First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas

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First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger, opened on January 19, 2019 and closes March 31, 2019. First Chefs was co-curated by historian and Associate Director of the Folger Institute Amanda E. Herbert and Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe, with assistance from Elizabeth DeBold, the Assistant Curator of Collections at the Folger Shakespeare Library. This exhibition is in association with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

First Chefs tells the stories of the named and unnamed heroes of early modern food culture, and juxtaposes the extravagance of an increasingly cosmopolitan and wealthy upper class against the human cost of its pleasures: the millions of enslaved women, children, and men, servants, gardeners, street criers, and laborers who toiled to feed themselves and many others.

Along the walls of the exhibition, the lives of early modern women and men—rich as well as poor, free and enslaved—who found, made, and ate food are revealed. Through their eyes, the exhibition explores gardens and farms, forests and rivers, plantations and fisheries, markets, kitchens, food stalls, and dining halls. At the center of the exhibition are the five “First Chefs,” whose stories are told through their written, material, and imagined legacy.

An interactive screen allows visitors to page through digitally replicated versions of several of the Folger's manuscript receipt books, the largest collection of seventeenth-century English-language recipe books in the world.

Curation

Amanda E. Herbert is Associate Director at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she runs the Fellowships Program. She holds the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History from the Johns Hopkins University. She is an historian of the body: gender and sexuality; health and wellness; food, drink, and appetite. Her first book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain, was published by Yale University Press in 2014, and won the Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She has published articles in Gender & History, the Journal of Social History, and Early American Studies, and her fellowships include grants from the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington Library, and the Yale Center for British Art. She is an editor for The Recipes Project, a Digital Humanities effort based out of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, and a co-director for Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a $1.5 million Mellon Foundation Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute. She is at work on her second book project, Water Works: Faith, Public Health, and Medicine in the British Atlantic, which seeks to refigure and reclaim the early modern spa, not just as a place of elite sociability, but as an important site for the study of the history of public health.

Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She received an MLIS from UCLA and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is currently principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online (emmo.folger.edu), co-principal investigator of Shakespeare’s World (shakespearesworld.org), curator of Shakespeare Documented (shakespearedocumented.org) and is co-director of the multi-year, $1.5 million research project Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her first book, Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2000) received the Josephine Roberts Scholarly Edition Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. She has written widely on the intersections between manuscript and print culture in early modern England, and also edited The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (2007), The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary (2007), and, with Alan Stewart, Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004). Her most recent research explores early modern filing systems and the social circulation of writing paper and blank books.

Elizabeth DeBold is the Assistant Curator of Collections at the Folger Shakespeare Library. As a member of the curatorial team, she has assisted with numerous projects and exhibitions, including Shakespeare Documented (www.shakespearedocumented.org), Shakespeare, Life of an Icon, and Beyond Words: Book Illustration in the Age of Shakespeare. Prior to coming to the Folger, she graduated with her Master’s of Science in Library Science from UNC-Chapel Hill, and held a position as part of an IMLS-funded grant at the Duke University Divinity School Library.

Contents of the Exhibition

''First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas'' Exhibition Material

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