Sanitizing Foreign Food at the World’s Fair

Wellbeing-conscious diners now may be ideal to shun processed food stuff. Still, just 1 hundred decades in the past, American individuals thought of processed, mechanically well prepared foods to be “pure” and clean. Much more disturbingly, “pure food” intended averting not only contamination from grime and disease, but also unfamiliar, international components and make contact with with the human arms of immigrant staff.

To scrutinize how foodstuff makers made use of the “pure food” motion to develop their American sector, historian Bonnie M. Miller usually takes viewers by means of the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915.

The “world’s fair,” timed for the opening of the Panama Canal, was a celebration of the potential for extra world trade, and was also “the very first US intercontinental exposition to construct a different constructing targeted solely on the exhibition of food,” writes Miller. That constructing housed the Palace of Foodstuff Products—nicknamed the Palace of Nibbling Arts—which boasted cooking demonstrations, no cost samples, and shows by food stuff producers from all-around the planet.

In a crack from the set-up at preceding world’s fairs, the emphasis in San Francisco was on processed food, as a substitute of raw agricultural commodities. For instance, the exhibit by associates from Argentina “did not showcase unprocessed make or regular dishes,” Miller observes.

Fairly, it celebrated its foods production, with exhibits of the packaging and preservation of pastes, biscuits, confectionary, condensed milk, wines, and malt liquors. The Argentine commissioners portrayed their country as a top rated foods producer worthy of foreign expenditure, 1 whose foodways have been reworking apace with modern day nations like the United States.

Via a variety of displays like this, “the fair established a circumscribed room for culinary exchange,” Miller writes.

But visitors’ practical experience of culinary cosmopolitanism was in fact circumscribed, along explicitly racial traces. Nowhere is this clearer than in Miller’s circumstance research of the so-identified as “Iron Chink” machine unveiled at the honest. The Iron Chink, a brainchild of a Seattle-primarily based enterprise that supplied the fishery sector, could switch raw fish into tinned food—without the have to have for the labor of cannery employees, who ended up predominantly Chinese.

In the meantime, the exhibit by meals company Libby’s showed how components from across the United States could become “pure prepared meals,” including dishes these kinds of as chili con carne, tamales, and spaghetti.

“From its gleaming white glowing kitchens, Libby’s authorized fewer mainstream culinary tastes and cooking kinds to prosper, so prolonged as they remained hermetically contained and meticulously disinfected,” suggests Miller. “Food purity, then, turned a shorthand for whiteness, allowing for devices to replace the human palms of a demographically heterogeneous labor power though allowing for some gastronomic diversification.”

Assist JSTOR Every day! Sign up for our new membership system on Patreon right now.