Gastronomic Alchemy: How Black Philadelphia Caterers Transformed Taste into Capital, 1790-1925
Gregory Hargreaves interviews Danya Pilgrim about her book project “Gastronomic Alchemy: How Black Philadelphia Caterers Transformed Taste into Capital, 1790-1925.” In support of her research, Pilgrim, assistant professor at Temple University, received exploratory and Henry Belin du Pont research grants from the Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society.
In “Gastronomic Alchemy,” Pilgrim reveals the development and efflorescence of a Philadelphia catering industry owned and operated by African American waiters, brokers, cooks, & others. Through their work, black caterers earned economic success and cultural influence in Philadelphia that combined to form meaningful capital, which helped to create and support a vibrant black community. By uncovering this process of capital formation, Dr. Pilgrim “illuminates how one group of African Americans fought for self-determination in every aspect of their lives.”