In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks with Jeanette M. Fregulia
about the movements of coffee beans, coffee drinking, and coffee houses from Ethiopia and Yemen, across the Mediterranean region, through Western Europe, and to the Americas. In A Rich and Tantalizing Brew: A History of How Coffee Connected the World
(University of Arkansas Press, 2019), Fregulia examines the geographic movements of coffee beans through global trade as well as the social and cultural movements of coffee drinking from a medicine to an aid in religious ritual to an elite domestic drink to a public event in the coffee house. Covering a wide ranging chronology from the sixth century to today, the story of coffee as it moves East to West shares much in common with the movements of other foods like chocolate, sugar, tea, and olives, but Fregulia argues that coffee is unique among global foodstuffs for the way it transformed social structures and social behaviors to become part of the pubic sphere. Fregulia’s history decenters the European perspective of global market and cultural exchanges by drawing on archives of primary sources from Islamic histories as well as European travel narratives. For early modern Europeans, Fregulia argues, consuming coffee was a product of imperialism and Orientalism, arising from the general acquisitiveness of early modern Europeans who “consumed the East in new forms of art and architecture, in the pages of travel narratives, with the collection of artifacts, and in luxurious adornments for the body” (99). Fregulia brings a new perspective to a familiar drink by intertwining cultural, political, economic, religious, and legal histories altogether through the story of one rich and tantalizing brew.
Jeanette M. Fregulia is Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Jeanette’s research focuses on merchants and material, cultural, and social exchanges between early modern Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as on the role of gender in the history of Mediterranean exchanges. In addition to PhD in Renaissance Italian History, she holds a Master’s Degree in Middle East Area Studies from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, and continues to actively pursue research in the history of the Middle East and Islam.
Carrie Helms Tippen is Assistant Professor of English at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches courses in American Literature. Her new book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press), examines the rhetorical strategies that writers use to prove the authenticity of their recipes in the narrative headnotes of contemporary cookbooks. Her academic work has been published in
Food and Foodways, American Studies, Southern Quarterly, and
Food, Culture, and Society.