Before “Farm to Table”: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures is a four-year, $1.5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiative in collaborative research. The premise of the project is that food, then as now, is a basic human need. It also has a history and is a gateway to understanding different societies and cultures. Over the course of the project we have investigated big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics, and imagination. These include things like the unevenness of food supply, the development and spread of “tastes,” the recovery of the experiences of enslaved foodworkers, the socially cohesive rituals of eating together. Our hope has been that a fresh understanding of a pre-industrial food world will give us purchase on the post-industrial assumptions, aspirations, and challenges surrounding modern foodways.
Amanda E. Herbert is Associate Director at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she runs the Fellowships Program. She holds the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History from Johns Hopkins University. She studies the history of the body: gender and sexuality; health and wellness; food, drink, and appetite. Her first book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (Yale 2014) won the Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Her second book, Spa Medicine and Body Politics in the British Atlantic considers premodern mineral springs as early sites of public health. She is an editor for The Recipes Project, a Digital Humanities/HIST-STEM effort, and a co-director for Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a $1.5 million Mellon Foundation initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute. She is at work on a book entitled Leftovers: The Afterlives of Early Modern Food. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland