Early American History Seminar: Shannon Dawdy, University of Chicago

Thursday, February 21, 2008

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Early American History and Culture Seminar

“ ‘First you make a roux… with bear fat’: Cooking, Eating, and Colonial Identity in French Louisiana”
Shannon Dawdy, University of Chicago

This paper pursues two related questions, the first substantive, the second interpretive: what were people eating in French colonial Louisiana? and what do food practices and their related discourses tell us about colonialism? Using colonial narratives and archaeological data, I show that the meals of French colonial Louisiana were quite distinct from that which is now recognized as Creole cuisine. The argument I develop here is that food patterns in French colonial Louisiana reflect a tension between an adventurous embrace of the exotic and a clinging to French culinary practices. This duality reflects the hybridity of colonial identity while the ways in which it gets resolved reflects the “consuming” transformation of the civilizing process.