My main interests include food and agriculture, popular culture, religion, and historical memory, though in practice I tend to follow topics wherever they take me. I’m currently writing a book about historical baking and craft, and since about 2010 my interests have been mainly in “historical gastronomy,” trying to understand the cuisines of the past by a combination of traditional research and experimentation.
For a complete list of my publications and presentations, many of which are available online, please see my cv.
- Garden Spot: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Old Order Amish, and the Selling of Rural America (Oxford University Press, 2002) Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has been known since the eighteenth century as the Garden Spot of America. Today it is synonymous in American popular culture with Amish country, a place of peace, prosperity, and traditional values that has somehow survived unscathed the upheavals of the twentieth century. Yet Lancaster is also a rapidly growing and diverse population center with progressive farmers and booming industry. Garden Spot is about the ways Lancaster Countians have struggled to define their present and future in a time when their home — and rurality in general — is increasingly identified with the past. Underneath their struggles lies a pair of vital questions: Is there a future for rural America? And if there is to be a rural future, how can ruralites take charge of it?
North Carolina Digital History
I edited and developed this online textbook for secondary history students while working for UNC-Chapel Hill between 2007 and 2010. It represents the contributions of dozens of historians, students, librarians, archivists, museum educators, photographers, and videographers, and was a joy to build. Unfortunately, the program I worked for is all but defunct, and the website has gotten a bit creaky — but it’s still available, and I’d encourage you to check it out.
- North Carolina History: A Digital Textbook
LEARN NC’s “digital textbook” for 8th-grade North Carolina history offers a new model for teaching and learning. This “digital textbook,” designed for grade 8 and up, covers all of North Carolina history, from the arrival of the first people some 12,000 years ago to the present. Far more than a textbook, though, it’s a collection of primary sources, readings, and multimedia that you can search, select, and rearrange to meet the needs of your classroom. Special web-based tools aid reading and model historical inquiry, helping students build critical thinking and literacy skills.
- Historical Recipe DatabaseA searchable database of recipes collected during my research, with notes on trials where relevant. The collection is heavily weighted towards baking, and it may in fact be the world’s largest collection of gingerbread recipes, though I suspect not.
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Historical gastronomy is the experimental side of my research — less about the history of food and cooking than about recreating the dishes and techniques of the past. While researching historical baking and craft between 2010 and 2013 I wrote a number of blog posts, which you can read over at The Rooted Cook.