Exploring the intersections of food and politics is the focus of a new University of Maine research collaborative inspired by the recipe collection of Margaret Chase Smith.
The Margaret Chase Smith Recipe Research Collaborative formed in fall 2018 to support an interdisciplinary group of students and faculty interested in examining the role of recipes and cooking in politics and public life, as well as issues related to history, gender and the environment.
"Her recipes suggest how she combined her public and private personas, and how the balance of the two contributed to her success as a political leader.” Rachel Snell
The group was started by Rachel Snell, a lecturer in the Honors College, and Amy Blackstone, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, after they recognized food as a common area of research within their respective fields.
In material and symbolic ways, women have used food as a tool of self-expression, community building, political persuasion and resistance, as well as to negotiate the complicated terrain of femininity and domesticity within the public sphere, according to the researchers.
Studies by faculty and students examine the ways women have used food to communicate, leverage influence, and challenge perceptions and expectations. A major goal of the group is to catalog, test and update Smith’s recipes, creating a database for future research projects and a published collection.