Hall Center For The Humanities


Damon Talbott
Sias Graduate Fellow; American Studies

"Senses of Taste: Duncan Hines and American Foodways, 1930-1960"
Special Events – (Sias Fellow Public Lecture)

Sun., Apr. 7, 2013, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
RSVP required by March 31 to 816-701-3407 or at https://www.kclibrary.org/rsvp/19605
Location: Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., Kansas City, Missouri

How are senses of taste made? What role do tastemakers, such as critics, have in the forming ofwhat "good taste" is? What is "good taste," anyways? Both in his lifetime as a famous restaurant critic and posthumously as a brand name of popular cake mixes, the figure of Duncan Hines provides answers to these questions. By looking at how Hines was deemed an authority on food in the 1930s, became linked with processed food in the 1950s, and became a cultural icon unto its own by the 1970s, we can see the process of how Americans make sense of taste.

In this presentation, the shifting roles of Duncan Hines will show how taste is neither an object to acquire nor a state of being to achieve, but instead an on-going process, a temporary association of things considered "good." Taste is both a term for a physical feeling and aesthetic judgment, and recent research has shown that taste is a curious intertwining of these two senses. This process is made possible by the interactions of technology, commerce, and media that form the relationships that make society and, in turn, make sense of taste.

Damon Talbott is the Sias Graduate Fellow at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University Kansas. His doctoral dissertation, "Senses of Taste: Duncan Hines and American Foodways, 1930–1960," argues that a distinctly "American" gastronomy emerged as consumers created a national, shared sense of taste from regional foodways and through new technologies and media like automobiles and guidebooks. Damon's interest in taste began when, while out running errands, he was puzzled why "Robert Parker" and his score of "93" should guide his wine buying. Like food, he thinks his research is best when shared.

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