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In Meanings of Maple, Michael A. Lange provides a cultural analysis of maple syrup making, known in Vermont as sugaring, to illustrate how maple syrup as both process and product is an aspect of cultural identity.
Readers will go deep into a Vermont sugar bush and its web of plastic tubes, mainline valves, and collection tanks. They will visit sugarhouses crammed with gas evaporators and reverse-osmosis machines. And they will witness encounters between sugar makers and the tourists eager to invest Vermont with mythological fantasies of rural simplicity.
So much more than a commodity study, Meanings of Maple frames a new approach for evaluating the broader implications of iconic foodways, and it will animate conversations in food studies for years to come.
About the Author
Michael A. Lange is a professor of anthropology and folklore at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He is the author of Norwegian Scots: An Anthropological Interpretation of Viking-Scottish Identity in the Orkney Islands.
“It’s about time maple syrup got the literary respect it deserves; the author has worked almost as hard to harvest his data as sugar makers work to gather March’s sap. Read it and you’ll never buy Aunt Jemima brand again!”
—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home
“Rooted in anthropology and Vermont, Mike Lange deftly taps the many-splendored meanings of maple as tree, forest, food, crop, money-maker, mark of identity, mode of existence, and much more. Blending his own deeply refined meditations with insights from a range of disciplines and — thanks to years of dedicated field research — eloquent quotations from veteran sugar makers, Lange stacks maple-suffused chapters like the finest flapjacks, offering provocative insights with consistent clarity until the last morsel. Foodies, foresters, and knowledge-hungry folks will want to eat up every page.”
—James P. Leary, author of Pinery Boys: Songs and Songcatchers in the Lumberjack Era
“This thoughtful, engrossing text is an ethnographic exploration that ranges beyond a discussion of sugaring, as Vermonters call the extraction and processing of maple sap to produce maple syrup and sugar. Lange’s approach thoughtfully considers economics, environment, and cultural identity to present an interdiciplinary analysis of an often-fantasized but little-understood industry. … A fine addition to any academic institution that has programs in food science or cultural anthropology.”
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
—J. Cummings, Choice Reviews, August 2018
“Meanings of Maple is a nicely written book about a unique food produced in an fascinating place.”
—Carole Counihan, American Anthropologist, September 2018