Research

My book, Tasting Freedom: U.S. Occupied Germany and the Origins of Cold War Food Diplomacy, examines U.S. food relief in postwar Germany, tracing its development from military necessity to propaganda tool. The decision to feed the former enemy provided the foundation for an improved U.S.-German relationship and underscored the value of food power in the emerging contest with the Soviet Union. Yet existing scholarship fails to address the central question of why American policymakers and military leadership abandoned a punitive occupation and endorsed German relief. Popular memory reinforces this paradox, with scant attention paid to the early occupation when ration cuts, nutritional deficits, and hunger posed serious threats to public health, military security, and political stability.

Food aid was not a foregone conclusion, but a contested site of diplomacy and failing to adequately analyze American motives undervalues the significance of this policy change. This manuscript remedies that omission by exploring the symbolic power of foodstuffs alongside practical concerns over health, safety, and economic recovery. Bridging diplomatic history and food studies, it investigates the consequences and significance of the transnational food exchange. Tasting Freedom is under contract with the University of Virginia Press.

I continue to be fascinated by policymakers’ struggles to use wield food as a diplomatic tool. My next archival research project is a study of the agricultural surplus from World War II thru the global food crisis of the 1970s. Using food as a lens of analysis reframes the motives of Cold War policymakers, but it also highlights the relationship between food supply and national security. Analyzing the farm problem from a foreign relations perspective, we can identify the many ways U.S. policymakers sought to advance American interests abroad. Food had to exist in abundance of it was to be used for aid, trade, and propaganda. Aware they needed the farm vote, but incapable of enacting policies that eased the burden of modern agriculture, congressional representatives and presidential hopefuls alike failed to provide a workable solution, with the ripples of the paradox of plenty continuing to be felt in the present.

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