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. In 2019, it won the James Beard Award for Reference, History, and Scholarship.
I am now an Assistant Professor in History at Oklahoma State University, where I also co-organize the OSU Food Studies program.