Sarah Adams / by Michael Falco

Who is Sarah Adams?

Sarah Adams is originally from the Boston, Massachusetts area. She grew up in the town of Hyde Park and was a young witness to the racial tension in the 80s there. She graduated from UMass Boston, where she studied American Studies. She is now in graduate school at the College of William and Mary, where she is finishing up her dissertation. She lives in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond and has worked as a baker on and off.  

Excerpt from interview with Sarah Adams by Whitney Dow, 2017

I just quickly want to ask you, is the work that you’re doing on your dissertation, does it intersect with this at all on the baked goods, I was wondering if it’s something that’s totally—

M2: I was wondering this, I was hoping you would ask.

Adams: [17:18:12] Not a lot, not so far, for what I’ve been doing, so what I’m looking at is specifically the material and visual culture of baked goods. Actually, there are many ways in which it intersects, I should say, let’s start over. One of my chapters is about animation and there’s a lot of really cool animation in the 1930s, that’s when it went to color, and it’s all short at that point until The Seven Dwarves comes out, Snow White. So, everything’s like six, seven, eight minutes at the most. There’s a lot of anthropomorphic food, which is what I’m looking at, and a lot of anthropomorphic desserts and a lot of variations on Hansel and Gretel, and things like that. In many of these movies there’s a lot of heavily racialized animation in caricature, including with the food stuff, which is interesting. I mean, there’s actually a whole DVD of cannibalism in animation in the ‘20s and ‘30s and ‘40s, which is, it’s fascinating, and it’s disgusting. It’s pure racist imagery. And it’s a trope that they used, because it’s thought to be funny. And it’s awful. The stuff I’m looking at doesn’t get that just insidious, well, no that’s a lie. I would argue that what I’m looking at is more insidious because it’s not openly derogatory. But a lot of Hottentot Venus imagery, stuff like that, like made out of Jell-O, things like this. So it’s interesting that it’s there, I mean that is absolutely in an intersection between dessert and race and financial austerity during the Depression. So, yes.

Stuff like that. I have a chapter on cookbook illustration and same thing. The illustrations never depict—I’m just looking at commercial cookbooks that are issued by food companies—they never depict black people in any capacity other than as servants, and they depict almost no black people at all. But when they do it’s always either a mammy that there is a lot of going back to that imagery of mid-19th century. There’ll be butlers, there’ll be Pullman porters, but there’s never a black family sitting and eating, like, Quaker Oats or something like that in the way that they will show white families doing all this stuff.

Interview Transcript