Event type
Food History
Event dates
, 5:30PM - 7:00PM
Online- via Zoom
Lindsay Middleton (University of Glasgow and University of Aberdeen)
Email only

Lindsay Middleton, University of Glasgow and University of Aberdeen: ‘The wonder now is how our ancestors did so well without them’: Tinned Foods and Narratives of Progress, Globalisation and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Food Writing

This Seminar will take place 17:30 GMT and 13:30 US EST.

My research argues that recipes and food writing are a field in which nineteenth-century conceptions of history and progress are elaborated and acted out. Particularly when recipes are engaged in interpreting culinary technologies, like foods preserved in tin cans. Throughout the latter half of the century, British consumers resisted and debated tinned foods for a multitude of reasons – worries about adulteration, sanitation, and the quality of foreign goods, for instance. Moreover, tinned meats presented difficulties in the kitchen. Periodicals and cookbooks feature numerous warnings regarding the taste, texture and safety of tinned foods, even when advocating their use. Journalists and food writers blamed both the working and middle classes for the prejudice against tinned meats, yet the marketing of them reveals that tinned foods remained out of reach of a significant proportion of the population. On the other hand, however, were those who argued in favour of the convenience, economy and the facilitation of luxury that tinned foods could allow. Situating tinned foods within progressive histories of technological advancement, advocates of tinned foods criticised the prejudice against them as outdated. Instead, they argued tinned foods opened up global food chains and signified progress. This paper will use a literary analysis of nineteenth-century recipes, periodical articles and cookbooks to unravel the contested and disruptive narratives that surrounded tinned foods. My reading will demonstrate how the preservative technique is interwoven with ideas of domesticity, technological progress, nationalism and globalisation, and highlight the nuanced ways culinary technologies are interpreted and imbued with symbolism.

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