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In August 1828, miller Marks Barker, who had moved west after a long spell of superintending the Columbia Mills north of the city of Hudson, hiked around the Taconic Mountains. He called on an old friend in Ancram, Columbia County. The impromptu meeting was a joyful occasion. It warranted special treatment. And what better mark of delight in the get-together than a shared meal? Indeed, the friend offered, in Barker's words, "an acceptable refreshment" as the two men sat down to "a good dish of tea and stewed chicken." The episode was important enough for Barker to record it in the "Narrative" he left of his days in the Hudson Valley. The treat proved welcome as it surely reinvigorated the visitor. The fare, however, did not exhaust the meaning of the meal. Beyond the dishes' substantial physical effect, it carried the mark of affection. After all, Barker's friend took off time from work and family activities to enjoy a special repast with a companion whom he had not seen in a while. Food and drink reverberated beyond the edge of the table. The gift was an expression of friendship and it helped renew the bonds of camaraderie. In short, the gesture of hospitality restored the body and the heart. (1) The anecdote goes against conventional wisdom on the relation of North Americans to their food. "There is a familiar and too much despised branch of civilization, of which the population of this country is singularly and unhappily ignorant: that of cookery," scolded James Fenimore Cooper in the 1830s. He was not the first, but probably one of the most forceful in a long line of critics of American eating habits in the nineteenth century. He upbraided

June 22
Journal of Social History
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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