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Tasting America: An Edible Literary History

The Portico is pairing food and literature at an event that will tell the history of cuisine in the United States through a lively lecture and series of tastings. Expect to learn about the canonization of pumpkin pie as quintessentially “American” while munching on a slice of this classic treat. Centred on the story of American taste and the role literature and played in making it come to be, this engaging talk led by Dr. J. Michelle Coghlan will be delivered alongside some delicious culinary highlights from the U.S., selected and prepared by The Portico Library’s chef, Joe Fenn. This will also be a chance to engage with some gems from The Portico Library’s American literature and American travel writing collections, which will be on display on the evening.

Succotash lettuce wraps, with corn, lima beans and fresh tomato

Mini chilli bowl (meat, vegetarian or vegan) with fresh corn tortillas and sour cream

Mini pumpkin tarts with fresh whipped cream

American tastes in the gastronomic sense were invented—and increasingly contested—in the nineteenth century as food fads, reform movements, gourmands and household manuals sought at once to define and to regulate what common culinary heritage most held the new nation together. While influential writers such as Sarah Josepha Hale sought to canonize New England regional dishes such as pumpkin pie as quintessentially “American”, celebrated Philadelphia restauranteur James W. Parkinson lamented that Russian Grand Duke Alexis, upon completing his tour of the U.S. in 1871, suggested that the country “had no American dishes.” And turn-of-the-century American expatriate Elizabeth Robins Pennell did her best to convince readers on both sides of the Atlantic that cookery books were real literature and that “greedy women” ought to be celebrated, herself among them!

Dr. Coghlan is Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Sensational Internationalism, which won the 2017 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize in American Studies, and served as editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Literature and Food (Cambridge University Press, 2019). She has published essays on temperance cookbooks, Elizabeth Robbins Pennell and the origins of American food writing, and the politics of eating in Guy Endore’s 1933 horror novel, The Werewolf of Paris.

Tickets can be refunded up to 7 days before this event.

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