The idea of consuming culture via foreign culinary experiences came to me as I thought of one of the texts I studied in my ‘Early American Literature’ module. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) conveys Mrs. Rowlandson’s account of her eleven ‘removals’ as a captive of the Native Americans in New England. Interestingly, the role of food, or lack of food seems to track her development, or regression some might say, from her puritanical self into accepting the Indian culture. In her retelling of the fifth removal she gives an account of the cultural conversion she is experiencing:
The first week of my being among them I hardly ate anything; the second week I found my stomach grow very faint for want of something; and yet it was very hard to get down their filthy trash; but the third week, though I could think how formerly my stomach would turn against this or that, and I could starve and die before I could eat such things, yet they were sweet and savory to my taste. (243-244).
The way in which Mrs. Rowlandson goes from describing their food as ‘filthy trash’ to ‘sweet and savory’ depicts how she is starting to accept one aspect of their culture through the embodiment of their food. Although it could be argued that Mrs. Rowlandson’s account simply portrays the significant consequences of her hunger, the overall narrative conveys how she begins to understand, and possibly admire them for their solidarity and resourcefulness. To a certain extent her narrative can be read as a traveler’s extreme account of meeting with a foreign culture, and it is this aspect of the text I will relate to my own experience and other writings of meeting with new cultures and their customs.
Rowlandson, Mary. “A Narrative of the Captivity and Resoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”. The Norton Anthology: American Literature. Ed. Julia Reidhead. New York: W.W Norton & Company, Inc, 2007. 236 – 267, Print.