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Hannah Spiegelman (Boston University/A Sweet History) 
Pleasure, Parlors, Phosphates, and the Pastoral: Ice Cream Consumption Sites and “Spa” Culture in 19th Century America


In 19th century America, pleasure gardens, ice cream parlors, and soda fountains were spaces that communicated dominant ideas of gender, class and race. The nineteenth century was a transition point for ice cream, when ice cream transformed from a luxury product to a mass produced and accessible product; Yet, at the same time as ice cream was becoming a widely available novelty, certain venues of ice cream consumption such as the ice cream parlor continued throughout the century to serve as bastions of elite ideals formed earlier in the 19th century. By focusing on the landscapes in which ice cream was eaten, we can learn how a product often seen as trivial strengthened elitist social and cultural ideals through their design, advertisement, and focus on ice cream. In chronological order, I focus on three distinct landscapes of consumption: the pleasure garden, the ice cream parlor, and the soda fountain. Each of these spaces communicated different meanings, yet they follow each other in sequence, taking on the meaning created by the space before them and adding their own ideals. Even as certain elements of design and purpose change throughout the nineteenth century, the meaning created at the first pleasure gardens still find their footing in the late 19th century soda fountains. I also briefly look at a fourth landscape of consumption, the city street. While very different from the other three locations, the contrast in audience, design, and purpose provides insight into how parlors and fountains were strictly gendered, classed, and raced spaces.  


Dr Laura Humphreys (Science Museum)
Celebrity Chefs, Ice Cream Makers, and White Supremacy: Global Food and Cooking in London Homes, 1850-1914


Between 1850 and 1914, London homes were subject to new and expanding influences; a period roughly bookended by the Great Exhibition and the outbreak of the First World War bore witness to fundamental global change. Conversely, how people made and managed their homes had a profound effect on the world beyond their front doors; as the world shapes the home, the home shapes the world.  During this period, shifting foreign food trends in London homes played a huge role in mediating and influencing England’s relationship with the world. English food and the English ‘plain cook’ were much derided in popular culture at the time – the food was bland and inedible, and the working-class cooks were to blame. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, householders started to look overseas to solve this supposed problem. Migrant groups, novel ingredients, a boom in cookery books and innovative technologies all had a profound influence on which cuisines rose to prominence, and which fell from favour. These trends, however, cannot be separated from the class conflict, racism, sexism, and imperial politics which defined the Victorian age. Food in the Victorian home was a microcosm of the social and political struggles of society at large. This talk will look at European, North American, Asian, and African influences on the dining tables of London, and how these influences reflected and reinforced middle-class English identity and prejudice in the long nineteenth century. 


All welcome - This event is free, but booking is required.