Theses and Dissertations


Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hui, Alexandra

Committee Member

Giesen, James C.

Committee Member

Marcus, Alan I

Committee Member

Robinson, Morgan

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


“Eating German, the American Way” explores how and why the mayonnaise-based potato salad came to be a staple of American culinary tradition. It examines how native-born Americans and German immigrants in the nineteenth century identified themselves based on their culinary traditions and what they ate and how the interactions between, and accessibility of, those traditions created a new identity based on the sharing of recipes as the two groups mingled and assimilated to each other. It uses food as a way to understand the processes of assimilation by defining the distinctions between the two groups based on their separate repertoire of recipes, looking at the obstacles to the adoption of ingredients or techniques, and engaging with the primary sites of contact that facilitated the mixing of the cuisines to create a shared culinary identity. Cookbooks are used to establish the boundaries which defined German and American cuisine and introduce the first obstacle to be overcome, the language barrier. Magazines removed the language barrier and created the opportunity for more direct interaction between readers from both traditions, but also introduced another obstacle in the perceptions and preconceptions each group had regarding the other. Changes in the understanding of diet and nutrition in the closing decades of the century introduced another obstacle as attempts to standardize and control what Americans ate limited or excluded the contributions of immigrant groups and the language of control and standardizations reinforced preconceptions and the effects of “othering.” Restaurants and ethnic groceries functioned as the sites of direct contact, exposing native-born Americans to the food offerings of German immigrants, and providing direct access to both complete dishes and the ingredients needed to recreate them at home. As native-born Americans and German immigrants interacted and overcame these obstacles, they shared the recipes that defined them and created a new definition of what it meant to eat American food and a new identity as American eaters.