A University of Southern Mississippi faculty member will give a talk on the food ways of Mississippi and their intersection with national identity as part of his recognition as the school’s Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher of the Year for 2011.
Dr. Andrew P. Haley, associate professor of history, will present “Mississippi’s Melting Pot: Community Cookbooks and National Identity in the Twentieth-century South” Thursday, Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in Gonzales Auditorium in the Liberal Arts Building (LAB) on the Hattiesburg campus. A reception will follow in the LAB lobby.
Haley will discuss how in the early 20th century in large cities on the east and west coasts of the United States a consensus developed within the newly influential middle class about what constituted America’s cuisine.
“The new, cosmopolitan ‘American’ menu contained some regional favorites, a few classic dishes, and—most significantly—ethnic dishes borrowed from the many immigrants who came to the country at the turn of the century,” Haley said.
His lecture, grounded in an empirical study of more than 50 community cookbooks published in Mississippi between 1920 and 1970, traces the adoption of cosmopolitan cuisine in Mississippi and argues that the embrace of ethnic foods by Mississippians helps to explain American nationalism in the twentieth century.
Haley’s research shows that by the early 1960s, nearly every community cookbook in the state included recipes for ethnic food. As an example, more than 40 percent of the recipes in the Calhoun City Cookbook, a high-school fundraiser published in the north Mississippi town, were foreign or ethnic in origin, including recipes for spaghetti and meatballs and Hawaiian steaks.
“I maintain that the prevalence of ethnic dishes like these in community cookbooks is something that cannot be fully explained by migration to the South or globetrotting Mississippians who returned home with a handful of spices,” Haley said. “Instead, it reveals the complex process by which a national culture—disseminated by both the public and private sectors—was inscribed locally (in this case, literally signed by the recipe’s contributor).”
He contends that in these cookbooks, the oftentimes difficult relations between native and ethnic, national and local, community and individual were seemingly resolved, if not always beyond the palate.
“While recipes for Italian cannelloni and Lebanese kibbee did not enfranchise the disenfranchised or end discrimination, they did help to create a national consensus on ethnic pluralism that served as a measure of the nation’s changing identity and a justification for those who were once seen as outsiders to assert their membership in the nation,” he said.
Haley researches class and culture in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period in American history when every aspect of modern American life took shape. His work focuses on the lives of everyday Americans. He recently published a book on the history of restaurants in the Gilded Age and teaches courses on popular culture, labor, gender, food and nationalism.
For more information about this event, contact the Southern Miss Department of History at 601.266.4333; to learn more about the Southern Miss Department of History and its programs, online visit http://www.usm.edu/history