Theresa McCulla’s first book, “Consumable City: Food and Race in New Orleans” (under contract, University of Chicago Press), tracks the trajectory of the New Orleans economy from nineteenth-century chattel slavery to twenty-first-century tourism via the realms of food and drink.

The book explores how the sensory pleasures of eating and drinking in the Crescent City–experiences celebrated on an international stage since the 1800s–enabled New Orleans cuisine to appear to many as a realm of leisure and gratification divorced from politics. This study reveals a very different history. With municipal, federal, notarial, and judicial records; archival collections; visual culture; cookbooks, menus; travel guides; souvenirs; and other ephemera, McCulla explores how consuming attitudes toward food, drink, and people helped produce the city’s enduring inequalities.

The dissertation on which this project is based was a semifinalist for the 2017 Krooss Prize for the best dissertation in business history, awarded by the Business History Conference. It received honorable mention for the 2016 Michael Katz Award for the best dissertation in urban history, awarded by the Urban History Association. It was a finalist for the 2016 Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for the best dissertation in American Studies, awarded by the American Studies Association.

McCulla’s additional scholarship elaborates on the connections among identity, consumption, and material culture in realms of food and drink. An essay published by Good Beer Hunting (September 2021) used two “runaway ads” to explore the world of Patsy Young, an early American brewer and a fugitive from slavery in early-1800s North Carolina. An article published in Gastronomica (Winter 2019) used artifacts and oral histories collected for the Smithsonian to argue for an unexpected link between the strategies and culture of mass manufacturing and the birth of microbrewing at San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company in the 1960s. It received third place for best historical writing in the 2020 Awards in Beer Journalism from the North American Guild of Beer Writers. An article published in Quaderni Storici (April 2016) investigated the spatial effects of the white ethnic revival on African Americans, Italian Americans, and Vietnamese refugees in New Orleans.

McCulla is developing additional articles on alcohol consumption and slavery as well as the the male-gendered worlds of homebrewing and computing clubs in the 1970s.

Image: William A. Walker, The Levee-New Orleans, Currier & Ives, 1884, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress