Last June, I visited Asia for the first time, traveling to Shanghai, China, to present a paper at the biennial Alcohol and Drugs History Conference, which was hosted by Shanghai University. Shanghai hosted the 1909 International Opium Commission, which led to tougher restrictions on opium production and distribution in many nations, and was an important precursor of the first major U.S. legislative regulation of narcotics, the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act of 1914. The conference went exceedingly well, due both the caliber of papers presented by a talented group of international scholars, and the warm hospitality of our colleagues at Shanghai University. Papers and panels on the history of opium regulation, international drug markets, and Chinese approaches to suppressing illegal drug use provided new insights and stimulating conversation with historians from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Meeting and conversing with Chinese colleagues who taught and conducted research in a very different system of higher education than that of the United States highlighted both differences in academic cultures and similarities in the interests, concerns, and methods of historians on the both sides of the world. Continue reading
At its September 20th conference at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Naval Historical Foundation awarded Dr. David Curtis Skaggs, professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University, its Commodore Dudley W. Knox Award for his significant contributions to naval history. Continue reading
When I replied “No” to Kinzey’s question, and to Colin’s follow-up, I was pretty sure of my answer.
I was wrong. The resulting historical adventure began with a lively class discussion, continued through an independent study, and eventually resulted in an article that undergraduates Kinzey McLaren-Czerr, Colin Spicer and I wrote together. Continue reading
I recently had an opportunity to contribute to the “First on the Moon” series of events sponsored by Auglaize County Historical Societyand the Armstrong Air and Space Museum that commemorate this year’s 50thanniversary of the moon landing. My discussion at St. Mary’s Community Public Library cautioned that our commemoration of the moon landing must firmly situate this episode in the tumultuous context of 1969. Although the lunar landing garnered immediate international admiration and adulation, its benefits were frustratingly fleeting, as other events at home and abroad continued to diminish America’s international prestige and moral authority. Continue reading
Professor Walter Grunden has been invited to the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sōgō kenkyū daigakuin daigaku, or SOKENDAI) in Hayama, Japan, to participate in a collaborative research project examining science policy under the Allied Occupation (1945-1952). Funded by an internal grant awarded to principal investigator Professor Kenji Ito (SOKENDAI), Grunden, Ito, and Professor Takashi Nishiyama (State University of New York, Brockport) will travel extensively throughout Japan this summer to conduct research in government and university archives and will begin collaboration on a book-length monograph. Their project will examine the links between occupation-era reconstruction and postwar remilitarization and economic recovery, with a particular focus on how science policy both contributed to and obstructed these processes. Grunden’s primary interest in the project is to illustrate how the Cold War era imperative to contain the spread of communism in East Asia directly informed policy decisions affecting the reformation of science institutions and the reintegration of Japanese scientists into the global scientific community even well after the occupation ended. Grunden’s preliminary findings on this subject were presented in the article, “Physicists and ‘Fellow Travelers’: Nuclear Fear, the Red Scare, and Science Policy in Occupied Japan,” published in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations (2018). The collaborative book-length project with Ito and Nishiyama will expand this study beyond physics and into the fields of aeronautics, engineering, and medicine. Continue reading
This Sunday at 11:00 AM on 13 ABC, “Conklin & Company” will address the removal of confederate monuments. The show invited Dr. Nicole Jackson to answer questions such as are statues bad for future generations? What do we owe our kids and grandchildren when it comes to history? Watch the show this Sunday on 13ABC and find out! The tape will be posted online during next week in this link.
Last Sunday it was cold and snowing in Bowling Green. The weather invited to stay inside, savor a cup of hot cocoa and fill the house with the smells of a stew or a soup. I’d been thinking a lot about soup in the last couple of months. A student in the History-Spanish dual MA, Nanosh Lucas, is writing a thesis on food culture and social distinctions in 19th-century Mexico under my supervision. As he started his research on cookbooks, one family of recipes stood out: the sopa de pan or bread soup. There were many variations; in some early cookbooks virtually all soup included bread—often old bread. In its most common form, sopa de pan was one slice of bread covered with vegetables (probably boiled), and covered with a cup of hot broth. The word soup, in fact, originally meant bread dipped in broth. A mix of expensive spices and toppings, or just fresh bread, made this an appetizer on the table of the wealthy; but newspaper articles often described it as a poor family’s everyday meal.
The sopa de pan doesn’t sound very enticing for our present-day taste, but Nanosh and I have joked for a while about trying out the sopa de pan. And last Sunday it was the perfect storm: I had plenty of vegetables and chicken leftovers to make a broth from scratch, a day-old loaf of bread, a bag of spinach that was screaming to be cooked right away, and a couple of mozzarella balls that I bought impulsively from the supermarket’s new “olive bar.” Add to the mix the actual snow storm outside.
Some hesitation ensued. I can do my own variant of sopa de pan, but is it going to be authentic? I had some ingredients that often pop up in the sources I consulted in my research on food supply: carrots, onions, parsley, tomatoes. My bread was day-old, whole-wheat and homemade. Not your typical Mexico City bread, which was bought in bakeries. (The added tablespoon of chia seeds in the dough do not make up for its lack of Mexican authenticity.) Ovens were a luxury, and there were no communal bread ovens as in the Middle East. And finally, spinach and cheese. I have not found any mentions of spinach in the sources I’ve worked with. In the wonderful online collection of 19th-century newspapers run by Mexico’s National Library, the term spinach (“espinaca”) appears only very late in the century, and I suspect it wasn’t a popular fixture in produce markets. Cheese was more frequent, although I suspect only a few consumed it regularly. Mexico City residents bought a quantity equivalent to an ounce (the weight of my mozzarella ball) every five days, according to trade statistics of the eighteenth century. Sopa de pan was defined not by the ingredients, but by its simplicity and flexibility. To me it was a sort of edible compost of leftovers. What is more historically authentic than the constant adaptation of the old to new circumstances?
As I put the pot to boil and then simmer for a couple of hours, I couldn’t help thinking of that other element of modernity in this sopa de pan: the gas burner. In these two hours at low heat I burned close to 15,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). And I did not care. Gas is an abundant and relatively inexpensive fuel today. But in the nineteenth century, this was certainly a different calculus. To generate this heat, a cook would burn almost one pound of charcoal. The cost of fuel was a major consideration in working-class families. This use of energy represented up to 5 percent of the budget of a working-class family in Mexico City. It is no surprise that meals in a pot (such as beans, soups and stews), and the quick heating of tortillas on a flat clay or iron pan were the typical ways of cooking. Mexican cuisine was optimized for a relatively high cost of fuel. Today cost is not such a major consideration in our American life and gas (or electricity) is instantly available, but excess use of fossil fuel contributes to global warming. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe I cooked my broth too much; maybe 90 minutes was enough. A family cook in 19th-century Mexico City would have optimized their methods to deal with a scarce world, burned the coals slowly to maximize the heat output; I feel that I (and others like me) should recover that ability.
How did the soup turn out? While the ingredients were my own unique mixture, I preserved the format. On a flat bowl I placed a crunchy slice of day-old bread, topped it with sauteéd spinach and the mozarella balls, and served a soup laddle of broth on top of it. The bread did not lose its consistency, but I found myself using a spoon and a fork. I figured, if this was served in a house of no means, the bread was probably dipped in the broth to save on utensils. It tasted OK; better than I expected. The little amount of broth made a good contrast against the bread, and the layer of spinach and mozzarella added flavor (and nutrients). In all it was a good experiment: a simple, humble meal that connected me to the past.
Dr. Amílcar E. Challú, Associate Professor, History Department, BGSU. Dr. Challú studies the history of living standards and nutrition in Latin America. Some of his publications can be publicly accessed via https://works.bepress.com/amilcar-challu/ and http://bgsu.academia.edu/AmilcarChallu
On Friday, April 8, 2016, the History Department held its History Professionals Day, an annual event that brings approximately 30 history and social studies teachers to BGSU for a morning of workshops and lectures on the latest developments in a variety of historical fields and topics. Dr. Nicole Jackson presented on “Civil Rights in the US: From Reconstruction to the Present,” Dr. Becky Mancuso on “The Underground Railroad’s Canadian Connection,” and Dr. Amilcar Challu on “Environmental History.” In addition, BGSU’s Director of Pre College Programs and College Credit Plus Coordinator (and BGSU History MA alumnus) Michael Ginnetti reported on new initiatives to aid teachers gaining the graduate credit hours in History required for College Credit Plus certification. The teacher-participants responded well to all of the presentations. “Love the diversity of topics,” noted one teacher, “and the collection of primary sources that I can definitely use in the classroom.”