Smoke and oil

May 22, 2016

 

A blog is not meant to be a diary (I think). But I am reaching the end of this Italian sojourn and if nothing else I need to reflect on the research avenues I’ve explored (something others may or may not find interesting). Fumo, my book on the history of Italian smoking, is out. I did a presentation in Rome last week and finally held a copy in my hand. Alas I was disappointed as the British printing mistakenly did the color insert in black and white. I’m not sure what Stanford is going to do about this (beyond correcting the oversight in subsequent printings). It’s a bit like the days when European smokers distinguished between real imports – cigarettes made in Raleigh, Durham, Richmond, and Winston-Salem – and the arguably inferior American brands made in European factories. But that project is done, and the purpose of this trip has been to start a new one. I think I have, or maybe several.

            I started out pursuing two avenues: the origins of school lunches in Italy (abandoned) and the history of military rations. There is some work on the latter and I’ve collected some material from military journals. I also worked my way through two pioneering Italian cooking journals: Preziosa (founded in 1915) and La Cucina Italiana (1929). I looked at both through 1943 (when mid-way through the war almost everything stopped publishing in Italy), and I expect to have something to say regarding interwar discussions of food in Italy. At the Library of the Agriculture Ministry I found interesting publications relative to Italian (food) participation in international expositions. I think there is a story to be told there as well.

My trip to Puglia sparked my interest in the history of olive oil, a history that could be traced (at least) from the subterranean frantoii that existed in the hundreds (if not thousands) in the Salento to the present-day Xylella blight. From oil more as an industrial product - lampante for lamps (of course), wool manufacture and soap – than as a food to the extra virgin controversies of today. Eighteenth-century tracts on oil production are fascinating (and available on googlebooks). The Georgofili in Florence have additional material as does the Archivio di Stato in Naples. Doubtless there are multiple additional sources to explore so I have the elements for large project, extended research and future trips if that is where I am heading.

There is news on the Xylella front so that’s what I’ll explore next.

           

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