Food and Empire MARK PADOONGPATT
This chapter explores the historical interplay between food and empire in the United States. It examines the ways in which foodways shaped and sustained U.S. empire and, in turn, how the U.S. empire shaped and sustained foodways.1 I divide this history into four chronological periods: between 1400 and 1776, an epoch in which food was one of the main aspects of the European “age of exploration” and conquest of the Americas; the century from 1830 to 1930, during which U.S. colonial expansion across North America and abroad dramatically transformed Indigenous food cultures under a burgeoning American empire; between 1945 and 1975, during which U.S. global expansion after World War II gave rise to and became constituted by White Americans’ fascination with different foods around the world; and the turn of the twenty-first century, a moment in which foodways symbolized the benefits and drawbacks of “globalization” and multiculturalism in U.S. society. Each of these periods represent significant turning points in the history of the American empire, which allows me to map out two primary themes of food and empire in U.S. history. First, the relationship between “hard power” and “soft power.” Second, the seemingly contradictory attempts to destroy yet also enjoy the food cultures of subjugated peoples. My goal is to address both themes by looking mainly at lived experiences, everyday interactions, discursive practices, and resistance and negotiation.