Maize avoidance? Colonial French attitudes towards Native American foods in the Pays des Illinois (17th–18th century)

Robert Launay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

French colonists in seventeenth century New France were introduced to maize, the staple of the Native American diet. In the eighteenth century, when French agriculturalists settled along the Mississippi River, they grew maize but preferred not to eat it themselves, as fur traders and soldiers had previously done. Maize avoidance reflected the changing socio-economic framework of French settlement. Fur traders were concerned with integrating themselves into Native American kin networks, while farmers elaborated distinctions between “French” and “Indian” in the domains of housing, clothing, and food, symbolized by the opposition of wheat bread to maize mush, while readily adopting other native foods–game, pumpkins, maple sugar, even bear oil. Maize was shipped down the Mississippi to Louisiana, but also used to feed the sizeable slave population as well as landless French laborers. Food choices reflected race and class differences, rather than set cultural preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-104
Number of pages13
JournalFood and Foodways
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

Keywords

  • Americans
  • colonial period
  • France
  • maize
  • Midwestern United States
  • native

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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