A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

By Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt

Combining the learn of nutrients tradition with gender stories and utilizing per­spectives from historic, literary, environmental, and American reviews, Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt examines what southern women’s offerings approximately nutrients let us know approximately race, type, gender, and social power.

Shaken by means of the legacies of Reconstruction and the turmoil of the Jim Crow period, assorted races and periods got here jointly within the kitchen, usually as servants and mistresses but additionally as individuals with shared tastes and traditions. often eager about elite whites or bad blacks, southern foodways are usually portrayed as strong and unchanging—even as an untroubled resource of nostalgia. A Mess of Greens deals a unique standpoint, taking into consideration industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s elevated function within the workforce, all of which brought on sizeable monetary and social alterations. Engelhardt unearths a vast heart of southerners that integrated bad whites, farm households, and heart- and working-class African americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as southern nutrition have been very high.

Five “moments” within the tale of southern food—moonshine, biscuits as opposed to cornbread, girls’ tomato golf equipment, pellagra as depicted in mill literature, and cookbooks as technique of communication—have been selected to light up the connectedness of foodstuff, gender, and position. Incorporating neighborhood cookbooks, letters, diaries, and different archival fabrics, A Mess of Greens exhibits that identifying to serve chilly biscuits rather than scorching cornbread may perhaps impact a family’s acceptance for being hygienic, ethical, proficient, or even godly.

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Though she exhibits features of both, neither frameworks for New Women nor those for teen girls works for such an outrageous character. Kit Brandon begins bootlegging while still in her teens; she “retires” from it in her thirties with fame and celebrity. The sex she has does not automatically result in children, and she refuses to apologize for enjoying it. She transports, helps produce, and even drinks moonshine. Kit refuses taming; rather, stories like hers suggested that her transgressions were precisely what Appalachia and the nation needed.

The final page of the novel is the one moment Burton completely controls, emphasized by his italicized “I”: “I clasped the real culprit close, and laughed at the thought of her pluck and the wisdom of her plans for evading justice, and reveled in the bravery of her final confession . . ”14 By marrying Juletty off to the revenuer, McElroy re-domesticated her into traditional gender roles. McElroy’s readers could choose either to embrace or to reject Juletty’s former life; regardless, McElroy created enough rhetorical space to highlight the interplay of gender, food, and social hierarchies, pointing out that who cooked what could introduce debates over morals as well as laws and roles.

Later, Kit and her friends from the factories drink together the “raw, terrible drink [that] burned Kit’s throat. ” Yet the recipe for this moonshine is not a precious inheritance from a great-grandfather or 44 chapter one George Washington; liquor here is “the story of every big American industry [. ”39 It is a thoroughly modern drink, produced for specific markets, quickly and with as much profit as possible. Moonshine proves the very ingredient that makes Anderson’s southern story rigorously contemporary, firmly anti-nostalgic.

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