My heart is going to explode with happiness. Food52 just released an infographic (by Jordan Sondler), map, and list with some of the world’s best cookie recipes. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about cookie recipes in preparation for holiday gifts, and now I’m overwhelmed with the urge to retire early and spend the rest of my life baking these iconic desserts. Who needs a PhD? But cookies – oh cookies.
Even better, you can pin your own recipes to a Google Maps archive they’ve started here.
As an American Studies digital humanities/food studies scholar I love this project. The project and subsequent digital discussion speak to the ways that national identity is wrapped up in food. By baking and eating these cookies you can play food tourist at home and consume other national identities.
And all too often many Americans forget how typically American food traditions are not the norm elsewhere. Sascha, a graduate student in Purdue’s American Studies program from Germany, was astounded when attending the first professional development workshop on campus where he tasted a gooey, buttery, M&M-speckled grocery store cookie. “THEY’RE SO SOFT. HAVE YOU TRIED THESE COOKIES? COOKIES DO NOT TASTE LIKE THIS IN GERMANY.” Is it the vegetable shortening Americans add? Or the rainbow of chocolately morsels that makes their taste and texture so delicious? I have no idea. Needless to say, he’s requested cookies or candy at almost every event since.
Here’s a list of 46 recipes Food 52 posted on their site. Where am I going to begin my baking??? Maybe #9 – because who doesn’t want to bake with Tequila!?
Here’s to celebrating a little differently this year.
This Thanksgiving was probably unlike yours – calm and quiet with almost zero hustle and bustle in the kitchen. I spent the day making Thumbprint cookies with raspberry/cloudberry jam centers for men at The Sleeping Room (the local men’s shelter in Muncie, IN), before serving them dinner. The menu: from-the-box stuffing, from-the-can green beans, 2 cans cranberry sauce, a dismantled homemade turkey, Sara Lee pumpkin pie, and cookies (my only genuine contribution). When we arrived Betty, the mom in a mother-daughter 2-person team of shelter managers, was sorting through the day’s food donations from Feed My Sheep. What seemed like a bounty to Betty left us confused. Opening the bags we found the offal of pantry discards: 4 jello snack packs. A can of black beans. A package of expired cheesy rice. A can of kidney beans. A can of tuna. A jar of toffee-flavored coffee sweetener. How do you make breakfast and dinner for 10 men every day with these pantry remnants? “We are so blessed,” said Betty. Thankfully the holiday cheer drives a flood of donations, while the rest of the year the shelves dry up.
The hour spent there was quick but meaningful. We returned to spend the evening enjoying the warm weather by our backyard campfire deep in thought over the experiences of our country’s homeless. What is it like to survive on the streets? How does involuntary urban camping change your daily habits: when/where to go to the bathroom, what counts as entertainment or dead weight, and what types of behaviors (like sitting on a curb or carrying a book bag) while completely normal for many attract unwanted suspicion and attention? How long can you survive being homeless?
Most of all, it made us think how completely insufficient this tiny studio apartment-turned shelter for 10 men was to quell the needs of the local homeless. Elizabeth, a Chicago-area women who recently Airbnb-ed our spare room for a night, told us about her work advocating for Chicago’s homeless population of 140,000. An estimated 14,000-15,000 men, women, and children each day sleep on the streets of Chicago, yet the city provides only 140 beds for the homeless. With the high price of real estate in the city, and more and more middle- and upper-middle class professionals paying high rents to gentrify previously poor neighborhoods, there’s no economic incentive to convert Chicago property into shelters.
Homelessness should not be balanced on the backs of people like Betty and Elizabeth alone. How is homeless everyone’s problem? And how can the solution be the result of everyone’s work? So grab a cookie and let’s discuss.
In November of 2015 I presented my research on Berkeley’s People’s Park at SACRPH – The Society for American City and Regional Planning History. Because the conference was based in LA, many panels that put theorists, practitioners, and historians in conversation addressed local concerns over the right of the masses to the city. One of the most engaging panels included presentations by Cathy Gudis and Eric Avila who, in different ways, evidenced a public visual culture “from below” with rich examples of people staking claim to urban space in LA.
Eric showed his own photographs of The Great Wall – a mural painted on a concrete barrier trailing 2754 feet on Canyon Ave by artist Judy Baca – which offers vivid snapshots in America’s history and experiences of communities of color. More than just acknowledging their existence, the mural captures struggles over power embedded in urban space, such as this segment that portrays how local and state governments backed with federal funding seized land owned by people of color to build highways, universities, and more. This segment shows how the state demolished Chavez Ravine, a Mexican American neighborhood in LA, to make way for a new highway and the Dodger’s Stadium that divided the barrios and fragmented the Mexican American community.
Offering a contemporary lens, Cathy shared her own experiences working with the bi-annual Walk the Talk parade held by the LAPD (LA Poverty Department) in Skid Row – home to the largest homeless population in the US. My own experience staying in Skid Row for the SACRPH conference was eye-opening. I was absolutely stunned at how many people were living on the street in clumped tent cities.
The parade functions as an affront to cultural norms and policies discouraging citizens and tourists from venturing into Skid Row and talking with its itinerant residents. Marchers carrying musical instruments and posters showing the faces of dead and still surviving homeless residents process through the neighborhood. The parade is part of a series of events facilitated by the LAPD that engages the community in discussions to identify initiatives and people who have made positive contributions to Skid Row.
What events and places in your community highlight the experiences of people of color in American past and present?
Panels at conferences often feel like a hastily assembled mishmash of different things, like a fruit salad made by Mr. Magoo. Scholars who do not know each other and know less about each other’s research work together over email to try to slap together panel proposals that seem just plausible enough to pass muster with weary conference organizers, who have papers to grade, toddlers with runny noses, and annoying emails from students to answer. (In my best John Oliver voice: If the reading is listed next to the class date on the syllabus, you read it BEFORE CLASS on that day Jeremy!)
But occasionally you get to see a panel where all the papers interlock in meaningful and intellectually intelligible ways. In just this fashion, the session “The Unplanned City: Occupation and Creative Reuse” at last week’s SACRPH conference in Los Angeles offered an invigorating and rich perspective on different approaches…
Meatballs. I grew up eating small, thumb-sized beef meatballs microwaved from their frozen plastic bag and then dumped into a pot of 2 cans of 99 cent Hunts spaghetti sauce. After swirling my fork around a lump of store-brand boxed noodles, I stabbed each juicy meat pocket before adding a final dollop of sauce for a perfect bite. Because a whole bag of frozen meatballs was allotted for a family of five, I had a shot of getting 5-6 meatballs to start me off before grabbing a few more for seconds after the first round. If you were really lucky, there were some leftover store-brand hot dog buns on which we lather Country Crock margarine with our butter knives before sprinkling yellow-dyed garlic salt. It was heaven.
Frozen meatballs!? Spaghetti sauce from a can!? Store-brand noodles from a box!? No actual garlic!? I hear your criticisms through space and time. No, I did not cut open real garlic until college. Although I didn’t really know it then (and didn’t really know what I was missing since my siblings and I mostly just befriended each other), it was the best my mom could do. Teaching fourth graders from 7-4 PM or later, with three kids plus one adult male child for a husband who worked all day, it was all she could do to make sure we were fed quickly and cheaply so she could get some sleep. And I don’t regret it. This version of preserved, hydrogenated, frozen Italian American food has always been my most favorite meal. Spaghetti and meatballs is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, carb, vegetable, and protein, main course and dessert. It’s good cold or hot. It’s quick and wholesome — comfort food fast.
Yet meatballs haven’t always been joyous spaghetti speckles of opulence. At Global Food: Local Perspectives on October 22 at Purdue University, Dr. Simone Cinotto gave an interesting lecture about the myths and realities of Italian American food culture which can be reduced to the transformation of the lowly meatball. Presenting material from his book The Italian American Table, Simone argued that Italian food culture has been mis-remembered as always being rich and plentiful, but that it was instead a post-immigration shift for the majority of Italy’s working-class citizens. Italians who ventured to the US did so out of economic necessity, often shaking out bread crumbs and clinging pots and pans to create a symphony of cooking for neighbors for meals that never existed. Working-class Italian families in the US were able to finally afford rich meats, breads, and cheeses in ways they never could in Italy – ultimately producing a dense and diverse Italian American food culture in New York City and beyond.
Although spaghetti and meatballs is considered a classic Italian dish (perhaps made most pop culturally famous with Lady and the Tramp), large baseball-sized meatballs of pork, veal, beef, and spices haven’t always been a sign of opulence. Meatballs were a working-class tool for spreading meat out farther, stretching the cheapest cuts of ground mystery meat by mixing in nearly equal amounts of bread crumbs to make golf-ball sized polpettes.
While more wealthy northern Italians tended to move out to central and western states, southern Italians made landfall in downtown Manhattan within proximity of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany—an enclave of German transplants settled in the Lower East Side, who ran many butcher shops that sold beef and pork. In Italy, those meats were hard to come by in the south, and usually were accompanied by high prices, so a ready supply of more affordable red meat became a gold mine for the growing Italian population…The meatball-as-convenience-food concept grew steadily through the turn of the century, as more and more of New York and the country settled into a standardized eight-hour workday. With a greater percentage of the workforce—male and female—conforming to a 9 to 5 schedule, pre-made dishes like meatballs functioned as a kind of fast food, especially when loaded into a crusty hero loaf. Reliable, recognizable, and reasonably priced, they made for an easy meal with few strings attached. And along the way they solidified the American understanding of what “Italian food” meant.
So, in practice of Global Foods: Local Perspectives, in celebration of the World Series, and in remembrance of all my delicious microwaved food of my youth, here are TWO recipes for meatballs from Walla Walla, Washington in 1950, along with several other delicious globally-inspired fusion recipes from Cold War-era housewives. Dig in and read Lisa Banu’s coverage of Global Food: Local Perspectives here! More reflections to come.
You are invited to attend an important symposium exploring international influences on local food culture. Global Food: Local Perspectives will be Thursday October 22, 3:30-5:30 in NLSN 1215 at Purdue University.
The symposium will feature a keynote lecture by Dr. Simone Cinotto, Professor of Italian American history and food studies at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. He will present material from his most recently published book, Making Italian America: Consumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities (2014). Following his lecture, Dr. Lisa Banu (local food/design studies blogger at HungryPhil.com) will lead a roundtable discussion with three local restaurant owners from Thai Essence, La Scala, and Shaukin about their food memories and philosophies. A complimentary food tasting for the first 50 people will accompany their discussion. Visitor parking at PGG (Grant St., West Lafayette).
This event has been curated by Kera Lovell as part of her 2015 Global Synergy Grant. The event has been sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts’ Global Synergy Grant, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, the American Studies Program, the Italian Studies Program, the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and the American Studies Graduate Student Organization all at Purdue University. Thanks to Kirsten Serrano (La Scala), Miinal Bhatt (Shaukin), and Ake Waratap (Thai Essence) for donating their time for this event.
The central thread through all of my research is my analysis of the relationship between identity and citizenship — or how we know who we are and how that who we are is regulated. In my dissertation I research how postwar activists understood this relationship as rooted in practices of police violence and urban renewal and histories of colonialism.
Two undergraduate courses I’ve taught in American Studies focus on this relationship between identity and citizenship. My spring 2015 course “Blood, Bones, and Brains” examined twentieth century US history through the lens of the body, and focused on how the body became a canvas for self-definition and regulation. My summer 2015 online course “Youth Cultures” used Tumblr to facilitate discussion about how American youth identity is continually constructed as both youthfully beautiful and immaturely undeveloped.
Additionally, I’ve conducted research on the high school women’s liberation movement between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. My paper, “Girls Are Equal Too: Education, Body Politics, and the Making of Teenage Feminism,” published in the academic journal Gender Issues, analyzes how teenage girls began to articulate how their age shaped their unique experience with sexual discrimination. Another version of the article was published in Black Perspectives, the online journal of the African American Intellectual Historical Society.
In particular, in this paper I focus on how teenage girls articulated feminism through their own perspectives and bodies. Letters and essays written by teenage girls during this time demonstrate how girls saw feminism as a tool to challenge gender role socialization and build a supportive and collaborative community of girl activists within this revolutionary context. Ultimately, by challenging age divisions between the adult-dominated face of the Second Wave and the girl-focused Third Wave, this paper uses the voices of teenage girls to shed light on an earlier movement of “girl power” that has yet to be excavated.
As an expansion of my dissertation, my book project titled The People’s Park: Work, the Body, and the Built Environment in Radical Postwar Placemaking traces the origins of insurgent park creation as a widespread tactic of civil disobedience in the late Vietnam War era. Using oral history interviews and archival research from collections across five states, the book documents how activist coalitions illegally transformed more than forty vacant lots into what they called “People’s Parks” during the long 1970s. In particular, the book project examines how key components of these parks, including food production, landscape design, art, and the underground press shaped activists’ memories of these spaces. Because my research focuses on identity, my work offers an intersectional analysis of these spaces with a focus on race, gender, and sexuality. My articles, “Free Food, Free Space” (American Studies Journal) and “Everyone Gets a Blister” (Women’s Studies Quarterly) both explore women’s work in shaping the visual and material culture of these parks, illuminating how women activists struggled to create space within this largely white male-dominated protest movement. For park creators of color, such as those at San Diego’s Chicano Park to Chicago’s Poor People’s Park, park creation meant challenging police brutality as systemic racism. By putting these park creations in conversation with contemporary protests, my research offers historical perspective to growing protests about the right to space due to continued struggles over urban renewal amidst the growing housing crisis.
In 2020 I was awarded a research grant by the Graham Foundation to conduct an international research trip from Seoul to D.C. to collect archival data at the Library of Congress. This research is in the process of being published in two chapters in edited collections.
As an extension of my dissertation research, my project proposal for the 2015-2016 National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fulbright, awarded semi-finalist, focuses on the relationship between space and power. The project, titled “Grass/Roots,” compares and maps spatial and environmental power by analyzing how people occupy, reclaim, and create public green spaces in South Africa, New Zealand, and the UK. The project combines ethnographic interviews, site and event documentations, weekly self-produced informational graphics, and a cumulative cultural atlas illuminating connections among my case studies and their intertwined colonial histories.
In 2014 I was awarded a $10,000 exploratory research grant to study transnational American food studies at the World Expo in Milan Italy in May of 2015. As part of this grant I worked with Dr. Simone Cinotto at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, before organizing a symposium with him as keynote at Purdue University in October of 2015. The symposium, called “Global Food: Local Perspectives,” offers an investigative look into how food production and consumption is transnational — even in West Lafayette, Indiana. Since then, I have integrated food studies into my dissertation and teaching.
The culmination of each class I’ve taught includes 2 connected assignments: the creation of a mind map in which you rethink the topics and organization of the course and a 1-2 page essay unpacking the argument and significance of your map.
(side note: You can check out the course syllabus for AMST 201: Conformity and Rebellion in American Youth Culture on my Academia.edu page here. This 8-week online course was offered at Purdue University in the summer of 2015, and had 12 undergraduate students and 1 Masters student. Most interestingly, it includes the list of readings and films assigned for the course, although I’m always on the lookout for more amazing assignments. Send your ideas my way!)
This visual exercise frequently stumps my students who have never had to create an assignment like this. How can you grade it? What’s the right answer? How will I know if I’m wrong? And all I can say is this: “I want you to be brilliantly original and brief. Show me critical thinking and show me that you engaged with assigned material and discussion topics over the course of this semester.” It’s a lofty goal, but most of the time it really gets students thinking about how to put all of the puzzle pieces back together. It encourages students to think about the significance of juxtaposing these ideas, as well as initiates thinking about what topics or perspectives were left out.
For this course, students were asked to create a mind map on American youth culture and write an accompanying explanatory mind map. I encourage you to check out all of the mind maps on Tumblr by searching for our shared class hashtag #amst201youth. Here are a few of my favorites as well as my own mind map of youth culture.
In his mind map, Tylor broke down the course chronologically by generations (which offered an interesting counterpoint to the course which was organized thematically and jumped from past to present). Readings or films on each generation indicated distinct characteristics. He argued that Generation X was ethnically diverse, educated, and “their generation worked to live, and they didn’t live to work.
This generation was the first to not have to live through the segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.” Generation Y is family oriented, ambitious, and desires to make a difference. He adds: “This generation is the generation that are into tech, like the software developed today, is the result of this generation, their ambition and desire to make a difference. This was also the generation that experienced the zoot culture. This culture was a good topic in this class, because it showed how different cultures were adopted by teens in order to make themselves more comfortable.”
Finally, Generation Z is focused on technology and entrepreneurship: “Today’s youth are the ones we see with all the new iphones, ipads and all the social media account, such as Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat. We don’t know everything about this generation, but it’s gonna be something exciting for us to experience.”
Destiny chose Prezi as the medium for her mind map, so I encourage you to check it out in order to see it in a better quality. Destiny chose to construct her mind map on four stages of being in youth culture as seen through the eyes of youth. In her explanatory essay, she writes about the different sections:
“WE ARE GROWING represents the things that youths develop as a result of the environment they are placed in. Like the LA/Salvador, and Dummy Smart articles, youths grow, usually against the grain, and begin to develop their own identities based on the geographic and social location they are in. Usually, they develop a culture and a lifestyle that they can fit themselves in after being rejected by ‘normal’ society.
WE ARE CHANGING meant to represent the different paths that demographically diverse youths take. Some allow themselves to fall into the socially constructed system, while other don’t. Like the podcast on Hispanic youth and the documentary Teenage, new communities, identities, cultures, and social norms can arise when enough regulative pressure is applied to youth populations.”
See more of Destiny’s excellent work at her Tumblr site here.
Ariel’s mind map is broken into four poles: norms, power, identity, and gender (nearly every one of Ariel’s posts offered a thoughtful feminist analysis of gender, so check out her work here). She gives a spectacular analysis, but I’m going to only focus on one of her points to give you an incentive to check out her full essay on her Tumblr. Ariel argued in her essay that visible aspects of one’s identity (like gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity) shape how the individual is perceived as connected to power and expectations of conformity.
She writes: “As discussed in numerous articles, a person’s race/ethnicity are often a source of power imbalance. As is seen not only in the articles but in everyday life, if you are a part of the mainstream society you tend to have more power in general while being a member of a minority group automatically grants you less power. From this imbalance of power stems the concepts of conformity and rebellion.
There are those who though they do not necessarily agree with the imbalance of power, go along with or conform. Then there are those who rebel against the power imbalance in whatever way they can.” Ultimately, you can never resist both forces of power and identity, the visibility of your identity (race, gender, sexuality, and even class) and the cultural norms granting certain identities more power. These forces exist together in an electrified web.
I pick up Ariel’s argument in my own mind map for the course. In thinking about how to visualize the theme of youth culture I couldn’t get away from the course’s initial organization around two oppositional yet overlapping poles: conformity and rebellion.
This course really interested me over time because it revealed how the central themes of youth culture revolved around how teenagers exist in a liminal state – youths are celebrated as beautiful, idealistic, pure, adventurous, and youthful, while they are also denigrated as naive, self-absorbed, dangerous, vulnerable, and juvenile. Youth culture holds so much power and yet youths are given very little citizenship except for the right to (and expectation to) consume.
Conformity and rebellion are shaped by social and cultural norms, individual wants and experiences, family dynamics (and I would add, historical context), shape behaviors and identities of American youths. These two tensions between conformity and rebellion shape the essential relationship between identity (who am I and what does that mean?) and citizenship (what power do I have and how are my rights valued in society?). Nearly every example we encountered in the readings or films demonstrated how youths in ways that both conformed and rebelled.
Miss Representation demonstrated many girls conformed to cultural norms of female sexualization and infantalization by sexualizing themselves. To engage in this self-sexualization is an act of conforming to norms of women’s sexualization in such a way that presents this self-sexualization as an act of rebellion. Likewise, in the chapter “Dummy Smart” from Victor Rios’s book Punished, Rios argues that young black and Latino boys engage in practices of creating organic capital in an attempt to define their own identity in positive ways that both conforms and rebels – such as wearing expensive tennis shoes to a job interview. These attempts, however, are frequently misrecognized as being lazy or disrespectful that, in turn, further reinforce negative stereotypes about youths of color.
Don’t forget to check out the syllabus on my Academia.edu page or check out amstyouthculture.tumblr.com to see more of our discussions throughout this extremely brief yet fun course on youth culture.