Bod Magazine: Professor explores culinary correlations

Angel Tolstikhina STUDENT MEDIA

In the quiet atmosphere of the history department, one can find Kelly Erby, a professor with energy and enthusiasm in spades.

This September will mark the publication of Erby’s book “Restaurant Republic: The Rise of Public Dining in Boston,” which will take its readers back to the 19th century American culinary scene where the dining out trend boomed in correlation with the nation’s mass urbanization and industrialization.

Ever since her childhood, Erby has read historical fiction and written stories. The pivotal period in Erby’s life was at the beginning of her undergraduate education when she enrolled as a history and pre-law double major.

“I saw history as a way to write and do research, and I just liked the idea of it,” Erby said.

In graduate school, she became fascinated with 19th century U.S. history.

“This period was foreign and introduced many new traditions that our society now takes for granted, such as eating out at restaurants,” Erby said. “I was really interested in how America had democratic values on one hand, trying to forge the sense of national identity, but at the same time there are all of these differences in society when it becomes more stratified.”

Having received a bachelor of arts from Ohio State University and a master’s of arts from Emory University, Kelly continued her education by conducting her doctorate research on 19th century American social and cultural history of cuisine and dining.

Beginning her thesis back in 2007, Erby has finally finished her extensive research that has culminated into a more than 200-page book.

In her own book “Restaurant Republic,” Erby uses commercial dining as a lens to the 19th century America in which it promotes the growing fragmentation of race, class and gender. Her work will be published by the University of Minnesota Press.

“Restaurant Republic” will be available on and in the Ichabod Shop.

This is an article from the Spring/Summer 2016 Bod Magazine. Pick up your FREE copy today WITH additional content in front of the Student Media Office located on the lower level of Memorial Union.