historian of food, health & colonialism

The Past, Present and Future of Cookbooks

This past weekend, I was featured in a Canadian Press article on the past, present and future of cookbooks that seems to have been picked up by quite a few newspapers and online media outlets across the country, including the Vancouver Sun, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the Ottawa CitizenCTV.ca and the Cape Breton Post among others. Aside from the odd photo, the article – “Technology enhances cookbook experience but aficionados unlikely to give up books” – includes a pretty interesting discussion of the impact of e-readers and other new technologies on the business of cookbooks.

UPDATE: Seems like the story was delinked from most of the newspapers linked to above, with the exception of the CTV.ca article (which unfortunately includes the weirdest, most unflattering photo of the bunch).

Revisiting the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’

A few years ago I published an article in the journal Social History of Medicine entitled “‘That Won Ton Soup Headache’: The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, MSG and the Making of American Food, 1968-1980.” It looks at the ‘discovery’ of this unique medical condition in the late 1960s and explores what it tells us about the social construction of illness and the role of ethnic and racial food fears in colouring popular perceptions of risk.

Last year, I was asked by the Culinary Historians of Canada to write a piece for a more popular audience about the effect of this particular health scare in the Canadian context for their newsletter, Culinary Chronicles. With the CHC’s permission, I’ve decided to post it below for those of you who aren’t CHC members. If you’re interested in the scientific and technical element of the Chinese restaurant syndrome and MSG story, I would recommend sticking with my original article (which includes an extended quotation from famous Canadian Bonanza and Battlestar Galactica star, Lorne Greene). But if you’re interested in something like a short cultural history of MSG and ethnic food fears in Canada, the Culinary Chronicles piece below might be worth a read.