My Russian-Jewish immigrant father, after having worked in New Jersey as a professor of forestry for a couple of years, looked up a list of the nation’s forestry schools, narrowed in on the one that was the most rural of all, and found a way to secure a job there.
That’s how I ended up being born and raised in rural Arkansas. Each time I asked my father why we lived there, despite the lack of cultural or intellectual stimulation, he would say, “But Anna, look at the sky! Look at the trees!” And so, I spent my childhood reading books, cooking with my mom, and trying to understand the wonder of the sky and the trees.
I spent the last two years of high school at the state-funded residential Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, and then moved on to college at Washington University in St. Louis. At Wash U, as an undergraduate, I studied biology, environmental studies, and writing. While pondering Ph. D. programs that brought my varied interests together, I earned a Master’s in Science Education, spending time in a range of St. Louis high school classrooms.
But the lure of the academy, along with my new-found interests in history of science and environmental history, took me to Wisconsin to study with Gregg Mitman, Bill Cronon, and Judy Leavitt. I brought my passion for food and agriculture to my dissertation on the history of canned food in America. My book based on this work, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry was published in March 2018, with the University of California Press, California Studies in Food and Culture series.
I am now a Clinical Assistant Professor in History at Oklahoma State University, where I also co-organize the OSU Food Studies program.