Amy Tigner ~ University of Texas ~ Arlington
Eating with Eve: Horticulture and Harvest in Eden

As with the seventeenth-century agricultural reformers Ralph Austen, who argued for a fruit tree planting campaign to solve England's economic problems, and John Beale and Anthony Lawrence, who saw such orchards as a way to produce cider locally and thereby to reduce dependence on foreign imported wines, John Milton creates his Garden of Eden most notably as a garden of fruit trees that enables a complete, enclosed, and self-sustaining system for Adam and Eve and their future progeny. From the garden to the table, Eve controls the alimentary economy and the entire circumstances of eating in Eden: in the two examples of consuming the Garden's produce, the dinner party with Raphael in Book 5 and the eating of the Tree of Knowledge in Book 9. In the first instance, the model hostess Eve harvests the choicest produce and then strives to prepare the finest food. In as much as Raphael appreciates Eve's earthly repast and tells her that "God hath here/Varied his bounty so with new delights/ As may compare with Heaven," he temptingly describes celestial fare that slyly outstrips what Eve has prepared, speaking of "ambrosial fruitage," "mellifluous Dews," and "pearly grain" (5. 430-31, 427, 429, 430). With these heavenly comestible ideas in mind, Eve - the lowest of the rational creatures - seeks to better herself and eventually Adam with eating - the very activity, from harvesting to preparation to serving, that falls within her domestic sphere from the time of her creation. This paper explores the language of horticulture and food in Paradise Lost through the lens of seventeenth-century texts on agriculture, gardening, and cooking to investigate the particularly gendered circumstances of the fall - and why eating with Eve is both delightful and dangerous.

Respondent: Lowell Gallagher ~ University of California ~ Los Angeles