Homestead Lecture—Consuming Gentility: Americans and their Foodways, 1850-1900

June 25, 2014
Wednesday, 2 p.m.
Farnsworth Auditorium
Join scholar Susan Williams for a look at how families approached the art of dining in the mid to late 19th century--the same time period that the Farnsworth family was in residence at the Homestead. What can we learn about specific American families by looking closely at their dining rituals?  Can we interpret the history of everyday life, using foodways and dining customs as the lens? Families changed during the nineteenth century and those changes were evident in their dining customs: dining was one of the most ordinary and most important family rituals of the era. The realm of the Victorian dining room, along with its prescribed behaviors and accoutrements, serves as an avenue into larger ideas about class, gender, gentility, and national progress. This talk will explore the customs, menus, etiquette, and architectural spaces that defined the dining rituals of Victorian Americans.
Susan Williams received a PhD in the History of American Civilization from the University of Delaware in 1992. Prior to that, she was Curator of Household Accessories and Tablewares at the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in Rochester, New York (1973-1988). In 1985, she wrote Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America (Pantheon Books) to accompany an exhibition of the same title that traveled around the country for two years. A second book about Victorian foodways, Food in the United States, 1820s-1890 (Greenwood Press, 2006) examined the foodstuffs and cookery traditions of American households across the country. Her newest book, Alice Morse Earle and the Domestic History of Early America was published in February, 2013 by the University of Massachusetts Press. Her current research focuses on Italian food in America, from Thomas Jefferson to Chef Boy-R-Dee. Since 1992, Williams has been a professor of history at Fitchburg State University, a position from which she has recently retired.
Cost: $5 members; nonmembers free with admission. No advance reservations. Please pay at main admission desk upon arrival. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. for open seating.
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