Profile profile for McCullaT

Theresa McCulla


Ph.D., American Studies, Harvard University, 2017

M.A., History, Harvard University, 2012

Culinary Arts Diploma, Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, 2010

B.A., Romance Studies, Harvard College, 2004


Research Specialties: 

I am a historian of the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States. My scholarship investigates how Americans have used material and visual culture to understand race, ethnicity, and gender, especially in relation to food and drink.

My first book, "Insatiable City: Eating Food and Consuming People in New Orleans" (under contract with the University of Chicago Press), tracks the trajectory of the New Orleans economy from nineteenth-century chattel slavery to twenty-first-century tourism via the realms of food and drink. This book explores how the sensory pleasures of dining and drinking in the Crescent City enabled many to enjoy food and drink as realms of leisure and gratification incapable of harmful effects. This study reveals a different history. Sources like official records, autobiographies and interviews of formerly enslaved people, travel guides, cookbooks, menus, postcards, and stereographs reveal a rich, often ugly history. They also yield lives of great creativity, skill, and bravery. Enslaved and free people of color in New Orleans used food and drink to carve paths of mobility, stability, autonomy, freedom, profit, and joy. The book chronicles a history of pleasure and pain and leisure and labor, via food.

My additional scholarship elaborates on the connections among identity, consumption, and material culture in realms of food and drink. An essay published by Good Beer Hunting (September 2021) used two “runaway ads” to explore the world of Patsy Young, an early American brewer and a fugitive from slavery in early-1800s North Carolina. An article published in Gastronomica (Winter 2019) used artifacts and oral histories collected for the Smithsonian to argue for an unexpected link between the strategies and culture of mass manufacturing and the birth of microbrewing at San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company in the 1960s. An article published in Quaderni Storici (April 2016) investigated the spatial effects of the white ethnic revival on African Americans, Italian Americans, and Vietnamese refugees in New Orleans.

I am developing additional articles on alcohol consumption and slavery; souvenir dolls of New Orleans food vendors; and the male-gendered worlds of American homebrewing and computing clubs in the 1970s.

Find my CV here.

Role in Museum: 

The American Brewing History Initiative documents and collects the histories of beer, brewing, brewers, and beer culture in the United States.

As curator of the American Brewing History Initiative, I collect objects, documents, and oral histories from the talented women and men who make the American brewing industry the most creative in the world.

Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 

Winner, James Beard Foundation Broadcast Media Award (“Patsy Young—American Brewer, Fugitive from  Slavery”), James Beard Foundation, 2022

First Place, Best Historical Writing, “Patsy Young—American Brewer, Fugitive from  Slavery,” Awards in Beer Journalism, North American Guild of Beer Writers, 2022

Third Place, Best Historical Writing, “Craft Beer’s Unlikely Alchemist,” Awards in Beer Journalism, North American Guild of Beer Writers, 2020

"The Imbibe 75: People, Places, and Directions That Will Shape the Way You Drink in 2020," Imbibe, January/February 2020

Semifinalist, Kroos Prize, best dissertation in business history, Business History Conference, 2017

Honorable Mention, Katz Award, best dissertation in urban history, Urban History Association, 2016

Finalist, Ralph H. Gabriel Prize, best dissertation in American Studies, American Studies Association, 2016


Patsy Young — American Brewer, Fugitive From Slavery Good Beer Hunting, September 15, 2021

This article uses two “runaway ads” to explore the world of Patsy Young, an early American brewer and a fugitive from slavery in early-1800s North Carolina. 

Smithsonian magazine “Here’s What’s Brewing in the New Smithsonian Beer Collections,” Smithsonian magazine, September 16, 2019
Gastronomica “Craft Beer’s Unlikely Alchemist,” Gastronomica 19, no. 4 (Winter 2019): 79-91.
Hop Culture “Beyond the Girl in the Moon: Brewing History at the Smithsonian,” Hop Culture, July 26, 2018
Washington Post “Five Myths About Beer,” Washington Post, May 26, 2017
“Fava Beans and Báhn Mì: Ethnic Revival and the New New Orleans Gumbo.” Quaderni Storici 51 no. 1 (April 2016): 71-102. Special issue: Food, Migration, and Mobility in Historical Perspective: Nineteenth to Twenty-First Century.