From COVID to comfort

New book from UND Digital Press explores complex history of rural women and the kitchen

With over 20 contributors and 60 selections, Backstories takes the reader from the East Coast’s Delmarva Peninsula to the American and Canadian Midwest, the Mexican-American border, to Hawaii and beyond and situate the kitchen across a range of cultural and historical contexts. Book cover design by Paul Forest.

As the COVID pandemic transformed our lives, one thing remained a constant. The kitchen continued to be the center of home life. In fact, social distancing, lockdowns, and other challenges associated with the pandemic made the kitchen even more important as cooking, eating, studying, and above all work, intersect around the kitchen table.

Cynthia Prescott

Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook, a new book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, includes perspectives on the pandemic and situates them amid the long history of cooking, food, and women’s work in the home.

The book, edited by UND history professor Cynthia C. Prescott and doctoral student Maureen S. Thompson, combines scholarly essays with reflections, recipes, and recollections that bring out the complex history and work around the kitchen table. With over 20 contributors and 60 selections, Backstories takes the reader from the East Coast’s Delmarva Peninsula to the American and Canadian Midwest, the Mexican-American border, to Hawaii and beyond and situate the kitchen across a range of cultural and historical contexts. It is sure to inspire eclectic dining and conversations.

Maureen Thompson

“Our goal was to bring together recipes, interdisciplinary scholarship, oral traditions, and personal memories to explore three centuries of rural foodways and women’s lives,” said Cynthia C. Prescott, UND professor of history and co-editor of the book. “Whether you are a foodie or a gender or food studies researcher, you will find much to savor in this unique volume.”

The book also features contributions from UND’s Nikki Berg Burin, assistant professor of history, and Krista Lynn Minnotte, professor of sociology.

Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook is a captivating amalgamation of scholarly articles juxtaposed with heartwarming family memories associated with particular foods, and yes, plenty of recipes,” said co-editor Maureen S. Thompson, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University.

Backstories was produced in conjunction with the Rural Women’s Studies Association triennial meeting, which this year has the theme “Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum.” Catharine Wilson, co-chair of the RWSA and host of the 2021 Conference, remarks: “Backstories serve up a delicious “taste” of what the RWSA is about: they are international and capture farm and rural women’s/gender studies in historical perspective. Members savored reflecting on their foodways and collecting the recipes. Bon appétit!”

Like all books from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, it is available as a free download and as a low-cost paperback via Amazon.com. William Caraher, director of The Digital Press, noted: “It was a pleasure to collaborate with the editors and contributors to produce something genuinely unique. That we can make this book available for free as a download and as an affordable paperback should ensure that it appears in as many kitchens and libraries as possible.”

Download the book here: https://thedigitalpress.org/backstories/.