Pilcher, “Food History”

The “The Embodied Imagination in Recent Writings on Food History”, written by Jeffrey Pilcher, discusses the increase of the historical research of food and the cultural history that has risen from this.  Pilcher discusses the term “embodied imagination” which “offers a useful means for conceptualizing the connections between sensory perceptions of food such as flavor, warmth, and satiety; the material work of preparing and consuming food; and cultural and social abstractions” (862).  This term is very important because now historians can use food as a social and cultural means in order to gain a completely different perspective on history.  Next, Pilcher discusses three recurring themes which are “social distinction, industrial transformation, and food politics” which “are often expressed through the embodied imagination of taste, purity, and hunger” (863).  Once again, by using food as another outlet for history, historians can dive into these three distinct themes.  Next, Pilcher discusses the where the study of changing tastes started, which was in Europe, within the elite class because of their wide array of opportunities and options provided (865).  Within Europe, the French Culinary Revolution has been the most studied (865).  Furthermore, Pilcher discusses how historians are going beyond the pure taste sensations of individuals, but they are now looking at the linguistic vocabulary used to describe food (868).  Also, sensory experiences around food can also be documented for research (869).  And through the sensory tastes of an individual, apparently race also plays a factor (871).  Pilcher notes how “Periodization has become an important question in the historiography on the food industry, as scholars debate exactly when and how an industrial diet of sugars and fats came to replace the carbohydrate-centered peasant diets of the premodern world” (878).  First of all, this is so cool!  I would have never thought about this, but I can completely see how by looking at this through a historical lens, the findings a historian could find!  The physical experience of hunger as a study for research is noted in this article because of the manipulation of food on people’s body, social standing, culture, etc. (882).  Overall, this article covered main focuses of food history and how it can help historians see different perspectives of the past.  I absolutely loved this read and as a historian, find this very necessary to focus on while studying the past.