Theresa McCulla’s first book, “Consumable City: Food and Race in New Orleans” (under contract, University of Chicago Press), explores the cultural power of food production and consumption and their associated material culture in an iconic tourist destination.

The book shows how the pleasurable sensory experiences generated by New Orleans’s food industry functioned as uniquely powerful tools in presenting food and people as commodities. With municipal records, archives, visual culture, cookbooks, menus, travel guides, and souvenirs, 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 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 another article exploring the male-gendered worlds of homebrewing and computing in the 1970s in the context of larger sociocultural movements, like do-it-yourself culture.

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