Taverns Past and Present

I am very interested in extending the topic of last year, food in Williamsburg. I am fascinated by the new southern food empire that characters like Paula Dean and other celebrity chefs have created. Some questions come to mind when I think of the explosion of popularity things like Foodnetwok television have generated. What is it about food that brings people together? Does food have it’s own culture? Does sharing in the same types of food create commonalities between people? Can food represent time periods? All of these questions are just the beginnings, and perhaps more will come once research and interviews begin to answer them.

Particularly I am going to focus on the idea of food as a time piece and culture benchmark. Specifically I will use the Taverns to focus on Williamsburg’s use of food as a major distinction and tool to reveal past colonial histories. There has already been a project on the Taverns, so I will be picking up where they left off essentially. I am interested to know how the choices are made on the menus, the reactions of tourists to the food and the experience there. I plan to also conduct interviews with the staff and management of each tavern to compare and contrast them, and also to get their point of view on the types of people that come in, and maybe even about their training and personas they are supposed to portray to the public. There has already been some work done on the type of food they serve, just statements of their menu, but I want to find out why these certain foods are chosen and what makes them southern and colonial, and what these types of food might have meant to people in colonial times and what they mean to people in the 21st century. I am still developing ideas and more concrete questions to answer throughout the semester.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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