Cover image for Hungering for America : Italian, Irish, and Jewish foodways in the age of migration
Hungering for America : Italian, Irish, and Jewish foodways in the age of migration
Diner, Hasia R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xvii, 292 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT2853.U5 D54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Millions of immigrants were drawn to American shores, not by the mythic streets paved with gold, but rather by its tables heaped with food. How they experienced the realities of America's abundant food - its meat and white bread, its butter and cheese, fruits and vegetables, coffee and beer - reflected their earlier deprivations and shaped their ethnic practices in the new land.

Author Notes

Hasia R. Diner is the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judiac Studies at New York University. She has taught American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and at Johns Hopkins.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this fascinating survey of the eating habits and influences of Jewish, Italian and Irish immigrants, Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University, charts with wit and graceful prose the similarities and differences between these three distinct groups as they encountered mainstream American culture. Italian immigrants, fleeing poverty and a rigid, class-based economic system, found in America the ability to take "possession of elite food associated with the well-off" and to forge a new collective ethnic identity; in doing so they introduced Italian cuisine to America and created lucrative culinary business opportunities. The Irish, fleeing famine, did not possess a complex "national food culture" because they came from a place "where hunger... defined identity." But many Irish women became cooks and servants (and incidentally, were always called "Biddy"), and thereby entered domestic American life and became familiar with its bourgeois foods and customs. Eastern European Jews "lived in a world where food was sacred for all," as well as tightly controlled by religious law. Like Italians, Jews made their food a public statement of identity, and the availability of nonkosher foods in the U.S. exacerbated conflicts between traditional and assimilationist factions. Diner deftly juggles a huge amount of detail and analysis drawing upon memoirs, cookbooks, newspaper accounts, films and studies of consumer culture and provides both political and social insights in a highly accessible social history. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Diner (history, New York Univ.) examines the foodways of Italian, Irish, and Eastern European Jewish immigrants during the period of open migration from the middle of the 19th century through the 1920s. Researching and writing over a ten-year period allowed the author to scour a wide range of materials (memoirs, literature, union archives, government reports, and those of social workers) from North America and Europe. The background and conditions of those who knew hunger in their homelands are vividly brought to life. Causes of migration--religion, politics, class, and wealth--are juxtaposed with the bounty of food and the abundance of opportunity in the US. Diner correlates the relationships of the causes of migration with factors such as gender, generations, group boundaries, and internal conflict. She examines the incorporation (or not, in the unique case of the Irish) of American food into the lives and traditions of these groups. This thoughtfully crafted book illustrates the legacy of hunger and the power of food to establish and assert group identity and cultural distinctiveness. Recommended for graduate students and researchers/faculty. P. L. Palmer Lake Washington Technical College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xv
1. Ways of Eating, Ways of Starvingp. 1
2. Black Bread, Hard Bread: Food, Class, and Hunger in Italyp. 21
3. "The Bread Is Soft": Italian Foodways, American Abundancep. 48
4. "Outcast from Life's Feast": Food and Hunger in Irelandp. 84
5. The Sounds of Silence: Irish Food in Americap. 113
6. A Set Table: Jewish Food and Class in Eastern Europep. 146
7. Food Fights: Immigrant Jews and the Lure of Americap. 178
8. Where There Is Bread, There Is My Countryp. 220
Notesp. 233
Indexp. 285