confection, is a rollicking rumination on opulence, inequity, and teeny-tiny desserts. Using accounts of the extravagant banquets and sumptuous feasts held by the aristocracy of the late 17th-century as a springboard, Confection is a multi-sensory dance/theater performance that contemplates cultures of consumption and poses the questions: How much does sweetness cost, and what are we willing to devour to satisfy our appetites?"

Nell Gywnn, Folger Theater
By Jessica Swale
Original music by Kim Sherman
Directed by Robert Richmond
January 29 - March 10, 2019

A humble orange seller from the streets of Drury Lane steps onto the stage and becomes the darling of the Restoration theater. Nell discovers one of her biggest fans is none other than Charles II. Smitten with Nell’s spirit, the king brings her to court as a favorite mistress. Commissioned by Shakespeare's Globe, this sparkling portrait of a rare woman earned accolades in London last season. This heart-warming and hilarious look at an amazing woman of her—or any—age is “an absolute treat” (The Times).

Read program notes by David Goldstein (Before 'Farm to Table' co-director, Associate Professor at York University in Toronto). David writes about Nell Gwynn's potent association with oranges, an exotic fruit which had newly become accessible to the theatergoing commoner in Restoration England.

Free Folger Friday: Cooking in the Archives
Marissa Nicosia, Assistant Professor of English at Penn State Abington
February 1, 2019

"First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas", Folger Exhibition
Curated by Amanda Herbert and Heather Wolfe
Assistant Curator, Elizabeth DeBold
On exhibition January 19 - March 31, 2019

"Just like today, getting food from farm to table in the early modern British world was hard work. And just like today, most of that hard work went unrecognized.

First Chefs tells the stories of the named and unnamed heroes of early modern food culture, and juxtaposes the extravagance of an increasingly cosmopolitan and wealthy upper class against the human cost of its pleasures: the millions of enslaved women, children, and men, servants, gardeners, street criers, and laborers who toiled to feed themselves and many others."

A college course titled "Food: A Global History" at the the Catholic University of America, taught by Dr. Lawrence R. Poos, used material for First Chefs in one of the course's units. 

Exhibtion text for First Chef is available on Folgerpedia.

Michael W. Twitty
Culinary Historian and Author 
February 11, 2019

"Join culinary historian, food writer, and living history interpreter Michael W. Twitty at the Folger Theater of Monday, February 11, 2019 as he examines the troubling stories behind American's shared culinary inheritance. Book signing to follow, with copies of Twitty's James Beard award-winning book The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South available for purchase. This lecture is free, though reservations are requested."

A Christmas Messe: A Banquet of Season English Music, Folger Consort
December 14 - 23, 2018

Pre-Performance Talk and Pop-up Exhibition
Amanda Herbert, co-director of Before 'Farm to Table'
December 15, 2018

"Join the Folger Collections team and scholars in exploring rare materials related to the Folger Consort's A Christmas Messe: A Banquet of Seasonal English Music. Enhance your Consort experience with this pre-show pop-up event and get a behind-the-scenes look at items from the Folger vault."

Listen to Folger Consort curated playlists on Spotify, including this production's featured music, and other seasonal English and German songs.

 Craig Muldrew, Distinguished Visiting Scholar
Professor of History, Queens' College, University of Cambridge
In Residence, November 13 - 16, 2018

Critical Witness reading group session
"Imperial Thirsts: Tea, Coffee, and Consumer Taste in Early Modern England"
November 14, 2018

Material Witness collections-focused session
"Account Books and Household Food Purchasing"
November 16, 2018

 "Digging the Past: Writing and Agriculture in the Seventeenth-Century", Scholarly Programs
Folger Institute Weekend Seminar
Directed by Frances Dolan
Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Davis
November 1-3, 2018

The Before ‘Farm to Table’ team joined this seminar group on a site visit to Smith Meadows Farm, a seventh-generation family farm owned and operated by sustainable farmer and New York Times bestselling author Forrest Pritchard.

 Ken Albala, Distinguished Visiting Scholar
Professor of History, University of the Pacific
In Residence, October 15 - 19, 2018

Public Lecture
"Cooking Early Modern Recipes as Research"
October 17, 2018

Material Witness collections focused session
"How to Read a Renaissance Manuscript Cookbook"
October 18, 2018

Ken Albala led a cooking session with the Before 'Farm to Table' team, adapting selected recipes from the seventeenth-century Cookery Book of Lettice Pudsey (Folger V.a. 450). View images of Lettice Pudsey's book.

 Oktoberfest: Early Music of Germany, Folger Consort
October 12 - 14, 2018

Pre-Performance Talk and Pop-up Exhibition
Jack Bouchard, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Saturday, October 13, 2018

Read Jack Bouchard's post in Shakespeare & Beyond based on the materials he curated for this unique pop-up event: “In the spirit of Oktoberfest: Food, drink, and changing times in early modern Europe” (October 30, 2018).

Listen to Folger Consort curated playlists on Spotify, including this production's featured music, select drinking songs of early Germany, and more.

 "Rough Digital Magic: Advancing the Miranda Digital Asset Platform", Scholarly Program
Miranda Workshop
Saturday 21-22, 2018

A project talk by Before 'Farm to Table' team members Heather Wolfe and Elisa Tersigni on the possibilities that the Folger's new digital asset platform, Miranda, offers to collaborative research projects generally and Before 'Farm to Table' specifically.



 Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) Transcribe-a-thon
September 18, 2018

Our friends at the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) gathered at the Folger to work on transcribing Folger V.b.14, the late seventeenth-century Cookbook of Jane Dawson. Participants joined in person at the Folger Shakespeare Library, other hosting locations, and virtually from their homes and offices.



Macbeth, Folger Theater and Folger Consort
By William Shakespeare
As adapted and amended by Sir William Davenant
With music by John Eccles and others performed by Folger Consort
Directed by Robert Richmond
This production was part of Performing Restoration Shakespeare, a program of the Arts and Humanities Research Council led by Queen's University Belfast.
September 4 - 23, 2018

Pre-performance Talk and Pop-Up Exhibition
David Goldstein, co-director of Before 'Farm to Table'
September 8, 2018

Read David Goldstein's post in Shakespeare & Beyond based on the materials he curated for this unique pop-up event: “Toil and Trouble: Recipes and the witches in ‘Macbeth’”(September 18, 2018).

Listen to Folger Consort curated playlists on Spotify featuring the music heard in this production of Macbeth and other songs of madness composed before 1750.

 The Folger Diet: A Meeting of Early Modern Food Projects
A gathering of food studies peer projects
The Before 'Farm to Table' team met with ten scholars from allied historical food studies projects for one day of intensive conversation
June 8, 2018

Participating scholars: Saskia Cornes, Assistant Professor of the Practice; Program Director, Duke Campus Farms, Duke University; Theresa McCulla, Historian, American Brewing History Initiative, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; Angela McShane, Head of Research Development, Wellcome Collections; Jessie MacLeod, Associate Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon; Jen Munroe, Associate Professor of English, University of North Carolina, Charlotte; Steering Committee, Early Modern Recipes Online Collective; Polly Putnam, Curator of Collections, Historic Royal Palaces; Anita Radini, Wellcome Trust Research Associate in Medical Humanities, University of York; Stephen Schmidt, Principle Researcher & Writer, Manuscript Cookbooks Survey; David Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor of History, University of South Carolina; Chairman of the Board, Carolina Gold Rice Foundation.

The Way of the World, Folger Theater
A new comedy adapted from the play by William Congreve
Written and Directed by Theresa Rebeck
January 9 - February 9, 2018

Read the Program notes by Laura J. Rosenthal (Professor of English, University of Maryland). Rosenthal writes about the connections between global trade and the development of "exotic" tastes in food and drink.

Listen to lecturer Zara Anishanslin (Associate Professor of History and Art History, University of Delaware) on “Flowers, Fashion, and the 18th-century Dining Room” (February 9, 2018) -- Zara Anishanslin helps us to understand the visual and material worlds of Congreve’s original play, describing the links between the eighteenth-century consumption – in many senses! – of fashion, food, and design.  We will learn about the luxury goods that were imported to London from across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and how these plants, animals, and minerals were used to enrich one critical eighteenth-century industry: silk manufacturing.