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Grandma’s Galletas: Older Women and Food Culture in Early Modern Spain

Fri, March 31, 3:30 to 5:00pm, Palmer House Hilton, Floor: Seventh Floor, Sandburg 2


In late medieval and early modern Spain, aging women were often associated with food. They were portrayed as nurturing grandmothers, cooks for their own and other people’s families, fishmongers, and market women. Sometimes they were governesses who bestowed or withheld edible treats. Drawing from historical documents, first-person accounts, and representations of aging women and their connection to food in literature and art, this paper examines what this relationship entails and why food was, and still is, such a gendered part of life. But food is also a problematic point in understanding aging women of the period. While some historical figures, like Saint Teresa of Ávila, have positive and beneficial relationships with food, both in terms of their daily meals and in their writings, others, like the fictional Celestina, exhibit troubled relationships with food, demonstrating how food, while explicitly gendered, is a complex part of fifteenth and sixteenth century history.