Food Job: Historian

There is no such thing as a typical student who enrolls in culinary school. I have met a former opera singer, an investment banker, a medical student, a landscape designer, a geographer and even a murderer who had spent several years in juvenile detention. Upon his release he was given a full scholarship for his tuition. (I did momentarily think is a trifle strange to suggest a good career move for him was to be provided with a set of sharp knives.)

This is just to say there is a career in food for everyone who loves something. History for example.

Historians are employed by movie makers to ensure the gladiators do not eat bacon cheeseburgers in the final cut. PBS recruits food historians to see the food is appropriate for Jane Austin’s novels, Upstairs, Downstairs, Oliver Twist,  A Christmas Carol and other period programming.

Historian Andrew Smith uncovered the truth about the famous tomato eating event in Boston. After careful examination of the newspapers of the period, he concluded it didn’t happen.

Historians discovered the Mad Hatter became quite peculiar as a consequence of inhaling a toxic chemical used in hat making. The witches in Salem suffered from aberrant behavior brought on by eating bread made from rye flour that had been contaminated by a fungus. (LSD is a derivative of the same fungus.)

Betty Fussell was among the pioneer historians who wrote a literary ground breaker: The Story of Corn. Mark Kurlansky is the brilliant author who has compiled several classics including Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Salt and Oyster: History on the Half Shell.

No subject is too big or too small for an inquiring mind. John T. Edge has published books on such topics as Fried Chicken, Hamburgers and Fries and Donuts: An American Passion. Google Food History and you will find enough reading material to last a very lengthy lifetime.

If you are fascinated by restaurants, you must read William Grimes Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York.

Biographies are a form of history too and there are many scholars who devote themselves to detailing the dinners everyone from Samuel Pepys to Thomas Jefferson and recipes of famous chefs though the ages. Food writers are enraptured with the lives and loves of other food writers. Yet more books about M.F.K. and Julia are even now in the works.

Culinary libraries contain menu collections through the ages and if you decide to recreate the Biblical feasts, the meaning of every food served for the last super, the passover supper, the last meal on the Titanic, Shakespeare’s magical potions or dinners at the White House, you will find plenty of inspirational material. Finding a recipe for Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chip Cookies will take some digging, but a bona fide sleuth will have little difficulty tracking it down.

Who said attending cooking school is all about cooking?