I just returned from a weekend in Historic Deerfield where I attended the Dublin Seminar New England Folklife for the first time. They have been holding this event for more than 30 years, covering such diverse topics as medicine and healing, foodways (food history), textiles, family life, women’s work, diaries, probate inventories, Connecticut doors, life on the commons and in the streets and many more.
The talks from the conference are published a few years after the conference and are available for purchase here. It’s a wonderful collection and I own many of these books as part of my social history collection. This year the talks focused on food history and covered such diverse topics as Indian corn and social identity, the cod industry, dining interactions between the colonists and the Wampanoags, dining and education in boarding schools over the past 200 years, how food and recipes are often used politically and modern indigenous cuisine in New England. I was especially interested in those that dealt with colonial New England or with the “common folk.”
I am not a food historian and before the conference wasn’t all that interested in food history. But I know that in the colonial period, food and medicine very much overlapped and recipe (or receipt) books often contained both culinary and medicinal recipes. So I went hoping that I would make some new contacts through networking and to learn a little more about food history.
I came away with several new friends, and just as important, a new appreciation for food history and it’s role in social history. I will use some of the new resources I learned about as starting points to learn more about food and its role in our ancestors lives.