Jane Ziegelman: Immigrant Identities, Preserved in Vinegar?Roundup: Historians' Take
TENSIONS over immigration in Europe are flaring this summer, along with questions about what — whether language, dress or diet — makes a foreigner a citizen. Of course, these questions also have a long history in America.
One of the biggest battles over assimilation occurred a century ago in New York City, and the battleground was food. Politicians, public health experts and social reformers were alarmed by what they saw as immigrants’ penchant for highly seasoned cooking. They used too much garlic, onion and pepper. They ate too many cured meats and were too generous with the condiments. Strongly flavored food, these officials believed, led to nervous, unstable people. Nervous, unstable people made bad Americans.
In other words, to be a good American, you had to eat like one.
No immigrant food was more reviled than the garlicky, vinegary pickle. Pungent beyond all civilized standards, toxic to both the stomach and the psyche, the pickle was seen as morally suspect. As Dr. Susanna Way Dodds wrote in the late 19th century, “the spices in it are bad, the vinegar is a seething mass of rottenness ... and the poor little innocent cucumber ... if it had very little ‘character’ in the beginning, must now fall into the ranks of the ‘totally depraved.’ ”...
comments powered by Disqus
- More Doubts, Opposition To Sale Of Unique, Hartford Collection Of Political History
- How the Curse of Sykes-Picot Still Haunts the Middle East
- Kennewick Man Will Return Home to Native American Tribes
- Now it’s the University of Louisville’s turn to remove a Confederate statue
- A fortress built by Alexander the Great after he conquered Jerusalem has been discovered
- Liz Covart amazingly popular podcast helps her audience understand early American history
- Justus Rosenberg is still teaching at age 95
- Glenda Gilmore chides Yale for deciding to keep the name of Calhoun
- The historian and cartographer Bill Rankin has developed a new way to visualize slavery
- Paula S. Fass says young Americans need required national service