Chapter

<i>Seeds</i> Fruits and Famine

Julia A. Stern

in Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780226773285
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226773315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226773315.003.0004
Seeds Fruits and Famine

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This chapter takes up Mary Chesnut's images of seeds in order to move from their floral to their fruitful significance as crucial motifs in the 1880s narrative. The seeds in question here have ripened into edible artifacts, and they preoccupy the 1860s Chesnut well before food actually grows scarce in Richmond and Columbia in the winter of 1864–65. Through a series of scenes featuring the unexpected gifts of garden-fresh provisions, particularly seeded and stone fruits and delicate spring peas and asparagus, the 1880s writer reveals the way in which this rarified diet, enabled by the generosity of privileged friends, set her apart from even the most elite Confederates with whom she traveled. Similarly, the writer's ethnographic account of her Northern-born mother-in-law's gustatory habits, unchanged despite sixty years on a Southern plantation, constitute an incisive picture of the link between food ways and identity.

Keywords: Mary Chesnut; narrative; stone fruits; ethnography; food ways; plantation

Chapter.  10220 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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