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Eat My Words

Reading Women's Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote

Janet Theophano

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

Some people think that a cookbook is just a collection of recipes for dishes that feed the body. In Eat My Words: Reading Women's Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote, Janet Theophano shows that cookbooks provide food for the mind and the soul as well. Looking beyond the ingredients and instructions, she shows how women have used cookbooks to assert their individuality, develop their minds, and structure their lives. Beginning in the seventeenth century and moving up through the present day, Theophano reads between the lines of recipes for dandelion wine, "Queen of Puddings," and half-pound cake to capture the stories and voices of these remarkable women.The selection of books looked at is enticing and wide-ranging. Theophano begins with seventeenth-century English estate housekeeping books that served as both cookbooks and reading primers so that women could educate themselves during long hours in the kitchen. She looks at A Date with a Dish, a classic African American cookbook that reveals the roots of many traditional American dishes, and she brings to life a 1950s cookbook written specifically for Americans by a Chinese émigré and transcribed into English by her daughter. Finally, Theophano looks at the contemporary cookbooks of Lynne Rosetto Kaspar, Madeleine Kamman, and Alice Waters to illustrate the sophistication and political activism present in modern cookbook writing. Janet Theophano harvests the rich history of cookbook writing to show how much more can be learned from a recipe than how to make a casserole, roast a chicken, or bake a cake. We discover that women's writings about food reveal--and revel in--the details of their lives, families, and the cultures they help to shape.

REVIEWS

Praise for Eat My Words

 
"She has enriched our appreciation for the texture of women's domestic lives across centuries and an ocean."--Women's Review of Books
"Janet Theophano [is]...nourishing the mind and changing the way old cookbooks are perceived."--Oakland Press
"Eat My Words is the perfect introduction."--Baltimore Sun
"...she is at her very best when penetrating her material, like a light shining through paper, to illuminate the characters of her women authors."--Toronto Star
“. . . a remarkable achievement. . . Eat My Words is not merely a history of cookbooks, but an exploration of women's lives in their own words. . .” --Phyllis Pray Bober, author of Art, Culture, and Cuisine
“...an engrossing study of how individual women and entire communities have, for centuries, expressed themselves through culinary instruction both formal and funky.” --Francine Prose, Elle
"The author has set herself a difficult task. Eat my Words is not entirely a work of history nor of literary exegesis nor of Geertzian 'thick description'...Seeking to chart continuity, rather than historical change, Theophano organizes chapters on themes pertinent to all women's lives."--Shirley Teresa Wajda, Winterthur Portfolio

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Janet Theophano

  • Janet Theopano is a leading social historian and Associate Director of the College of General Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She writes widely on food and foodways in American life.
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    Eat My Words

    Reading Women's Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote

    Janet Theophano

    • Trade Paperback

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