Senses of Taste: Duncan Hines and American Gastronomy, 1931-1962
Talbott, Damon Lee
University of Kansas
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Duncan Hines was the first national restaurant critic in American history and a significant tastemaker in popular culture. This dissertation is an accounting of how senses of taste were formed in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States and how Duncan Hines aided this process. Conceiving of taste as a conjoining of physical sensations and cultural sense by mediators, I argue that Hines guided consumers and producers through the practice of making sense of momentous changes in society that influenced Americans' eating habits as well as their awareness of American foodways. Hines gained and maintained cultural authority because his criticism networked developing mid-century trends including automobility, consumerism, middlebrow criticism, regionalism, suburbanization, the popularity of "eating out," the professionalization of restaurants, the nationalization of media, the discourse of authenticity, and the continued evolution of technologies for the growing, processing, shipping, selling, and cooking of food. From the farm to the fork, American gastronomy is thus predicated on technology, commerce, and media intersecting to offer mediators, like Hines, resources with which to make sense of the tastes occurring within a context. Since these relationships change, I contend that taste is neither an object to be acquired nor a state of being to be achieved, but instead an on-going and contingent activity, a temporary association of things formed in reaction to the context in which it is configured.
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