“Eat as the King Eats”: Making the Middle Class through Food, Foodways, and Food Discourses in Nineteenth-Century Germany Restricted; Files & ToC

Kreklau, Claudia (Summer 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/df65v7877?locale=en


This dissertation analyzes the making of the middle class in nineteenth-century Germany through food, foodways, and food discourses using tools from social and cultural history, the history of science and medicine, and gender and post-colonial studies. While scholarship has disagreed over whom to include in the middle class, this dissertation proposes that middlingness depended on social recognition. In order to argue their case for middling identity, aspiring middling families imitated social superiors, networked with peers, and used food as a means of social control. Their house staff catered to and shaped their employers’ taste for distinction through purchases and cuisine as part of a marketplace for class identity from 1800. Throughout the century, middling consumers moved between vicarious and direct imperialism, cosmopolitanism, civic pride, regional patriotism, and royalism, balancing surviving the winter and social recognition in their food choices in a society always stratified by class and gender, but explicitly colonial and Orientalist by 1900. As a side-effect, the German social middle inherited, combined, and reinvented then-contemporary culinary trends to craft modern eating practices. French chefs migrating to German lands after 1789 educated working women who worked as cooks in German middle-class households in mid-century, there synthesizing French cuisine with emerging industrial changes. What resulted was “modern eating,” the simultaneous use of industrialized processed foods from substitutes, and vacuum- preserved- and ready-meals laced with additives (colorings, flavor enhancements), complemented with supplements. Middling households embraced these food changes, but reacted against food adulteration with calls for natural eating and food safety laws in 1878. While key synthetic food historical scholarship has emphasized religion and nutrition in the design of contemporary global cuisines, and German scholarship on nineteenth-century food emphasized agricultural production, this dissertation highlights power as control over food, eating as self-making, and cooking as a speech-act. This approach makes a range of middling and working agents visible, integrates foodworkers into studies of the German middle class, and middling households into global histories of contemporary eating. Approaching nineteenth-century Germany as a laboratory of modernity, this dissertation shows that we cannot understand modern eating without nineteenth-century Germany.

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