Culinary citzenship in American restaurants, 1919-1964
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This dissertation examines how the growth of the “dining-out habit” captured the American popular imagination in the twentieth century and suggests a rethinking of the social significance of restaurants in American culture by placing public dining spaces at the intersection of sensory experience, technology, and contests of power. In an urban industrial world where Americans found themselves saturated with sensory stimuli and innumerable choices, restaurants tried to create calm out of the chaos and uncertainty—including the social “disruptions” of changing gender roles, immigration patterns, and race relations—through manipulation of the built environment. Each chapter addresses struggles over power and authority and the material objects that represented this tension, from the technological regulation of air and sound or the monitoring of waitresses’ physical appearance to representations of national and foreign heritage in themed restaurants and the role of guidebooks as instruction manuals for public dining throughout the United States. Central to this project is the complexity of racial, ethnic, and national identity as represented and performed in restaurants. Restaurants used thematic symbols of heritage, foreignness, domesticity, womanhood, and racial identity to generate idealized narratives of nationhood and performances of citizenship for American-born patrons, immigrant employees, and visitors from around the world as part of a national discourse of culinary consumerism. American restaurants contributed to the fabric of the nation’s social character, and in turn, culinary citizens claimed restaurant dining as a badge of prosperity, privilege, and social authority.