penknife, n. 

Originally: a small knife for use in making and mending quill pens. Now usually: a pocket knife with one or more blades (and occasionally other tools) designed to fold back into the handle when not in use.

The pen is mightier than the sword, but only if that pen is sharp, witty, well-rested, and, perhaps most importantly, well-fed. Where penknives once sharpened our writing tools, they now serve a more interdisciplinary purpose, slicing, dicing, cutting, sharing, and slathering. More deft than a pocket knife and possessing a flexibility lacking in most kitchen tools, the penknife is a device that has stood the test of time (and technological advancement) to remain relevant and become something new. The penknife is both history and modern day, specific and widely applicable, methodical and unlimited. It is a means to create both words and food. 

I chose the name PENKNIFE for this blog because it represents the interdisciplinary nature of my work and research within the developing field of food studies. The penknife serves as a physical symbol of how food can be metaphorical, contextual, literal, ephemeral, and universally applicable, all while spanning the great stretches of time, place, gender, and race.  This blog will house distillations of my PhD research as well as other food studies posts, archival tangents, and anything else that comes across my kitchen table. My experience as a food photographer and recipe developer will fold into these posts, as I agree with noted food and gender scholars Arlene Avakian and Barbara Haber that "good writing in this area requires something of a sensual response to food and the knowledge that comes from cooking and serving it" (From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies, Avakian and Haber, 2005). 

logo design by Monique Aimee


Photo by Briana Moore.

All other photos on this site were taken by Katherine Hysmith unless otherwise noted. 

KATHERINE (KC) HYSMITH is originally from Texas. She holds a BA in Plan II Honors and French from the University of Texas at Austin and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. She is currently a PhD student in American Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, focusing on historical foodways and its relation to our modern consumption patterns and attitudes towards food, gender, society, and the media. Katherine has an academic and professional background in food writing, food photography, recipe testing, and historical and contemporary food research. She has worked with several national and international publications including The Boston Globe, t.e.l.l. New England, The Indy Weekly, The Local Palate, Southern Living, King Arthur Flour's Sift Magazine, and The Ethnic American Food Today Encyclopedia, as well as digital, print, and social media organizations. She won “Best Student Writing” in 2015 from the Association of Food Journalists and continues to share her alt-academic work and recipes on her other blog, The Young Austinian

She lives with her husband and daughter in the Research Triangle in North Carolina.