Authors, historians serve up Food History

Dec 28, 2012
Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Camden — January is once again Discover History Month at the downtown Camden Public Library. The theme this year will be food and how our culture is expressed through our food choices, and the impact of our history on our food.

Nancy Harmon Jenkins will kick off the series Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. Jenkins is a writer, traveler, food authority and historian; she will present food history from a more general perspective, “why I think it’s important, why it’s not just about women’s doings, why it’s really a universal approach to human history, and also about where we go to find out food history, from recipe manuals to magazines to the wonderful diaries people kept.”

Jenkins will draw upon a richly detailed diary of 1785 to 1812 written by Martha Ballard for her talk, titled What’s Cooking in That Pot? Apart from the air we breathe, food is the one thing we cannot do with out and eating is the single most universal human activity, Jenkins said. She will talk about why food history is really a universal approach to human history and also about where we go to find out food history, from recipe manuals to magazines to the diaries people kept and many still keep — “a great example being Martha Ballard’s diary in the Maine State Library, a brilliant record of life and food in Gardiner, Maine, in the late 18th century.”

Jenkins is a graduate of Wellesley College and the American University of Beirut. Before launching a freelance career in 1991, she was a staff writer at The New York Times and later served as publications director of the American Institute of Wine & Food. She was a founding director of Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust, an organization she continues to work with from time to time.

Other speakers in Food History Month will include author Jason Anthony, speaking on Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, Tuesday, Jan. 22; author and food historian Sandy Oliver of Islesboro, speaking on Beyond Baked Beans: Early American Foodways Tuesday, Jan. 29; and Maine farmer Ana Antaki, speaking on traditional food preservation techniques Thursday, Jan. 31.

Also, as part of Discover History Month, the library will host America’s Music, a film and live music series Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. for six weeks beginning Jan. 13. Glenn Jenks will be the host for the series; check the library’s website for more information. Also during January, the Walsh History Center of the Camden Public Library will display a series of black and white photographs and historical maps and charts in collaboration with the Camden Rockport Historical Society.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or

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