Tag Archives: Georgia

Getting the Ball Rolling: Gardening, Colonial Foodways, and Local Focus

When I initially planned this book, the goal was to write a book that adapted Markham’s soil amendment and other gardening techniques (from across several of his books) to a modern garden. This idea comes with a variety of challenges for an apartment dweller, having to do with the space to experiment in (apartments typically aren’t known for their sprawling gardens) as well as my desire to not incur my landlord’s wrath by digging up her yard. Another potential challenge for this project is the fact that I don’t live in England (or a similar climate), which is where Markham’s intended audience lived.

Then there’s the issue of sunlight, which is something I’m told is important to plants. My ‘garden’ (currently a few potted plants on a porch table) is far from being a sunny spot. My yard is filled with trees and bamboo plants, which makes it beautiful and cool in the summer, but not the greatest for growing lush planters full of fruits and veggies.

So why continue with the book with all these obstacles in the way? First, because a challenge is fun, but mostly because because it lets me explore a new direction for my work that ties in with the gardening theme. We’re in an interesting place as a culture at the moment, where eating locally is an option rather than the only option, and where it is actually cheaper in some instances to eat food produced elsewhere (there are many pieces on the politics of this and on its relationship to income inequality, which I’m sure I’ll explore at some point as a necessary part of writing about local food).

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Getting Started on the New Book

(Image can be found here)

After much (much!) delay, including the completion of my PhD, my move to Atlanta to start my job as Rare Books Curator at Kennesaw State University, and many other adventures, I’m finally finding a free moment to start on the second book in the MM series. One of the approaches I considered in this book was seeing what from Markham’s text could be applied to urban container gardening, and given that I live in an apartment without an in-ground garden space, that looks like the path I’ll be pursuing. One sticking point is the limited amount of sun in my yard, but that’s something Future Julia gets to deal with (lucky her).

For now, I’m starting to research the new book, beginning with a quick revisit to English Housewife, and moving on to Markham’s Farewell to Husbandry, Or, The Enriching of All Sorts of Barren and Sterile Grounds in our Kingdome, To Be as Fruitfull in all Manner of Graine, Pulse, and Grasse (at least we know Markham likes to keep his titles short and to the point). EEBO has put some of their online resources into print, so I’ll be looking at a printed reproduction of this book (unlike Best’s reprinting of English Housewife, which reprinted the text itself, this book is just the scans of the original text, so has all the printing quirks commonly found in books of this era).

The book is also going to include some recipes made from locally-sourced produce, so I can talk about how some of these English recipes might look in Georgia, and how they do and don’t mesh with farm-to-table approaches to food. Imported food was definitely a component of the early modern English diet, although less so in the country where residents were farther from central markets. Markham encouraged frugality to a greater extent than many of his peers, so he pushed his readers to maintain a kitchen garden and use food scraps for compost and animal feed. Part of the reason he could encourage this was because he targeted country gentry rather than city dwellers like myself, who have to be a bit more creative with where and how they grow their own food. If you’re very lucky (or I’m feeling very adventurous), I might play around with comparing some recipes and gardening approaches from other contemporary authors with Markham. Or maybe that will wait until book number 3!

Finally, I’m hoping to acquire (through purchasing or donations) books to build up our collection of English cookery manuals at the Bentley, particularly since English books are one of our focus areas. I’m also hoping to collaborate with culinary programs and other food-focused folks to do work around historic foodways, so some of that may be appearing on the blog too. It feels good to be back!

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