Culinary Anthropology; Gender; Aging; Memory; Phenomenology
Ph.D., Brandeis University
M.A., Brandeis University
Ed.M., Boston University
Ellen Rovner is a cultural anthropologist who was born and raised in Greater Boston. The granddaughter of Yiddish-speaking immigrants and researcher who has worked primarily with Jewish women, Ellen likes the Yiddish idiom "shitterein" to describe not only her approach to ethnographic work, but also the framework of her life course. For the uninitiated to Yiddish," shitterein" denotes a fading nuance of Eastern European Jewish cooking: the experience and method of “authentic” Jewish cooking without recipes, but with intuition and "taam," taste. Spoken as an aside by generations of Jewish women to describe what they did to prepare beloved nurturance for families--beginning at the table but extending to untold aspects of life--Ellen views" shitterein" as a sensual, intuitive, and creative path to personal visions of valued identities, new and old, and, importantly, to joy.
Beginning her professional career working with adolescents and incarcerated youth, Ellen went on to direct a delinquency prevention program and battered women's advocacy project. She wrote grants professionally as she became more deeply involved in cooking and working with food. Although not professionally trained, Ellen found work in leading restaurants and eventually formed her own catering company, Sumptuous Food. She catered for over ten years throughout the Boston area until she sold her business and shifted her focus to writing and studying about the cultural and emotional impacts of food.
During this time, Ellen married and raised a family. She went to graduate school, earned a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, and today is blessed to have a loving life partner, four children, and an extraordinary granddaughter.
This project expands my research on the potency of older Jewish women’s food voices as means of sustaining community in Chelsea, MA. Bringing together Jewish women with some of Chelsea’s more recently arrived non-European immigrant women from Latin America and Africa, I believe women’s food voices can capture endangered cultural memories and promote meaningful social integration.