Judges’ Report – 2019

This year’s entries for the Sophie Coe Prize–40 in total–provided a rich and diverse array of work. Some betrayed origins as academic papers too clearly and reflected origins in political, post-colonial and gender studies as their primary concern, rather than the history of food. That being said, many were of a uniformly high standard and provided interesting side lights and angles on specific cultures and times, and the role of food, food producers, cooks and consumers in them.

The judges would like to highly commend one essay, “Under the Cover of Savory Vapors–Opossums, Power and Jim Crow Politics” by Stephanie N. Bryan, about the custom of hunting and cooking opossums in the southern USA and its manipulation by early 20thcentury politicians. It was agreed this is ‘a surprising piece of culinary history’, well researched and well told.

For the Prize itself, the essay selected provides new insights into one of the mysteries of food in the British Isles: the supply of vegetables, historically, in English food.  The student of early cookery texts published in English could be forgiven for wondering if vegetables existed at all in the British Isles. This essay goes a long way towards demonstrating that the answer was yes, and showing where the supply came from, using books on gardening and a range of garden accounts. For an informative and original paper, the 2019 Sophie Coe Prize goes to “The Sale of Produce from Non-Commercial Gardens in Late Medieval and Early Modern England” by Malcolm Thick.