Fed Up: Women and Food in America

Fed Up: Women and Food in America

Fed Up: Women and Food in America

Fed Up: Women and Food in America


Combining feminist anthropology and theory with culinary history, Catherine Manton examines the place of food in women's history, with a particular emphasis on the life and changing roles of the American woman and her self-image.


I have always been passionately involved with food in one way or another.

As a child my relationship with food was adversarial in many ways. Being diagnosed with 53 food allergies as a toddler meant that most of the foods other family members ate were off limits for me. My extremely limited diet did, however, provide me a special status in relation to my older sisters. I was the "sickly" one who got lots of attention and fuss from my parents, especially my mother.

My mother, Elva, was an accomplished cook in the best tradition of domestic science. Her children had a balanced diet and ate what she put on their plates, regardless of personal food preferences. Meal times were serious business, and snacking between meals was not allowed. Elva made it quite clear that she did not welcome any help in the kitchen, saying there was only room for one person to cook in that space. Given the family's food arrangement, it was not suprising that I ate only out of duty throughout my childhood.

With marriage and a subsequent move from my parents' home, I was forced to learn something about cooking. This "wifely duty" quickly captured my interest as I joined other women of my generation in a progression from soup-based recipes (1950s), through French cuisine (1960s), to health food (1970s) over the next few decades.

During the 1980s I gradually became aware of the different ways food had become an organizing principle in my life. The old kitchen in my Boston townhouse always had been the heart of the building.

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