ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
Kathryn Cornell Dolan
"Thoreau's 'Grossest Groceries': Dietary Reform in Walden and Wild Fruits"
Henry David Thoreau critiques U.S. dietary practices by experimenting with a simplified mode of consumption, prefiguring the slow-food movement and the environmentalist dictum to eat locally and using patterns of consumption to link individual and national bodies. Two of his key dietary experiments, the bean field and the huckleberry-gathering party, challenge contemporary distinctions between economic and ethical choices, proposing a moral individual diet that refuses food obtained by U.S. dominion over other lands. Thoreau’s writing challenges U.S. expansion in the nineteenth century through a detailed description of dietary trials that directly influenced what we might now call sustainable eating practices.