The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, building off the success of its inaugural event last fall, invited media, academics, members of the food and foodservice industry, students and food enthusiasts to come together for a day-long event, entitled: “Sweets: A Journey Through Midwestern Dessert Traditions,” a program about the history of sweets in the Midwest, including important dessert traditions that began in small towns and big cities here in the Midwest.
Listen in for the symposium’s Opening Remarks by Chris Koetke, Dean of Kendall College, followed by the morning’s keynote talk with Jane C. Marshall: “Cakewalks and Bake Sales: How Women Pioneers Refined the Midwest and Defined Community.”
Part of the burgeoning fascination with foodways and food history is the role food played in the making of America: the Boston Tea Party and the Molasses Act, slavery and emancipation, cornflakes and the ice machine. There is no better example than the westward movement. As the new Americans headed West in search of riches and adventure, men made most of the headlines. However, the women, anchored (and chained) to their kitchens, created and stabilized communities.
Money raised from cakewalks, bake sales and box suppers built schools, paid preachers, established community centers at the turn of the 19th century. Women baked with meager supplies and even more meager equipment. Armed with tenacity and ingenuity, they were determined not only to survive, but also to thrive.
Like nearly all other places in the world, food brought people together to start forming the bonds essential for a community to thrive. But in the Midwest, the table had its own character, dictated by geography, heritage and a sweet tooth that seemed always to whisper “bake and they will come.”
Jane P. Marshall is a food historian and Journalism Instructor at Kansas State University, located in Manhattan, Kansas.
Recorded Saturday, April 05, 2008 at Kendall College.