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The Italian American TableFood, Family, and Community in New York City$
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Simone Cinotto

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037733

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037733.001.0001

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The Contested Table

The Contested Table

Food, Gender, and Generations in Italian Harlem, 1920–1930

(p.19) 1 The Contested Table
The Italian American Table

Simone Cinotto

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the conflict over food that pitted New York-born Italians against their immigrant parents during the period 1920–1930. It begins with a discussion of how food became a symbol of both domesticity and ethnicity for Italian Americans in East Harlem by focusing on the domestic conflicts that arose between first- and second-generation Italian immigrants, and particularly the food conflicts in the immigrant home. It then explores the factors that fueled the clash of values and tastes between immigrant children and their parents, including the former's fascination for a modern popular culture that disregarded immigrant ways of life as backward and inferior, and the parents' desire to own a home—which meant mobilizing all of a family's resources, including children's paychecks—and sacrificing other investments in social mobility such as education. It also considers how food and food rituals were used in the construction of the Italian American family, with its emphasis on solidarity, strong gender roles, a commitment to work, suspicion toward abstract ideas, and an appreciation of the limits of happiness.

Keywords:   domesticity, ethnicity, Italian Americans, East Harlem, Italian immigrants, food conflicts, immigrant parents, popular culture, social mobility, Italian American family

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