Food is pleasure, sustenance, and memory. Food is labor, need, and survival.

Join our Before ‘Farm to Table’ team as we rethink how to research and discuss the ways that food was grown and harvested, marketed and sold, eaten and imagined. In studying these foodways and cultures of the past, we hope to shed light on the ways food matters to us today.

Engraving of person holding basket of foodstuffs

Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures is a collaborative research initiative in the humanities. Active from fall 2017 through summer 2021, the project was convened at the Folger Institute of the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The premise of this project is that food, then as now, is a basic human need. Food also has a long and complex history. We examined paucity and plenty; systems of free and unfree labor; trade and exploitation; making and producing; constructions of race, class, and gender; and the many ways people thought about eating together or staying apart. Our team taught courses, created exhibitions, hosted conversations, transcribed manuscripts, and collaborated with food professionals. In this website, a curated collection of our project activities, we share our insights, excitements, queries, and resources with you.

Engraving of person butchering poultry