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Romance Languages & Literatures pres.

Italian-American Foodways: Migration and Politics of Taste

Prof. Simone Cinotto, Università di Scienze Gastronomiche

The event is free and open to the public. Online Registration, by Nov. 20, 2019 at: www.dantemichigan.org

Food has been a vital factor in the experience of Italian immigrants to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century as well as the American-born generations of their children and grandchildren. Food provided them with a widely shared means of cultural identification, social cohesion, and economic opportunities. Italian American family and community life were centered on food rituals such as Italian Sunday Dinner. After having been seen with suspect at the beginning of the century, Italian restaurants and American popular culture popularized immigrant cuisine among Americans of non-Italian descent, making food an inescapable feature of the public identity of Italian Americans. Even much of the transnational relationships with the diasporic home across the Atlantic was actually based on food, as food has always represented a most relevant share of Italian exports to the United States. Since the 1970s, a new, smaller, group of Italian immigrants—chefs, cookbook writers, TV show hosts—has introduced a new template of Italian cuisine in America, insisting on the notion of authenticity, and becoming an integral and dynamic part of the American “food revolution.” Arguably nothing more and better than food represents Italian America, its history, and the continuous two-way flows of people, goods, and ideas between Italy and the United States in the twentieth century and beyond.

Simone Cinotto is Associate Professor of Modern History at the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy, where he is the Director of the master’s program “Master of Gastronomy: World Food Cultures and Mobility.” He has been Visiting Professor at Indiana University (2017), the Department of Italian Studies at New York University (2008-2010), and the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London (2015-2019). He has also been Visiting Scholar at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU (2013-2015) and Fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University (2004). Cinotto is the author of The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City (University of Illinois Press, 2013) and Soft Soil Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California (New York University Press, 2012); the editor of Making Italian America: Consumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities (Fordham University Press, 2014), which won the 2015 John G. Cawelti Award for the Best Textbook/Primer of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association; and the coeditor, with Hasia Diner, of Global Jewish Foodways: A History (University of Nebraska Press, 2018). Cinotto has three books in preparation: Cibo: A Modern History of Italian Food (Oxford University Press); The Puerto Ricans and Italians of New York: Migration and Mobilization in the Atlantic World; and Transatlantic Emotions: The Mental and Intimate Biography of an Italian Immigrant to America, 1905-1942. Cinotto is the Co-Editor of Gastronomica and on the editorial board of Food, Culture, and Society and Global Food History among other journals and book series. He organized a joint conference with NYU and the University of Toronto titled “Food Mobilities: Making World Cuisines” (Pollenzo, Italy, June 5-9, 2019), which will also develop into a book.

This event is sponsored by the Dante Alighieri Society of Michigan, Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago, Consulate of Italy in Detroit, Italian American Club of Livonia Charitable Foundation, and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
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