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Delicious Destruction: A Short History of Industrial Fermentation and Food

Delicious Destruction: A Short History of Industrial Fermentation and Food
1 Devonshire Place, Room 208N
Time: May 5th, 3:00 pm End: May 5th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Science/Technology, History (FAS), Food Studies
Lecture by Sarah Tracy, PhD cand., History

The Centre for the Study of the United States F. Ross Johnson Distinguished Speaker Series is pleased to present:

Sarah Tracy, PhD. candidate, Department of History

Delicious Destruction: A Short History of Industrial Fermentation and Food

The history of fermentation as a practice of food preparation and preservation (e.g. bread, wine/beer, yogourt, vinegar, soy sauce) dates back to antiquity and is relatively well-known. Less well-known is the modern history of “controlled,” aseptic (under sterile conditions) fermentation on an industrial scale, by which means microbial species have been used to help produce everything from plastics to household cleaners, birth control to insulin, cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, vitamins to pesticides, and vaccines to germ warfare. Industrial fermentation technologies profitably repurpose the often invisible intermediary products of the petrochemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries that form the fabric of contemporary American life. Sarah Tracy focuses here on the role of a few early biochemical companies and of the American marketplace in crystallizing industrial fermentation as an integral part of twentieth-century food production. She highlights the link between fermentation and delicious taste, or the creative cellular destruction that makes many iconic foods taste so good, e.g. hotdogs, canned soup, flavoured potato chips, and prepared baked goods. She unpacks the politics of “making big” at work in industrial fermentation and, likewise, the politics of “making small” in the twenty-first century, through which artisanal beer, miso, bread, etc. producers fetishize ancient technologies that have long since been extrapolated onto a globalized, industrial platform.

Sarah Tracy is a Doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. A business administration and honours history graduate of the University of New Brunswick, her work brings feminist science & technology studies (STS), food studies, post-colonial theory, and sensory history to bear on the global politics of food & health in the twentieth century United States. She has previously held fellowships with the Jackman Humanities Institute (2012-2013), and the Comparative Program on Health and Society (CPHS) at the Munk School of Global Affairs (2010-2011). Her dissertation is entitled, “Delicious: A History of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and the Fifth Taste Sensation.”

This event is free and open to all but registration is required.  Please click HERE to register for this event. For further information, please contact the Centre for the Study of the United States at (416) 946-8972.

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