Bloomsbury Food Library - Featured Content


Food Traditions in History

Food has long been bound up in our cultural experiences of ritual, celebration and festivals. So how does food play a part in these traditions, and how does the food we consume come to represent much more than a means to survive?

 Menus from New treatise on cooking and table designs, by Menon, 1739. France, 18th century.

The Tradition of Studying Food

Food is a key part of our material culture, but the study of food has traditionally been ignored as part of the academy. As Matt Watson comments in Food Words, it can be difficult to be too philosophical about food when one thinks about our reliance on it for mere existence. Learn how food, though vital for our survival, has been peripheral in our thoughts until fairly recently, and what a focus on food can do for our understanding of traditional disciplines.

Our Lady of Strasbourg Cathedral. Stained glass window 14th century. The Last supper.

Food and Religious Tradition

From Passover to Eid, through Communion and ritual consumption of particular foods at particular times of the week, religion and food are inextricably linked. The use and consumption of fish in the Christian faith has manifold representations and meanings. Find out with David Grummet and Rachel Mears how early Christian worship was in fact vegetarian worship, or rather, pescatarian worship, and how that act of removing meat from the meal distinguished Christians from Jews theologically as well as in eating habits.

Women cook in the basement kitchen as the Asadov family, in their Kholmskaya house, prepares to leave for the Unites States.

Food and Migration

With the development of global food systems, and the increase of movement around the globe, one way for people to retain a sense of national and cultural identity has been to continue eating specific foods outside of their home countries. Learn from Angela Meah how, for displaced communities, practices surrounding food are often the last thing to be left behind in the process of cultural assimilation.

Traditional holiday dinner with stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables and pumpkin pie.

Food and Festivals

Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, chocolate eggs at Easter. Some foods have become synonymous with the festivals they are served at. Read in Food Cultures of the World about the roots of the Thanksgiving celebration in the “harvest home” feast, and what is on the table aside from the turkey.

Pumpkins growing on the vine bake in 100 degree heat on September 2, 2017, in Solvang, California.

Case Study: Halloween

Everyone knows that Halloween means getting candy. But Halloween has inspired food traditions beyond trick or treating. Learn about how the tradition of displaying and carrying pumpkins at Halloween comes from the Irish tradition of carrying a sod of turf from the sacred fire in a hollowed out turnip. When Irish immigrants settled in America and turnips were no longer available, guess what they used instead?