I picked up L'histoire de la cuisine familiale du Québec by Michal Lambert as part of my ongoing improve-my-appalling-French project because hey, history and cooking! And I was quite excited because the author is actually talking about ALL the history of cooking in the place that is now Quebec, starting with the First Nations groups. Only I keep having to stop reading so I can fantasise about shaking him and shouting "historicise this shit better!"
Now, I do understand that the data on First Nations' food culture pre-contact is scanty! But what does he have against just citing the archeologists I KNOW he's been reading, and admitting that we know that the history is really goddamn long, but documentation is thin on the ground?
I love that he's talking about First Nations culture as something that has thousands of years of history, with all the change that implies. I love that he's talking about a variety of different First Nations communities. However, I really wish that his editor had made him put a date on ALL of his statements because it's really not enough to acknowledge in one bit of the book that e.g. Europeans brought over foodstuffs X, Y, and Z, if you don't mention that when you're talking about it later as if it's one of the changes that is lost to history.
The problem is, I'm not sure there's anyone else who's looked at this subject in this level of detail, but I really wish it wasn't a dude whose stated purpose is to use all of this as background for his ultimate project of rejuvenating Quebec cuisine with historical recipes.
Also Francis Spufford, who I keep reading inexplicably. His I May Be Some Time has some interesting things to say about the response to polar exploration in Britain, but also has weird historical errors. He ascribes great meaning to things without doing any research to see if there's a less symbolic explanation. For example: why do the illustrations in Victorian novels frequently depict cosy home scenes that fade to pitch black at the edges of the room? He thinks it's symbolic of the Victorian fear of dirt and external threats. I suspect it's because Victorian houses were fucking dark most of the time. And yet I keep reading things by people who want history to be symbolic all the time. Why do I do this?
This entry originally posted at http://opusculasedfera.dreamwidth.org/1