Talks & Lectures

RFTriple Richard Foss gives lectures on beverage and cocktail history, some in modern dress, others in period costume. You can see the complete list on my page at richardfoss.com. Here are a few examples that are relevant to the history of rum:  

How Prohibition Changed America – There are many misunderstandings about Prohibition, starting with why and when it was enacted, and it changed American dining and dating habits in ways that may seem surprising. Prohibition was actually the law in most American states long before it was enacted nationally, and to a large degree it wasn’t about banning alcohol as much as it was a reflection of American attitudes toward feminism and religion. Once enacted, it affected even those who had never touched a drop of liquor, shaking and shaping our society. This lecture gives a better look at what America was like before and after Prohibition, and how that era still affects us today.

Reflections on Rum, Spirit of the Cane – What most people know about rum is wrong: it wasn’t invented where or when popular histories claim, and the most famous sea chantey about it was invented by an author who never set foot on a ship. Rum’s evolution from a raw spirit concocted for slaves to a beverage for connoisseurs is a fascinating story, and this lecture introduces the secret history of a beverage that has been reviled by temperance groups and celebrated by the rich and powerful.

Drinking With Jane Austen – The world portrayed in Jane Austen’s books was one of elaborate banquets and sumptuous parties, but the author provided very few details, and some of the items she did describe are unfamiliar to the modern reader. This lecture will supply information Ms. Austen left out – what refreshments both alcoholic and non-intoxicating were imbibed by the various social classes in England of 1800, and how Ms. Austen indicated the character of her characters from the things they chose to drink, or to serve. (Handout with recipe available.)

Hoisting a Glass with Charles Dickens – The works of Charles Dickens are filled with references to food and drink, some of which are bewildering to a modern reader – what did Scrooge mean when he offered Bob Cratchit a bowl of Smoking Bishop? Richard Foss explains the popular soft and alcoholic drinks of Dickens era, with a focus on the ones that have become seasonal favorites. (Can be presented in Victorian costume, handout with recipe available. Can also be presented as a lecture including dining, drinking, and social etiquette.)

American Fermented – Alcohol in Early America – Colonial Americans enjoyed beer, rum, and applejack, and brewers and distillers were among our nation’s founders. Sophisticated cocktails started early, with refreshing combinations of fruit, vinegar, and rum called shrubs—and Martha Washington was known for her lethal rum punch. As America expanded, so did its palate—Southerners contributed the julep and Spanish colonists a taste for wine. Richard Foss will show how American tastes for and attitudes toward alcohol developed and changed from the earliest colonists to the year 1800.

Cocktails: The History of Choice – Mixing different types of alcohol with spices and juices dates back to the Roman Empire, and there have been innovations in different eras. Cocktails are a uniquely American invention; Europeans who visited the US in the mid-1800’s found it remarkable that Americans expected to have whatever they liked made to order rather than accepting what was offered. This talk traces the long history of beverage innovation and how new technologies created new drinks.

Imbibing LA: Boozing It Up in the City of Angels – From the wine-loving Spaniards who first settled Los Angeles to the cocktail quaffers of the jet age, Los Angeles tastes have shifted when it comes to enjoying alcoholic beverages. The city has been a center of winemaking and brewing, a region where cocktails were celebrated by movie stars and hunted down by prohibitionists, and a place where finely balanced drinks and abysmal concoctions were crafted by bartenders and celebrities. This talk explores that lively history from the first settlement to the end of Prohibition. (I)

If you are interested in one of these lectures, or in a talk on some other period or aspect of culinary or beverage history, please contact Richard at richard@richardfoss.com