Mary C. Beaudry


Drawing on various lines of evidence that provide insight into late 18th- and early 19th-century episodes of dining at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, I explore ways in which historical archaeologists can move from discussions of food and foodstuffs to explore menus, meals, and dining. I argue that by drawing together many lines of evidence—food remains such as bones, seeds, and shells; documentary sources; and ceramics, glassware, and utensils—archaeologists are able to “feast” upon the evidence and to go beyond merely reporting on what people ate in the past. They do so by exploring ways of interpreting food on the plate, wine in the glass, and meals on the table. The goal is to present a framework through which we can investigate not so much nutrition or ingredients but the experience of dining in early America, in specific contexts in which meals played important roles in the negotiation of social positioning and identity.